Thursday, April 05, 2007

Online Misogyny: Does the Internet Make Sexism Easier?

By now I'm sure many of you have heard about the scandal at the Yale Law School. As the Yale Daily News and the Washington Post have reported, three female students at Yale Law School have claimed to be the victims of slanderous comments on an online discussion, AutoAdmit, which allows posts by undergraduate students about schools, job offerings, etc. One of the three students believes that the offensive posts damaged her career chances, since the discussions are among the first hits of a Google search.

I read through some of the comments, and I was shocked. The posts are lewd, aggressive, even violent; there are speculations about her sexual health and threats of rape. I know that some will say that these threats are not to be taken seriously, but it's truly horrifying to think that people can voice such thoughts on a public forum anonymously and not fear legal action. Similar phenomena have occurred elsewhere online: recently, a female blogger became so frightened by gruesome death threats that she canceled speaking engagements (read more about this story here).

I am also thinking back to last year when Della and Sabrina received a barrage of hateful comments in which the words "bitch" featured prominently. Is it easier to hate women electronically? It seems that this kind of hate speech is tolerated online in a way it would not be in a print forum or in everyday conversation. Perhaps the anonymity of message boards eliminate the filter between thought and speech . . . or perhaps I just don't notice the expression of these sentiments in other arenas. I realize that posters can attack a wide variety of people in vicious ways, but it is particularly disturbing that women are often the victims of these attacks and that the slander is of a sexual nature. For all of those people who claim that sexism is gone and that feminism is unnecessary, these disgusting posts prove otherwise.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ah, the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory.

Anonymous said...

I went to AutoAdmit after the reports came out. A few thoughts:

- Those boards are evil. Racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, elitism, you name it. It's disgraceful to use the internet for anonymous, purposeless slandering.

- I seriously doubt that law firms are so dumb as to deny a YLS student a job because of some fool talking those boards. While I sympathize with those students who were slandered, I simply don't believe (and there is no evidence to prove) that the slandering is screwing their careers over.

Adda said...

I sort have to agree with the above comments. I am horrified with the incredibly violent misogyny exhibited in this case and the Kathy Sierra case, but I hesitate to believe that this kind of thing can really affect job stuff. Or maybe that's not what I mean, I just want to make sure to be cautious about how these issues are talked about. My main concern relates to Matthew Gillum's response to Della and Sabrina's blog writing about his columns last year. Obviously Della and Sabrina wrote about his columns in a well-reasoned, intelligent way, as opposed to these examples that are clearly slander, but Gillum certainly did not see it that way, and I worry about getting to stringent about what is said on the internet. Its terrible that the internet encourages such terrible behavior, but I also trust that anyone with half a brain would not believe any claims made anonymously on a message board.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Della Sentilles is an expert in "well-reasoned and intelligent." Who could forget this gem about the Taliban fellow: On her blog, a reader asked Sentilles about the presence at Yale of a former spokesman for one of the world's most misogynistic regimes. Her reply: ''As a white American feminist, I do not feel comfortable making statements or judgments about other cultures, especially statements that suggest one culture is more sexist and repressive than another. American feminism is often linked to and manipulated by the state in order to further its own imperialist ends." A genius.

Chris Persheff said...

It is so much easier to be sexist on the internet. Women might want a thicker skin when dealing with these dopes. It is easier to give in to anti-social norms when no one is looking.

Anonymous said...

And the problem is? Who cares what someone else says. God, grow up. Not everyone will like you.

Anonymous said...

There is a difference between not being liked by everyone and being threatened with rape and/or death. I am really sick of people who have no idea what the effects of misogyny feel like telling women to grow up. How about you look around?