Anyone who is at all amused by the locker room environment of blogs and forums will probably find this amusing. The Summer 2009 issue of the Harvard Journal of Law and Gender published an article by Ann Bartow on internet harassment and sexism.
The article points out that women are the internet are more likely to get attacked more, and have more gender-specific insults hurled at them. The article’s purported reason? Gotta be sexism.
This is a conclusion that reveals a lack of thoughtfulness and creativity. It’s also a conclusion that requires ignoring people you quote to back up your position. To back up her position, Ms. Bartow quotes Ann Althouse speaking in an an interview on “Blogging While Female.”
In the blogosphere, it’s sort of like the Wild West, and you actually can try to push people out. You can push women out. There’s a way of trying to get women to leave and because it’s a rough world where people are trying to climb to the top, they will use whatever techniques they can, you know? And so I think that makes you vulnerable as a woman, but you don’t have to be. There’s a positive side to it, too, that you can use. You get attention just for being a woman because it’s less common.
In this one little paragraph, Professor Althouse has implied two non-sexist reasons for the attacks women get online, but Ms. Bartow is apparently too lazy to do any sort of basic critical thinking.
“they will use whatever techniques they can” If you’re fat, they make fat jokes. If you make typos, you’re called retarded. If your a Jew you hide gold coins up your nose. If you’re black you’re an affirmative action baby. And if you’re a straight, white male, well… you’re the one posting the comments.
The point is that people often make facially sexist remarks not because they hate women, but because they know those remarks will sting, and something that stings is more likely to cause an emotional reaction, and emotional reactions often come in the form of dramatic responses, and those tend to be hilarious. We don’t drop bombs on other countries because we love the rapid expansion of gasses. We drop bombs because they’re effective, we’re indifferent to the physics.
“You get attention just for being a woman because it’s less common.” Women get more attacks online not because people really want to attack women, but because everyone gets attacked online, and women get more attention. Making fun of the same stuff over and over get boring. Boys have been making fun of other boys since they first learned to talk. It’s not very interesting any more.
This is the same reason why I don’t make fun of conservatives very much. Conservatives rarely say anything new. Positions against gay marriage haven’t really evolved at all. But liberals, or “progressives,” if you will, are always doing something new, which provides new material to laugh at. Also, I don’t like making fun of conservatives because it feels like I’m picking on a retarded kid.
Anyways, since women rarely expose themselves openly to criticism on the internet, it follows that they’re going to get pounced on. But, it’s not because people want to attack women. They just want to attack something new and different.
In the end though, what really makes the internet a different place for women is that it is a locker room. Boys have a home field advantage. We grew up with this sort of behavior. We don’t let it get to us and we know how to respond, or how to not respond.
Here’s what happens on the internet when someone makes fun of a girl:
Troll: “You’re a fat slut.”
Girl: “I’m not fat you asshole! OMG! Why would you say that! You’re so mean! You don’t even know me! Why would you say something like that about me?!?!?!”
Everyone Else: “LOL. What a dumb bitch.”
Here’s how the same thing goes down with a guy making fun of another guy on the internet:
Troll: “You’re a faggy douchebag.”
Everyone Else: “Epic fail. What a dumb bitch.”
Maybe if Ms. Bartow and the ladies at Harvard Journal of Law and Dugg Down watched this video, they’d have a better understanding of the contextual dynamics of playing the dozens on the internet: link [disabling embedding makes BL1Y a saaaad panda].