Harassment doesn’t need curse words to be harassment
I’m excited to announce a new art installation, for those of you in L.A., by the fantastic Amy Roth. Titled “A Woman’s Room Online”, it’s a depiction of how it feels to be the target of a gendered harassment campaign online, something that sadly seems to be happening more and more frequently. From Amy’s description:
In an attempt to reference that project but also to modernize and express the online spaces that women inhabit, I am building a free standing 8ft by 8ft office space, from the ground up on, the 2nd floor of The Center For Inquiry-Los Angeles. The room is intended to be an average office that a woman would work in. It is simply a normal office space, with a door, desk, chair and a computer and other small objects that one might have in a workspace, but this particular room has been transformed to clearly show the viewer what it can feel like to be targeted in your place of work, over multiple years with aggressive online stalking and harassment.
The room and its objects are blanketed with actual messages sent to, or publicly posted about the women who have contributed to the exhibit.
I was one of the contributors, and while I’m super glad I was able to help Amy out by forwarding many, many ugly messages sent to me by haters, I’m also very glad it’s over and I don’t have to think about it anymore. But I’m stoked that she took this outpouring of hate and vitriol towards women and made something beautiful out of it.
Speaking of misogynist harassment, Cathy Young is up to her tricks of trying to pretend that it doesn’t actually exist again, with an article trying to claim men get harassed more than women online. Her evidence for this is a study that purports to show that male public figures get abused more than female ones. The problem is that “abuse” was defined strictly as using a naughty word. No, I’m serious. Echidne explains:
You might now wonder how someone could read two million tweets and rank them for their offensiveness. The answer is that nobody did that. The study used a shortcut: It combed the tweets for words from a list of words deemed offensive. If one or more of those words were contained in a tweet, then that tweet was counted as harassing. That’s actually a neat way of getting around the problem of coping with floods of data.
But it has its problems. For example, suppose I tweeted to someone: “You bastard, you! Well done, old buck!” Or “We are fucked as long as these politicians are in power.”
Those would be counted as tweets harassing the recipient in the Demos study. And if I tweeted to someone “I just got called an old bull dyke. Ever happen to you?” that, too, would be counted as me harassing the recipient.
On the other hand, a tweet that is explicitly threatening and horrible would slip the study as long as it didn’t use any of the dirty words.
This is critical, as I can tell you right now that surprisingly little of the harassment I get online has “dirty” words in it. I often get waves of it sent by right wing blogs, and so it’s a lot of people who are really conservative and tend to have an upside down moral philosophy where saying a curse word makes Jesus cry but one is duty bound to relentlessly abuse women to put them in their place. I mean, I get cursed at, but by and large, the ugliest stuff is from people who hate and may even threaten women, but wouldn’t say “shit” because of God/The Children/Let’s Keep It PG. I went over some of my harassment collections at Storify to give you some examples:
— amusetales (@Amusetales) July 5, 2014
— Right Wing Meanie (@RightWingMeanie) July 5, 2014
That one is a really good example of what I mean: Too prissy to use the word “cunt”, but still so hateful he thinks it’s appropriate to wish extremely disturbing violence on the organ he is afraid to name.
@AmandaMarcotte Close your legs and it costs you NOTHING.
— Garth Häävelschlockë (@NFlightTech) July 5, 2014
— Heywood Jablome (@FUSigma) March 18, 2014
@AmandaMarcotte shut up already all you do is complain about life & babies, and sorry but babies are not time consuming monsters. You are.
— Julio C. Pecina (@chotzrary) March 18, 2014
For what it’s worth, with all due respect, @AmandaMarcotte does not exactly come across as a happy, fulfilled person to me. So there.
— Chris (@VonCsefalvay) March 18, 2014
— julie holmes (@julieholmes41) March 19, 2014
.@AmandaMarcotte What happened in your life to fill you with such hatred?
— Bastiat Fan (@Bastiat_Admirer) March 18, 2014
— Christian Matthews (@ChristianMatt10) March 18, 2014
And that’s just a tiny sample. It’s all completely hateful, meant to be intimidating and harassing, and clearly intended to create major psychic distress with an eye towards abusing me until I just give up writing. (It won’t work, of course, but just to be clear here.) By any reasonable measure, this abusive and harassing behavior, and it’s utterly relentless.
But no, there’s no curse words in it, so I guess Cathy Young would claim it’s not harassment.
Anyway, here’s the information for Amy’s art installation:
A Woman’s Room Online: An immersive experience of the daily harassment women face online.
Opening reception: Saturday, September 13th at 7pm
Art exhibit open for viewing from September 13th –October 13th 2014 – daily.
Center for Inquiry-Los Angeles, (2nd floor)
4773 Hollywood Blvd.
L.A., CA 90027
For more info contact LAWAAG.
Check it out!