This Week in Online Harassment

By Hannah Mudge

Speaking out about online harassment constitutes "over-reacting" for some. So how far does it have to go before it becomes worth bothering about?

In recent weeks the long-running debate about the way women are treated online has finally hit the news, with bloggers, journalists and public figures from numerous countries weighing in on how much of a problem it is. 

Plenty of discussion has also focused on how it can be stopped - although many of the women involved in the debate have been subject to further blog posts and comments telling them they're "over-reacting" and that misogynist abuse online just isn't that much of a big deal. While almost everyone I know has welcomed this mainstreaming of the issue, it has of course meant that we've all become very familiar with the term "gaslighting" - the way people undermine what women are saying by telling them that they're being "emotional" or "hysterical" or "over-sensitive".

And so considering that pointing out online abuse seems to be such an "over-reaction" in the eyes of many, something we ladies simply need to "man up" about, I was interested to learn this week of a particularly unpleasant case of online misogyny not being that much of a big deal at all.

Misogynist-baiting blog Manboobz tells us that one of the more high-profile men's rights websites is offering "bounty money" to anyone able to track down the personal details of a group of Swedish women who have made a video they don't like.

The women posted an admittedly ridiculous video on YouTube over a year ago, advertising a theatre production based on Valerie Solanas's SCUM Manifesto and showing the shooting of a man, followed by a victory dance by the women.

So it's publicity for a play, which isn't, you know, real. Like countless other plays and films produced every year that involve scenes of murder. But the guys at A Voice For Men see it more as a call for women to enact killing sprees directed at the opposite sex and have acted as they see fit, calling for those who are involved in the video to be publicly shamed. This includes:

"...asking for the full legal names, home addresses, places of employment, email addresses and contact phone numbers of the women and man who produced and starred in the video described above."

All just a bit of fun, right? Actually, no. Not when men's rights activists are involved. Stumbling across their websites is a discomforting experience. Many of these sites try to maintain a veneer of "reason", but you never have to read very far to realize that they're beloved hangouts of individuals who really do despise women, or at least all women who don't fit their ideal of feminine behaviour and let them treat them as they wish. Even when the contributors to these sites attempt to discourage completely vitriolic comments and attacks, you're going to get readers who can't help themselves. 

It's also telling that they want to publish the personal details of the women on a site called "Register-Her", which purports to reveal the identities of women who have "falsely accused" men of rape. If that's not an encouragement to disturbed individuals looking to go on the rampage, I don't know what it is.

And that's why stuff like this - demanding that people track down the personal information of women so it can be publicized online - isn't just a bit of fun. It's encouraging the unpleasant people who frequent men's rights sites to intimidate and harass women, intruding into their personal lives, all because they've produced a satirical play.

In recent weeks some bloggers have spoken out about how worried they have been by threatening emails from people who have found out their addresses or information about their families. It does happen – and we all know that on the internet, you really don't have to look far to find people who will do genuinely disturbing things.

A writer at A Voice for Men has already been contacted by a Swedish journalist who seems concerned about what's going on. The writer himself seems more concerned about Sweden supposedly being one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to oppressing men, so I can only guess he missed the memo regarding that whole "countries with the highest quality of life" thing.

Another day, another example of women being targeted for harassment.

Hannah Mudge writes about all things news and feminism-themed for BitchBuzz. You can also read her blog, We Mixed Our Drinks or follow her tweets as @boudledidge.

Image via screaming_monkey's Flickr

Wed, 23 Nov 2011 14:00 (GMT+00)
10 Responses

Shocking behaviour - it's hard to imagine that people dedicate their lives causing harm to others. I've read about these groups and website before who take the threats out of the online world so that targeted women feel unsafe wherever they go.

As bloggers, we put a huge portion of our lives online, from what we're wearing that day to where we're going on trips, across our blog and social media channels. It lays open a lot of security questions, but should we stop because of some unwanted attention?

When it gets to the stage of death threats and exposure of personal details, and not just a few snarky anon comments, it's a matter for the police.

Cherie City
Wed, 23-Nov-2011 14:27 GMT

I'm constantly baffled by some men's reaction to a lot of stuff feminists say (whether seriously, or in jest). Are they really *that* scared that we're going to take over and treat them the same way they've been treating us for centuries? Don't they realise we just want to live in a world where that kind of thing happens to *nobody*?

I'm sure if the tables were turned on this particular scenario, those guys would be telling us we can't take a joke.

Lori Smith
Fri, 25-Nov-2011 17:10 GMT
Mon, 28-Nov-2011 04:17 GMT

If it was men in that video killing women instead of the other way around with a message saying "Do your part", would you take it as a joke or some form of satire? Why should it be a joke when the genders are reversed?

You'd be disgusted if a video like that was around satirizing the killing of women, why should men not be disgusted when it's the other way around?

Ken. L.
Mon, 28-Nov-2011 05:08 GMT

The women posted an admittedly ridiculous video on YouTube over a year ago, advertising a theatre production based on Valerie Solanas's SCUM Manifesto and showing the shooting of a man, followed by a victory dance by the women.

You forgot ofcourse when it comes to this skit the message at the end of it , Do Your Part!

I would really like to get your take on that message that is being taught to school age children a man is killed the women are so excited they can't hold it in. Then you see the message Do Your Part! How do you read that how is this not a threat even if it is hidden in satire. Oh by the way I seen the film and I don't see anything satirical about it, oh but then again I am just a evil man.

Mon, 28-Nov-2011 14:25 GMT

This is a scene that represents almost every movie and teevee show ever made only with jender rolls reversed. Shocking, eh. Turns that whole proper behavior of predator and prey thing on its head.

Naturally men do not have to add the "do your part" bit at the end of their films because men are already doing their part. When violent crime statistics move from 93% male to fifty fifty male and female we will know we have done our part to bring equality to America!

Tue, 29-Nov-2011 03:18 GMT

Is this satire? I got to the end and read:
"he missed the memo regarding that whole "countries with the highest quality of life" thing."

and just could not stop laughing. Its highest quality of life for women, not men, or foreigners. Trust me I've been there, and its worse than France. Way to twist the idea there, very clever. To top it off you then finished with:

"Another day, another example of women being targeted for harassment."

That statement epitomizes the endless array of inconsistencies in your piece. The obvious one being that you don't find harassment funny, but murder is satire?

This is the message you and all the others are sending who endorse this:

You are testing the waters, and trying to excuse violence against men with satire and misdirection because of a dark and devious plan to subtlety one day commit male genocide.

If you're endorsing the creeds of second wave feminists like Valerie Solanas, then perhaps you are also endorsing the creeds of second wave feminists like Mary Daly who spoke of male genocide.

Perhaps then this is why people take this attempt at dark humor seriously. I mean imagine if things were the other way around and men were having fun killing women and then finishing with the message "do your part"

Tue, 29-Nov-2011 23:06 GMT

From day one, I have been completely open about my identity online; I am a writer (not merely a hack 'blogger' like you) and my life must be an open book, warts an all. My opinions are certainly not circumspect, they're arguably illegal in my country - but I write openly nonetheless

This terror you feel about 'online bullying' isn't about sympathy for children, ganged up on, often by single mothers - no. It is fear that you may be held to account for all the things you have said, one day.

I have said foolish things at times, I can admit as much; but what I've said I will admit to. It's a little thing called 'integrity'. Welcome to the grown up world, you spoiled little brat.

staresattheworld c*m

Wed, 30-Nov-2011 08:23 GMT

Hannah: I feel conflicted about this article. I agree this that abuse like this online NOT just a bit of fun, and it's seriously upsetting to see. Us ladies are told to "calm down" over threats everyday, online abuse, and harassment is not taken as seriously as it should be. I agree.
However, I disagree with your sentiment that all "mens rights activists" are women haters, or are people trying to hunt down women like the ones from "Manbooz". Some of them are reasonable. "Mens rights actvisits" is a sweeping label, and it encompasses more than just the type of men you're talking about. I personally know men who claim themselves to be fighters for mens rights, especially single fathers who are fighting custody battles. Also, just because a country has a high quality of life, like Sweden, doesn't mean that everything is fair and equal. I'm from Canada, which has an equally high quality of life, and I can say with confidence (as I've seen it happen) that women are constantly favoured over men in family court. Whilst that's not related to online harassment per se, the men who fight for parental equality are still fighting for "mens rights" - a cause I don't find disturbing at all.
I agree with the sentiment of this article overall, but I would have been a little more selective with my wording.

Also- if I may respond to "Aurini": A blogger IS a writer. Also, how do you know she isn't concerned about children being bullied online? This article is focusing on a single topic, as articles tend to do. Also, if you're looking to get respect as a writer, calling people "spoiled little brat" on the internet isn't the best way to start.

Amanda F. @littlecoast
Wed, 30-Nov-2011 09:25 GMT

Hi Amanda, from what I wrote I wasn't trying to infer that all men who claim the label 'men's rights activist' hate women - I am saying that while a lot of men's rights websites are not 'extreme' per se (and some of the people who run them try to discourage hate speech) some of the *individuals* who frequent them *are*, which they show through their comments, blog posts and way they target women online.

Tbh fathers' rights activism didn't figure in what I am writing about here; I'm not including this aspect of activism in what I'm saying. The site mentioned doesn't seem to include anything on fathers' rights.

Wed, 30-Nov-2011 09:37 GMT

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