I am a Female Writer, Therefore I am a Magnet for Hate
I have a small social media following. As of this writing, I have fewer than 400 followers on Twitter. That’s not a lot. My high school English teacher has 1,500 more followers than me. My friend’s 12 year old daughter has 2,000 more Instagram fans. Perhaps my tendencies to post pictures of my dog and jokes about The Bachelor are stunting my audience growth. Slowly over time, people follow me as I release new content and on rare occasions I tweet something ridiculous that might garner a couple hundred likes or retweets. By all standards, I am just another social media user.
But I’ve noticed a trend: The more I write, the more I get trolled. I knew this was going to happen. I mentally prepared myself for it. But every time I get a reply calling me a slur or telling me to “STFU,” it momentarily stings. When I started writing more frequently a couple years ago, I anticipated the gradual uptick in insults. I can handle it. I know the majority of these trolls are likely basement dwellers with deep-seated anger issues. They’re just sad people lashing out at strangers on the Internet.
So far this year I’ve been called a malicious bitch, a skag (which is a combination of skank and hag I’m told?), a cunt, and one guy asked me if my book was written by a male partner (because women are incapable of writing books?). This is small potatoes, I know. People are mean and you quickly grow a thick skin when you publish anything on the world wide web of insanity. I try to let any negativity roll off my back. Although I get yelled at for being a feminist at least once per week online, I’ve had it pretty good thus far.
But I am worried about the collective future of women’s voices.
Prominent female writers are viciously attacked online and I’m scared it’s going to silence their voices forever if we don’t do something about it. Take Lauren Duca for example. She’s the Teen Vogue columnist who wrote the superb Donald Trump is Gaslighting America piece. Duca is incredibly insightful and one of the most talented writers in America. She is, without a doubt, a Millennial leader of thought. She’s also the recipient of a plethora of rape and death threats. Why? Because the best way to shut smart women up is to physically intimidate them. We know men and women are of equal intellect, so men often resort to their one advantage, physicality, to scare women into being quiet. We can’t let it continue. It is abuse and it needs to stop.
Duca’s harassment was led by “pharma bro” and now convicted felon, Martin Shkreli. I won’t repeat the vileness of his words directed toward her, but his actions led to his banning from Twitter. When Shkreli was kicked off the site, swarms of pathetic angry keyboard dudes barraged Duca with insults and threats to her and her family. Her biometric data was stolen along with her ability to tweet without being bombarded with disgusting denigrations. The cyber bullying she experienced, and is still experiencing, is nothing short of horrifying.
I watched her defend herself tirelessly. With each abusive tweet sent to her mentions, I became more and more terrified not only for Duca, but for all female writers. It made me question if I want to publish my own words anymore. I don’t want to subject myself, or my family, to any potential harm. God forbid one of my articles gets the attention of trolls who wish to terrorize women online.
A woman on the internet letting her voice be heard is not a threat to man’s existence, but to his previously unchallenged status atop the patriarchy. Men are scared. They are frightened by an evolving society which has forced them to reevaluate what’s been ingrained. The ones that choose to troll don’t have the words or intellect to argue in a constructive manner, so they resort to a primal instinct: violence. I know it’s not just men doing the bullying either, there are guilty women as well.
When female writers are cyberbullied, a common response is “get off Twitter” or “ignore the haters.” These are not solutions and this is not a joke. This is suggesting we let the trolls win and let our social platforms succumb to the vitriol we’re exposed to for simply stating opinions.
Behind every article, video, and social media account is a real life woman with a beating heart. Whether you agree with her words and opinions is not important. What’s critical is her first amendment right to speak freely without fear of being harmed. Men, we need you to help us protect our voices. I don’t care if you like what I’m saying, you know I have the right to say it without wondering if my social security number is being held hostage.
Writers who identify as female, be it on the cis, non-binary, or trans spectrum, need protection. We cannot let them be silenced. Complacency led to a reality TV president. Complacency led to a rise in Neo-Nazi and KKK activity. And complacency is going to lead to the silencing of some of America’s most important voices. Cyberbullying and online threats cannot be ignored nor tolerated in a civilized society.
We must educate ourselves on the issue of cyberbullying and its many forms. I know good outweighs evil in this world, and that together we can work to diminish this very real problem. Lauren Duca’s unrelenting bravery in the face of uncalled for abuse is just one of thousands of reasons I will not stop writing. This is not just a call to action, but a plea for all female writers to continue to share your gifts with the world. We need you now more than ever.
Here’s an excellent resource to learn about cyberbullying and how we can fight against it.
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