This week in online harassment...

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Speaking out about online harassment constitutes "over-reacting" for some. So how far does it have to go before it becomes worth bothering about? 

In recent weeks the long-running debate about the way women are treated online has finally hit the news, with bloggers, journalists and public figures from numerous countries weighing in on how much of a problem it is.

Plenty of discussion has also focused on how it can be stopped - although many of the women involved in the debate have been subject to further blog posts and comments telling them they're "over-reacting" and that misogynist abuse online just isn't that much of a big deal.

While almost everyone I know has welcomed this mainstreaming of the issue, it has of course meant that we've all become very familiar with the term "gaslighting" - the way people undermine what women are saying by telling them that they're being "emotional" or "hysterical" or "over-sensitive".

And so considering that pointing out online abuse seems to be such an "over-reaction" in the eyes of many, something we ladies simply need to "man up" about, I was interested to learn this week of a particularly unpleasant case of online misogyny not being that much of a big deal at all.

Misogynist-baiting blog Manboobz tells us that one of the more high-profile men's rights websites is offering "bounty money" to anyone able to track down the personal details of a group of Swedish women who have made a video they don't like.

The women posted an admittedly ridiculous video on YouTube over a year ago, advertising a theatre production based on Valerie Solanas's SCUM Manifesto and showing the shooting of a man, followed by a victory dance by the women.

So it's publicity for a play, which isn't, you know, real. Like countless other plays and films produced every year that involve scenes of murder. But the guys at A Voice For Men see it more as a call for women to enact killing sprees directed at the opposite sex and have acted as they see fit, calling for those who are involved in the video to be publicly shamed. This includes:

"...asking for the full legal names, home addresses, places of employment, email addresses and contact phone numbers of the women and man who produced and starred in the video described above."

All just a bit of fun, right? Actually, no. Not when men's rights activists are involved. Stumbling across their websites is a discomforting experience. Many of these sites try to maintain a veneer of "reason", but you never have to read very far to realize that they're beloved hangouts of individuals who really do despise women, or at least all women who don't fit their ideal of feminine behaviour and let them treat them as they wish. Even when the contributors to these sites attempt to discourage completely vitriolic comments and attacks, you're going to get readers who can't help themselves.

It's also telling that they want to publish the personal details of the women on a site called "Register-Her", which purports to reveal the identities of women who have "falsely accused" men of rape. If that's not an encouragement to disturbed individuals looking to go on the rampage, I don't know what it is.

And that's why stuff like this - demanding that people track down the personal information of women so it can be publicized online - isn't just a bit of fun. It's encouraging the unpleasant people who frequent men's rights sites to intimidate and harass women, intruding into their personal lives, all because they've produced a satirical play.

In recent weeks some bloggers have spoken out about how worried they have been by threatening emails from people who have found out their addresses or information about their families. It does happen – and we all know that on the internet, you really don't have to look far to find people who will do genuinely disturbing things.

A writer at A Voice for Men has already been contacted by a Swedish journalist who seems concerned about what's going on. The writer himself seems more concerned about Sweden supposedly being one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to oppressing men, so I can only guess he missed the memo regarding that whole "countries with the highest quality of life" thing.

Another day, another example of women being targeted for harassment.

This post originally appeared on BitchBuzz. Image via screaming_monkey's Flickr.

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