30 April 2007

You've come a long way, baby. But some of us haven't.

The Post has an article today about intimidation of female bloggers. It's probably no surprise to many women out there that online or off they're subject to more daily harrassment than men. It's probably also no surprise to most bloggers that the anonymity of the internet allows for some of the most vile threats from cowards and trolls (usually synonymous terms). However, what interested me in the article -- aside from the fact that it was on page one (below the fold, true, but still page one) -- was the particular level of vehemence directed at female bloggers, and often with no discernible cause to evoke such vitriol...but I suppose that's the definition of being unhinged: you have no rationale for being so irrational.

For example, there's the case of the blogger who, in the Post's words, "won a large following by blogging about designing software that makes people happy." OK. So you're blogging about designing software that makes people happy. What about that topic evokes such anger? Is there a contingent of wack jobs out there that believe the computing experience should be all about alienation and misery? Is she a threat therefore to their worldviews?

The blogger's website has an entry that's far more illuminating than the Post article, even though the photos she cites as examples have disappeared from their sources. From her description, the threats were also mixed with personal data, including social security numbers, and while the Post briefly mentions that separate "harrassment sites" were set up to spread the hate, she contextualizes those sites. For brevity's sake, here's the Post's description:
Her Web site, Creating Passionate Users, was about "the most fluffy and nice things," she said. Sierra occasionally got the random "comment troll," she said, but a little over a month ago, the posts became more threatening. Someone typed a comment on her blog about slitting her throat and ejaculating. The noose photo appeared next, on a site that sprang up to harass her. On the site, someone contributed this comment: "the only thing Kathy has to offer me is that noose in her neck size."
A real class act, but probably someone who holds down a steady job, has a relatively active social life, and thinks nothing of making death threats on the internet.

On the other hand, radical right raving lunatic Michelle Malkin argues in her typical fashion that female bloggers just need to get over it:
Some female bloggers say their colleagues just need thicker skin. Columnist Michelle Malkin, who blogs about politics and culture, said she sympathizes with Sierra but as chided the bloggers expressing outrage now. "First, where have y'all been? For several years, the unhinged Internet underworld has been documented here," she wrote, reposting a comment on her site that called for the "torture, rape, murder" of her family.
I'm assuming that by "documented here," Malkin is referring to her own writing (all joking aside, the threat against Malkin and her family is utterly reprehensible, no matter how idiotic her political views are). Malkin is a media personality who's handsomely compensated for espousing controversial (and in my opinion utterly unfounded) opinions. Her columns are decidedly not about "the most fluffy and nice things." It doesn't make threats against her right, but it does fit in with the pattern of celebrity harrassment that often attends political, artistic, and athletic prominence (see Mark David Chapman and John Hinckley).

The problem with blogging is that everyone is immediately a "celebrity," if by that we understand that anyone who has access to a browser has an international platform. Some bloggers -- by talent, topic, or luck -- become actual celebrities, even if only locally.

To the extent that harrassment is now public -- in the old days, a stalker wrote his/her target letters cut out of magazines and had to rely on the postal service to deliver the essentially private correspondence -- the stalker has immediate gratification and an audience.

Verbal assaults on women are nothing new in this culture, and we continue to condone them. Don Imus lost his job not for denigrating women -- not for a sexist comment -- but for the implicit racism of the comment. In other word, "nappy headed" carried more weight than "ho's" did. Howard Stern routinely objectifies women in the name of "comedy" and remains one of the most popular media personalities out there. Why are we so much more accepting of sexist behavior than racist or perhaps even homophobic behavior? Why are we so willing to dismiss much sexist bullshit as "just a joke" and tell the butts of that "joke" to "lighten up."

2 comments:

Phil said...

Probably goes hand in hand with men's views that women are the weaker sex...if you threw in the mix that physical retribution could be a possibility (something we here in DC blog-world are kind of familiar with) - that inclination could be deterred, albeit slightly, depending on the subject.

Short of a criminal act, a disturbed individual might not care if a woman finds out who's doing the harrassing. Lawsuits are expensive, and not many people have the means to follow through with one whether justified or not. And even if it could be considered criminal, that is a time consuming ordeal that one might gauge if it's even worth his or her time. So that threat is minimized as well.

That said, I have sent my last email to Ann Marie Cox asking to make sweet love to her - so help me God, if she does not respond this time....I might write a scathing post about her.

cuff said...

Phil,
I'm sure you must have her wrong email address...from what I hear she raves about the Playaz. And, yeah, I was thinking about some of the crazy dcblog shenanigans when I was writing this...