As an outspoken women, I’ve had my fair share of vitriol spewed at me. Turns out some people don’t like it when women speak out, and some people like it even less when you’re saying things they don’t like.
On a freelance article I recently wrote about my dog, I was essentially told I was such a bad dog owner, I should have my dog stolen from me to teach me a lesson. (I was writing about my apprehension regarding microchipping.) On my personal blog, I was once called a “fat, ugly cunt” just for existing. While I ran a sex-positive, anti-Cosmopolitan Magazine blog, the comments were no better. A sampling:
- You should get some liposuction and maybe some of that constant anger and hate will go away. Maybe. Perhaps you should delete all your posts and just write in big bold letters, “I wish I was either a Man or a pretty girl. But I’m not so I’m going to hate those that are.” You’d be saving yourself a lot of time and effort. And people would get the message a lot clearer as well.
- Most feminists are just really ugly or deeply insecure girls that need some “cause” to feel like they actually matter to the world. In your case, the problem is clearly both. You try to sound “fierce,” but I’ve noticed so many errors and complete generalizations on this site that you actually make Cosmo look educated and classy. Get a new hobby. Better yet, get a life. If you can.
- Okay I’m going to say what most people really think but don’t say when they see your blog. You are the reason people don’t like brown people.
Even on Positively Smitten, a place Steph, Liz, and I tried to create to foster a positive space for women isn’t “safe” from the ugliness. On my post about existing while fat, I was told to “[s]tuff your cupcakes in your facehole [sic] and shut up.” On my post about racism, I was told I needed to chill out because I was uptight. On my post about millennials, I got a Facebook comment about how I needed to quit my bitching.
Unfortunately, my experiences are not unique.
When Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency launched a Kickstarter to explore recurring female stereotypes in video games, she said she was met with “a torrent of misogynist and racist slurs as well as threats of rape, violence and death.” Yet when she shared what was happening, rather than quell the issue, her harassers upped the ante by “attempting to DDoS my website and hack into my online accounts. They also tried to collect and distribute my personal info including my home address and phone number. They made pornographic images in my likeness being raped by video games characters which they distributed and sent to me over and over again.”
When Lindy West, a writer for Jezebel, spoke about how she didn’t feel rape jokes were appropriate in the comedy world, and were indicative of a larger problem — that women weren’t welcome in comedy — she experienced something similar. Not only was she bombarded with threats to rape and kill her, but she was called out for being fat on top of it. Mostly, people told her she wasn’t allowed to have an opinion on rape because she was too ugly to ever even be raped. Yep.
Plus, the website Fat, Ugly, or Slutty exists, detailing the awful comments women who play video games have to deal with.
And that’s just three examples.
The internet can be a tricky place to navigate for anyone, especially for women, who often receive vicious comments compounded by threats of rape and misogyny. If you tend to take things to heart (like me), it can be difficult to deal with your first “I hate you and hope you fucking die” comment. So here are 5 basic rules — for commenters and for those receiving comments — to abide by and remember.
1. Consider the audience.
Do try to remember where you are on the internet. Websites with moderated comments and/or with comment rules tend to be the best places to frequent, and can often lead to intelligent discussions and debates. However, the reach on big websites like MSNBC and CNN means that the likelihood of vicious comments is a lot higher — and many of these people will be stuck in their ways. You aren’t going to get the intellectual discussion you are looking for while commenting there, and instead, you’ll likely just end up feeling sad for humanity.
2. Pick your battles; keep your sanity.
As much as you may want to, you can’t enlighten everyone on the internet. There are some people who are just racist, misogynistic or downright mean. It hurts. It sucks. I know. But there is no getting through to some people. If you’re the one who’s receiving the mean comments, do your best to let it roll off your back. Tell yourself whatever you need to in order to do so.
3. Remind yourself that there is a person on the other end of the computer — no matter how awful they are.
If you are on the receiving end of the hateful comments, try to pause and take a deep breath. Whoever is on the other end is lashing out, for whatever reason — but that is their issue, not yours. Getting involved and taking personal jabs, like saying you hope they are barren and that their mother burns in a fire, is not a great idea. Likewise, if you’ve just read an article that makes you angry, pause before typing up that unbelievably hateful comment.
4. Comment as if you were talking to someone in real life.
Louis C.K. has this amazing bit about how the car is the only place in the world we all feel comfortable telling someone that we hope they die. (It’s way funnier when he says it.) But I’d amend that to say we’re oddly okay telling people to die both when we’re in the car, experiencing road rage, and when we’re on the internet. The next time the urge to tell someone to jump off a cliff strikes, go for a walk. Close the computer. Step away.
5. When in doubt, don’t read the comments section.
Period. This is one of the first unofficial rules you learn in journalism, with good reason. Memorize it, love it, live it.