You are viewing an obsolete version of the DU website which is no longer supported by the Administrators. Visit The New DU.
Democratic Underground Latest Greatest Lobby Journals Search Options Help Login

How women activists are silenced [View All]

Printer-friendly format Printer-friendly format
Printer-friendly format Email this thread to a friend
Printer-friendly format Bookmark this thread
This topic is archived.
Home » Discuss » Archives » General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010) Donate to DU
noamnety Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed May-30-07 09:42 AM
Original message
How women activists are silenced
Advertisements [?]
Edited on Wed May-30-07 09:57 AM by lwfern

... Sierra had been receiving increasingly abusive comments on her website, Creating Passionate Users, over the previous year, but had not expected them to turn so violent - her attackers not only verbally assaulting her ("fuck off you boring slut . . . I hope someone slits your throat") but also posting photomontages of her on other sites: one with a noose next to her head and another depicting her screaming with a thong covering her face. Since she wrote about the abuse on her website, the harassment has increased. "People are posting all my private data online everywhere - social-security number, and home address - a retaliation for speaking out."

While no one could deny that men experience abuse online, the sheer vitriol directed at women has become impossible to ignore. Extreme instances of stalking, death threats and hate speech are now prevalent, as well as all the everyday harassment that women have traditionally faced in the outside world - cat-calls, for instance, or being "rated" on our looks. It's all very far from the utopian ideals that greeted the dawn of the web - the idea of it as a new, egalitarian public space, where men and women from all races, and of all sexualities, could mix without prejudice.


Jill Filipovic, a 23-year-old law student who also writes on the popular blog, Feministe, recently had some photographs of her uploaded and subjected to abusive comments on an online forum for students in New York. "The people who were posting comments about me were speculating as to how many abortions I've had, and they talked about 'hate-fucking' me," says Filipovic. "I don't think a man would get that; the harassment of women is far more sexualised - men may be told that they're idiots, but they aren't called 'whores'."


One website, run by law professor and occasional New York Times columnist Ann Althouse, devoted an entire article to how I was "posing" so as to "make breasts as obvious as possible". The post, titled "Let's take a closer look at those breasts," ended up with over 500 comments. Most were about my body, my perceived whorishness, and how I couldn't possibly be a good feminist because I had the gall to show up to a meeting with my breasts in tow. One commenter even created a limerick about me giving oral sex. Althouse herself said that I should have "worn a beret . . . a blue dress would have been good too". All this on the basis of a photograph of me in a crew-neck sweater from Gap.,,2051580,00.html

The emails began, the countless pages of hate accrued beneath the mail slot. The death threats mounted, the graphic descriptions of what they would do to me when they found me continued to escalate. I tried to call for help but everyone kept telling me that the locks on the door were secure and that there was nothing to be done for me.

But the thing is that I didnt feel secure and the locks didnt feel safe and I knew that it would only take one of them to get through the door. Despite everyone telling me that the screaming men were harmless THEY were saying that they werent harmless. And who you gonna believe? The man who is holding the snarling dog at bay? Who is telling you that hes actually a pussycat? Or the snarling dog who is snapping at your legs and threatening to rip your throat out if it gets loose?

I believed the dog.

It was only after the death threats reached a level that began to involve my children that I finally balked. I could no longer hear the gentle scratching of the other women writing in their own books, all I could hear was the screaming and violence outside this small space. The violence that I desperately wanted to shield the others from.

Both of these predate the recent issue with Cindy Sheehan.

I saw Ann Wright speak last night. She said Cindy was also getting these sorts of emails - the kind that are reminiscent in tone of lynchings - those that not only disagree with her position, but spew misogynistic hate speech and threats at her. Every day, her inbox was flooded with these. Her friends had convinced her to stop reading her mail.

There was a woman at the event last night passing out fliers to women, trying to get women to run for office. I handed mine back, with the "you must be ought of your mind" look that I suck at hiding.

There is a special kind of hatred reserved for women who speak out. It's ugly to witness on DU, and I witness it every day here - as I do on nearly every blog I visit, with a few notable exceptions - and it doesn't matter whether those blogs are political in nature, or tied to graphic design ... it just doesn't matter. It targets women who are republicans, who are democrats, who are spouses, and pundits and independents. It ties hatred to every aspect of their physical female bodies, from Laura Bush to Janet Reno to Chelsea Clinton to Ann Coulter. We hold up men who are long time civil rights leaders as heroes, persistent enduring never tiring heroes who are always at the forefront of the struggle, and we embrace them. I have seen threads here canonizing men who made their fortunes specifically from the degradation and exploitation of women. And when women speak out, they are allowed their 15 minutes of fame, MAYBE, or maybe not, maybe they hold a sign at a protest for 5 minutes, and then they are accused of being a whore - and their sexuality is attacked - and I am not even talking about Cindy Sheehan here.

What I'm getting at is that Cindy Sheehan is not unique. This is part of a system, and it's a system that encourages men AND women, on all sides of the political fences, to attack women AS women, to threaten them, to demean them AS women, in order to get them to shut the hell up.

The abuse that Cindy has put up with - and I'm going to call it abuse, because it goes beyond "criticism" into flat out vile sexist abuse and threats designed to terrorize women who speak out - is rampant, is consistent with women's experiences once their voice starts to be heard, and is tolerated as "normal" - as a normal part of political discourse. For every woman like Cindy who is silenced - even temporarily, as I hope it will be - there are a hundred other women, maybe more, who are silenced, who won't run for office, who will avoid the spotlight, because they don't want to hear the nonstop sexist bullshit hatred and threats that comes with the territory.
Printer Friendly | Permalink |  | Top

Home » Discuss » Archives » General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010) Donate to DU

Powered by DCForum+ Version 1.1 Copyright 1997-2002
Software has been extensively modified by the DU administrators

Important Notices: By participating on this discussion board, visitors agree to abide by the rules outlined on our Rules page. Messages posted on the Democratic Underground Discussion Forums are the opinions of the individuals who post them, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Democratic Underground, LLC.

Home  |  Discussion Forums  |  Journals |  Store  |  Donate

About DU  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy

Got a message for Democratic Underground? Click here to send us a message.

© 2001 - 2011 Democratic Underground, LLC