If you are a woman and you spend time online, you’ve probably experienced online misogyny. It can be offensive and upsetting and you can be exposed to it on many online platforms. WESNET have created a handy tool to identify and manage this kind of abuse when you come across it. The Online Misogyny and Abuse handout explores the phenomenon of online misogyny and abuse against women. It helps women determine if they have experienced abuse, and provides suggestions on how to respond to it. It includes individual and collective action that women and allies can take to make internet and tech use safer for women.
**Content warning: contains examples of sexism and online misogyny including descriptions of sexual and physical violence, and stalking.**
“Check out my 9-inch 🍆”
“Send me a 🍑pic”
“You’re so fat and ugly 🐽you’d be lucky if I raped you”
“I love females with opinions, but only if they’re 6 feet under ⚰️”
“My boys can’t wait to tap your nasty whore ass 🎯”
“Get on your knees and put your nagging mouth to good use”
“Bitch, you can’t say no to me”
“I’m watching everything you do 🕶”
“You can’t escape me”
Who says these things? Who even thinks these things? Online misogynists are responsible for this type of disturbing and vile abuse. It is a dangerous type of abuse that can escalate into stalking, in-person abuse and other types of abuse. Misogynists use the internet and related technologies as tools to target, harm, and express hatred towards people who identify as women. WESNET’s new Online Misogyny and Abuse handout was created to assist women who have experienced this form of technology facilitated abuse and provides ideas about what we can all do about it.
The United Nations reports that 73% of women online have been exposed to online abuse and that women are 27 times more likely to experience online harassment than men. Some people might victim-blame and say that women who experience online misogyny are on the wrong sites or interacting with the wrong type of people online, but that is a myth. Women may experience online misogyny just for sharing, commenting, swiping, questioning, or ‘liking’ something, and out of the blue, find themselves in the crosshairs of online misogyny and abuse.
Online misogyny can be psychologically damaging and cause a range of emotions for those targeted or exposed to it. Feelings of fear, anxiety, insecurity, anger and depression are common. When a woman who is just going about her day experiences this type of abuse and negativity because she identifies as a woman – a characteristic that may be at the core of her identity – it can leave her rattled and vulnerable.
Knowing what to do can feel like walking on a tightrope. Making a valid argument or factual point may feel empowering but could be met with more abuse, but so can staying quiet. No matter what a woman chooses to do in relation to online misogyny and abuse, personal safety – particularly psychological, physical and tech safety – is an important consideration.
The person who is being abusive is making a choice. Their poor choices and beliefs are their responsibility to change. Their abusive behaviour is not the fault of the woman they are abusing. All women have the right to explore and express themselves online and in the real world without facing misogyny or abuse.
These experiences can cause women to feel unsafe and may even change the way women see the world. Who are the people behind those hateful, harmful comments? Are they neighbours, shopkeepers, healthcare providers, or fellow commuters? When a woman’s experience tells her that misogyny is prevalent, either through work, loved ones, or her own lived experience, it can be unnerving.
What do WESNET staff do when we encounter online misogyny and abuse? Caring for ourselves and others is essential. Our Online Misogyny and Abuse handout includes our top tips for anyone who has experienced online misogyny and abuse and what we can all do about it.
During the 16 Days of Activism 2019 and everyday we acknowledge the inherent value of women. Please join us as we work towards making online and offline communities places that every woman can be herself, express herself, and simply feel safe within her own skin.
If you have experienced online misogyny and abuse, there are people you can talk to. You might consider calling your local domestic violence or sexual assault agency or a national DV hotline like 1800RESPECT. You can find WESNET’s Online Misogyny handout within the Women’s Technology Safety & Privacy Toolkit on their techsafety.org.au website.