Thursday, May 25, 2006

Why we back down

http://www.alternet.org/mediaculture/36650/

I was called everything from "bitch" to "whore" and was often addressed as "sweetie" or "honey" before a launch of expletives. Most attackers took the position that I was just a cute, dumb, college student (even though I was in my late 20s) in an effort to discredit me and I was most reliably attacked by a collection of right-wing Web sites and right-wing men who sent me letters.
...
While numerous professions--science, medicine and even journalism--have seen a sharp rise in female participants, opinion journalism doesn't seem to budge. In my case, I was attacked, and then retreated into self-censorship for a period of months and in that darkened room I found no mentors and little support from editors.
...
Rekha Basu is the civil liberties voice at the Des Moines Register in Iowa, and she is a woman, liberal and Indian. She's been called a Hindu-worshipping slut, an Arab terrorist, a whore, a lesbian, a cunt, a skanky Muslim. Most insults are via e-mail and on Web sites, where attackers can remain relatively anonymous.

She's been stalked and followed on the highway and told readers can't wait to read her obituary in the newspaper. But nothing hurt like the time a reader said they hoped her husband, who has Lou Gehrig's disease, would hurry up and die so she would leave the country.
...
Michele Weldon, a contributor to Women's eNews who has also provided columns to the Chicago Tribune, recalled the time a hostile reader of a column read her memoir on the domestic abuse she experienced and wrote to tell her she deserved everything she got.

Sasha Kemmet is a young, budding liberal writer for The Des Moines Register's Young Adult Board. She has been stalked by critics who have accused her of everything from racism to elitism. She describes her detractors as deeply misogynist. "I was surprised by the viciousness of the attacks and it was extremely disappointing. My goal in writing was to initiate dialogue, not bring about petty personal attacks." Kemmet thinks "society wants women to have opinions as long as they don't speak them too loudly . . . as long as this persists, women will believe it themselves."

6 comments:

Darius said...

You know, there must be a lot to what you're saying. My sister was fooling around for a while posting to far right "Christian" blogs just to bug them, and stopped when she started getting really hateful email.

I don't know much about technology. Isn't there any way of handing on threats from cyberspace to police? But I imagine that would do little enough.

In contrast, as a male, I've been posting to conservative blogs too. So far I'm being told I'll go to hell a lot, but that's as far as it goes.

Suppose worst-case scenario is a woman could pose as a male for purposes of cyberspace, even though obviously that is not the way things should be.

Prince Beelezebub said...

My Dear Sweetie-Darling,

You obviously take patriarchy and conservatism in Christianity as far too much of a threat. There is much to your advantage, especially for someone that is as intelligent (and I imagine attractive, especially if you use the appropriate products) as you. Women have much to gain from American Evangelicalism. You only need to let go, stop with the hyperreflection and enjoy.

I'd be delighted to assit you in taking advantage of all that religion has to offer. I earnestly hope that we can become fast friends.

Your friend until The End,
PrinceB

Prince Beelezebub said...

My Dear Sweetie-Darling,

You obviously take patriarchy and conservatism in Christianity as far too much of a threat. There is much to your advantage, especially for someone that is as intelligent (and I imagine attractive, especially if you use the appropriate products) as you. Women have much to gain from American Evangelicalism. You only need to let go, stop with the hyperreflection and enjoy.

I'd be delighted to assit you in taking advantage of all that religion has to offer. I earnestly hope that we can become fast friends.

Your friend until The End,
PrinceB

Prince Beelezebub said...

Oops, sorry for posting twice (or thrice, as it seems). We drink a lot down here, so security measures can be quite vexing during such a high time as this.

Anonymous said...

In all fairness, "far-right" blogs generally receive the same sort of nasty & vile responses. So-called right-wing bloggers and pundits will often post them if you are paying attention. Michelle Malkin is routinely called the same disgusting (ethnically-comparable) names as Rekha Basu.

And have you ever read DU? Please note that in my 25+ years as a (female) voter, I have voted for candidates of both major political parties, and have never been a registered member of either one. Yet on just one visit, the hateful bile I saw posted on DU nearly made me physically ill.

Angry people, ones not articulate or informed enough to handle civil discourse, resort to name-calling. This is not to make excuses for any of it. It is, regrettably, the down side of the Internet, and part of the reality of publicly posting one's opinions for all the world to see. Whether we choose to believe it or not, such bile is generated from across the political/philosophical spectrum.

The only way to fight it is for bloggers such as yourself to resist allowing themselves to be dragged down to the gutter level of the culprits. Here are some challenges:

1) Recognize and admit that the culprits are found among all political, theological & philosphical orientations, not simply among those with whom you may disagree. Have the integrity & courage to condemn the practice, even when it comes "your" side.

2) Admit that the targets are not limited to those with whom you agree. Likewise, do not give in to the temptation of suggesting that those with whom you disagree deserve to be attacked. Anyone who looks the other way snickering is part of the problem.

3) Resist using these unfortunate examples a weapon, or as a blanket villification of those on the "opposite" side of the opinion fence. Resist allowing these examples to justify your own stereotypes (yes, we all have them!) of persons with whom you disagree. Acknowledge that the culprits do not make up the majority of any one viewpoint, and that rational, sane people can be found on either side of the discussion. Pursue civil discourse with them, and ignore the idiots.

4) Resist the "1st grade playground defense": "...but 'they' do it more!" (trust me on this; I work with 1st graders on the playground).

5) Admit you are not unique. Every pundit or blogger (both male & female) encounters this crap to an extent. No one likes to get hate mail, but it's part of the deal if you want to be a part of the blogging community. It doesn't mean you are being shut down or silenced any more than any other blogger.

6) Maintain proper perspective. People around the world still literally risk death for expressing their opinions. I have no sympathy for any blogger who whines (from the comfort of his/her safe American home or office) about how persecuted they are. Any blogger who does not have the thick skin that full public blogging requires, should perhaps "back down" by either turning off/ restricting their comment feature, or retiring altogether.

YetAnotherRick said...

I couldn't help but think of the extreme vitriol directed at Amy Sullivan for her noble attempts to educate some folks about swing evangelical voters. I like to think of it as an epidemic of "Amy Apoplexy."