The emergence of internet forums has coincided with the rise of the keyboard warrior. Issues with anonymous digital misogyny, cyber-bullying, racism and homophobia constantly arise in the public forum. This is largely due to the dark side of online participatory culture.
Vanessa Thorpe raises a number of these issues, with reference to the ‘unstinting ridicule’ that women face in the world of website news commentary. She states that ‘trolling’ has led to some female columnists to hesitate before publishing their opinions. This is a serious issue as it has a direct affect on female writers’ confidence, security and credibility.
Lanre Bakare, who monitors the Guardians ‘Comment is Free’ website, stated that an article on European Finance attracts snide anti-woman remarks, but subjects like abortion or domestic violence brings out most of the ‘trolling’.
As a sports enthusiast, I constantly witness the abuse that female columnists such as Mel McLaughlin and Erin Andrews receive on
sites like Fox Sports. Even as I type ‘female sports journalists’ into Google, the first result that I receive is the ‘40 Hottest Sports Reporters’. There are currently 17 female leaders around the world,
yet some men still see women as inferior and as sexual objects. I agree with British columnist Laurie Penny in that ‘this new epidemic of misogynist abuse is tapping an old vein in British public life.’ This is quite ironic as the emergence of the internet has seen society revert back to prejudice which has been present in the past.
I find that there are two main issues with internet forums and online participatory culture as a whole – the issue of anonymity and the absence of gatekeepers. The fact that users are can remain anonymous allows them to voice their opinion without an entry barrier. Jill Filipovic supports this, with an additional reference to tactics such as; manufactured First Amendment outrage, the argument that people who take threats seriously are over-reacting and the assertion that women want and like sexualized insults. I find it quite unnerving that I am of the same gender as the people that are making these ridiculous claims. I am aware that the First Amendment allows free speech in any and all circumstances, but I am sure that it does not encourage threats of sexual violence and sexism.
Issues of participatory culture and the openness of the internet will always polarise opinion. The presence of misogyny in today’s society needs to be addressed, but how? Campaigns such as #mencallmethings, The Anti-Bogan and Destroy the Joint are working towards the abolition of online misogyny, but I feel as though we need some sort of government regulation. But beyond regulation, we can back a difference as individuals by choosing not to participate in a culture of sexism and online abuse. We have a choice, we can either scroll past the offensive posts, or we can remove the cloak of indifference and ensure that sexism is a thing of the past.