“More and more, men are being given less and less space to promote a culture of hostility toward others, especially women. Of course, this decline does give rise to heated bubbles, whether it’s Gamergate or the abuse received daily by black women on Twitter.” – Tauriq Moosa, The Daily Beast
My experience online has been edged on a regular basis with bullying, sexual harassment and threats. The other day, I shared an article about Ashley Judd’s experience when she tweeted in support of her favorite basketball team. The responses were fantastic from my regular readers, except one that came from a new person. He threw up a litany of crass words to try and stall the discussion. I don’t tolerate hostile situations on the page, so I blocked him and sent him a note explaining why. I also advised the individual, who is an aspiring author, that he should rethink how he carries himself publicly if he wants to be successful. The messages declined into absurd sexual harassment. I screen capped everything and sent it to Ashley, who replied with an apology (which was then replied to with further abuse that we were both whining). The thing is—It’s not Ashley’s fault. It’s not Anita Sarkeesian’s fault, or any other woman who has spoken against the abhorrent behavior of this very small group of too vocal persons, who are hurt by divorce, failed relationships or no relationships. (How about a little accountability fellas? And, less whining?) They abound on the internet, simply because they have nothing better to do? I can’t answer that. And, I avoid such assumptions as it’s just as bad to say these things of them as those things they loft at women. It devolves the discussion into dismissing a threat as clownish. Though they may be clownish, they’re still dangerous.
I respond to people like this with humor and calmness, and a hope that reason will somehow reach them. However, considering that psychologists agree that these men are sociopaths, reason, which requires empathy to completely understand it, will fail. Thus, the only course of action left is to cut them off. In other words: report them, block them, file with the authorities. Threats of bodily harm and death should be taken seriously, especially from this source. Why? Because not only are they sociopaths, they fit the ‘serial killer’ profile: young white males–21-45. They blame women for their problems. Their anger will escalate into an incident. The threat, in other words, is imminent. It’s real. While they giggle like sinister villains in a cartoon, thinking they have controlled you, rendered suffering upon you, the immediate result is just frustration. However, the collective shuffle of their efforts is known to have caused PTSD in the people they attack (they also despise men who they call Alpha Males).
As a child sex abuse survivor and survivor of adult sexual assault…I take particular umbrage with the threats. The websites who hide behind rules that absolve them of responsibility for enabling abuse, are simply accessories to violence and the rules need to change. The lax way in which it is handled allows for incidents to occur, and no I’m not talking about name calling, I am talking about actual violence and cyber attacks. Reddit senses that and so do many others. The rules are changing. Will people still stalk celebrities like Ashley Judd and Anita Sarkeesian to shut down their voices? Of course. They are sociopaths and they cannot help but do this, and their targets are selected and obsessed over. What we can do is realize that this is the case and not enable the behavior, but rather get them the psychological help they need, while keeping guests of online services as safe as possible.
Still, we’re going to need to figure out how to better handle those just having a bad day or misreading some text and the subsequent arguments, and not lump them into the same mix. Sexually charged bullying online is not just ‘taking the heat’ for your statements. It’s a violation of person meant to diminish, frighten and silence–or over power them. Having a fight online isn’t the same thing, yet these sexual harassers try to make it sound as though it is the same thing, claiming rights to free speech and telling their targets they shouldn’t have posted then. Though we don’t have freedom from the consequences of our speech, the use of force and threats to stop speech is not a protected right, quite the opposite. So again, we see that this is a power struggle. Until recently, it was pretty effective in shaking the target’s tree. Now, bullies are being tracked down and it’s affecting their personal lives: loosing jobs, friends and the support of loved ones.
We need to follow through because if someone is willing to behave this way with strangers, then the people in their lives are in greater danger. For example, the amputee who was threatened with harm when she dared to leave a note on the car of person who was using her handicap spot, a spot that was installed for her specific use, that this person did not have a right or permit to take over. They take offense to being called out and that becomes the central point on which their anger turns, blaming you entirely for the situation. Your rebuttal becomes proof of what they initially said, and that is how sociopaths function–everything is a threat to their ego and well being. They will defend that with violence at the slightest provocation. Words might be lofted around online, but at home, they can use their fists or other weapons. The person regarding the car promised to lay hands on the woman who’s spot she’d taken over, and since proximity makes that possible, an altercation is likely. Thankfully the authorities will be taking that incident seriously as it’s also a violation of a law on the books.
Check out Tauriq Moosa’s article on The Daily Beast about the changes online bullying is bringing to the internet: