Would You Type To Your Mother Like That? Women and the Internet

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“Stand up like a man, You better learn to shake hands, You better look me in the eye now, Treat me like your mother.  Come on look me in the eye, You wanna try to tell a lie?  You can’t, you know why?  I’m dressed like your mother.”

-The Dead Weather, Treat Me Like Your Mother

When women are being called names, something’s not right.  When women are being harassed, something’s wrong.  When women are being threatened with rape and death, something’s got to change.  Right?  Most of us can agree on that.  But what if these things are happening online?  Is the fallout any different because the words showed up on a screen rather than in the mailbox or on a voicemail?  Is the emotional toll and the fear any less because it was done electronically?  Does the vehicle by which a threat was issued even matter?  Is a threat not a threat?

Journalist Amanda Hess wrote an article titled,“Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet”.  She goes into great detail about the vile comments she has received over the years.  She has an active presence online as a writer and has endured angry rants, threats of rape and threats of death.  She has had one individual in particular stalk her online.

Lauren Mayberry of the indie band Chvrches wrote an op-ed that appeared in The Guardian.  She wanted to shed light on the misogyny that she has been subjected to on-line.  Her band gained notoriety and acclaim after posting some of their songs on a music blog.  The internet has been a crucial part of their success.  For this reason they find it important to keep communication going between their fans online.  Among the gushing fan postings were some hostile comments.  Name calling.  Threats of rape.  Details of lewd acts.

These two women are not alone.  They unfortunately are in good company.  There are writers, singers, actors, business women, students, executives, and kids who have all experienced the same thing.  They are mostly women.  And they are considered targets by some simply because they have the audacity to log on to the internet.  They are told to shrug it off, laugh it off, don’t engage, move on.  In other words, suck it up.   Good girls stay quiet, don’t make a fuss.  Just smile and don’t make anyone uncomfortable.  It’s a response that women have heard for ages.  Don’t make a fuss about voting, just try to sweetly influence your husband’s vote.  Don’t complain about your boss grabbing your ass, just be grateful you have a job.  Don’t bother reporting that rape, everyone will just think that you did something to encourage it.

There has been talk of taking the anonymity out of sites like Twitter.  Sure.  Being anonymous makes it easier for these perpetrators to be more brazen.  There have been questions asked concerning who should be tasked with investigating these threats….  the police?  The companies that own these websites like Twitter, Facebook and AskFM?  Sure.  An avenue for women to report these assaults could give them a way to fight back.  While these things could be helpful, they are merely the tourniquet on a bleeding wound.  The only way to truly change the dynamic that is festering online is to find the source of the bleeding.

Where is all of this coming from?  Is it the continual and persistent objectification of women in all parts of the media?  Is it the rampant disregard for other’s feelings?  Is it a culture that views women as easy targets, the weaker sex? All of the above?

More than ever before, women are portrayed in a sexualized way.  Pop singers wear less and dance like someone should be throwing dollar bills at them.  Magazine covers show more skin, more suggestive poses, more sensuality in general.  And don’t even get me started on music videos, especially hip hop videos.  I am not opposed to someone expressing their more sensual side, but it does seem that it has become the norm, the expected.  Boys see this.  Girls see this.  At a young age they absorb all of this.  It plays into their perception of things, of people.  They don’t see men being represented in the same way.  They don’t see George Clooney draped in a bed sheet.  They don’t see Jay Z with his ass sticking out and a pouty look on his face.  They don’t see male celebrities portrayed in a come-hither-I’ve been a bad boy-don’t you want me kind of way.  When men show skin it is usually done with a very macho tough-guy feel.  They pick up on this, the kids.  They see women being treated and portrayed differently in the media.  It seeps into their subconscious and sometimes may result in them seeing women as commodities.  Not living, breathing, feeling, real people.

Then there’s the lack of empathy.  Recent studies have shown a decline in empathy in our youth.  This disturbing trend is not just some factoid for psychologists and behavioral specialists to be concerned with.  We should all be worried.  As parents, it’s our job to teach these skills to our children.  I believe it is the most important thing we teach them.  Socialize them at a young age.  Set an example of compassion.  Talk to your children about social issues that demonstrate the need for caring and understanding.  If kids don’t learn these lessons, they may be more likely to bully.  They could see a sexual assault of a drunk girl at a party and take a video of it instead of trying to stop the crime.  They may be the person who sees such a video and posts it to social media.  Without any apparent remorse or concern for the victim.  These kids will laugh.  They will ridicule .  They obviously don’t view the girl who has been violated as a living, breathing, feeling, real person.

There’s the detachment that is part of the online world.  Typing a message on Twitter is a little easier to do than screaming it in the person’s face.  Harassing someone on Facebook takes a little less nerve than doing it in person.  Behind the  keyboard, a person is likely to feel more bold.  Some people feel that the lack of physicality gives them a license to be a little meaner, a little more cruel, a little more threatening.  They are able to act out from the safety of their home, they can say things they may never say in person.  The scary fact that for the person on the receiving end of these kinds of messages is that they have no way of knowing when or if the perpetrator is going to take it to the next level.

Does it matter that these threats are online?  No.  The threat is no less real.  The only difference is it is easier to hurl a lewd comment or convey violent intentions over the internet.  It takes less effort than the more traditional means of harassment or stalking.     But the result is the same.  A woman is belittled.  A girl is shamed.  Their safety is threatened.  They feel violated.

The world we live in has changed dramatically over the last 20 years.  The internet is an integral part of all of our lives.  It is a part of our work, our education, our entertainment, our socializing.  We have more access to more information.  We can reach more people with a keystroke.  While all of this access to information and people affords us all kinds of benefits, we can’t ignore the risks.  We can’t enjoy the fruits of the digital world and turn a blind eye to the uglier side of what is taking place.  Social media has become a way for journalists and artists and business people to promote their craft. But it has also become a breeding ground for abuse.

It’s time for us to come to a collective reckoning.  These things need to be addressed, scrutinized, understood.  We need to understand that the person we see on the computer, tablet or phone screen is a real person.  A living, breathing, feeling, real person.  They are not a character in a video game.  They are not a “virtual” anything.  They are women, they are girls.  They are Amanda Hess and Lauren Mayberry.  They are your mother, your sister, your friend, your daughter.  And they deserve to be treated as such.  They are trying to bring this issue to light, they are starting the conversation.  It’s our job to continue it.

182 Comments

  1. And yet you have a comments section and bravely blog on! Wonderful post. It is a constant battle indeed, but one worth fighting. Sex and drugs were pretty rampant in the seventies, the nineties we had Madonna screwing a bed and her book creatively entitled SEX so I am not sure if things are worse. There are many many things that are better now for women than in the past. We will endure this and raise women (and men) who are as healthy as they can be given the state of the world. When I get down I look at how many children are NOT dancing like Miley Cyrus, how many kids are reading good books and how many children are kind. Do not fear anything, not even the objectification of women in the media and fight on and keep your voice strong.

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    1. You know, I have spent a lot of time thinking about that, are things worse now or is it just because I’m a mom? I think what Madonna did then would barely raise a stir now… but I agree that there was some element of this in every generation. Your comment is very reassuring and you are absolutely right! Thank you so much for the encouragement and perspective!

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      1. Not a problem. We are all in this together. I will follow your lead and add a comments section to my betternotbroken blog, soon, very soon. It is not easy being a parent. Keep up the good work.

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    1. That is so weird, I have never heard of INTJ, and today I stumbled upon another blog that explained all the different personality types. I kinda feel like I must be completely clueless to not have any knowledge of this! I have heard of the Myers Briggs Personality Assessments but I don’t know much about any of this, although it seems fascinating! Thank you for reading my blog!

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      1. Most of the people I know have tested themselves at one time or another. It is a neat way to connect with people, especially when learn how certain personality types complement each other naturally and which ones tend to clash. If you stumble upon the test, let us know what you come up with. 🙂

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  2. Excellently-written post. Did anyone include link below–have you yet seen this vid? Well worth it. Shows what it would be like if MEN were on the receiving end of some of what women live with:

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  3. Well Said. My sisters and I talk about this all the time. Children and even some adults are out of touch with the real society and real compassion.

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    1. Thank you for that! Stalking is stalking, it doesn’t matter how it’s conveyed. Thank you so much for sharing it on your blog… I started reading your blog and found it intriguing and heartbreaking. It is awful what you’ve had to go through. I’m glad to see you fighting back, I am following and look forward to reading more from you!

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      1. Thank YOU! I chose not to share until I felt the saga was nearing its end; I’ve been blessed with a great safety net of people, and I hate to think of all of the women who simply don’t have the financial or emotional resources to fight back. I was also lucky to have been married to the worlds dumbest criminal though – he literally provided all of the evidence that will convict him. And it was a gift that he chose to stalk in such a verifiable, provable way. Lots of people told me I was crazy when I said he was following me, or other wacko stalker cliches.

        Thanks for following me 🙂

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  4. Excellent piece of writing! Issues regarding the treatment of women are very important to me. The internet can be a scary place these days. I was really horrified by all of the abuse that happened last summer in the UK when it was decided that Jane Austen was to be on the new 10 pound notes. Things have got to change – it’s 2014 for goodness’ sake.

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    1. Thank you! The internet can be scary, it kind of feels like the Wild West sometimes, no laws and no rules. The amount of anger over women, over putting a woman on currency is almost funny. Except it’s not. It is shocking that some people don’t seem to evolve. Thank you so much for reading this!

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  5. I think this is a truly great article, but it is important to remember that it goes both ways. I personally know some incredibly vicious women on the internet as well, and I think that can be forgotten in the stampede to defend women everywhere.

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    1. You are absolutely right. Especially when it comes to young women and bullying. The majority of these cases of stalking seem to be perpetrated by men, but I think there are way too many cases of women/girls harassing and bullying other women/girls. It may not go as far as threats of rape and murder most of the time but the consequences can be just as horrible and damaging. I wrote a piece a few months ago about suicide as a result of bullying and it is tragic and incredibly frustrating to see people driving other people to take their lives… Thank you so much for reading this.

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    1. Thank you so much, I really appreciate you sharing this on your blog! I wish I knew how to change it. I think it may come down to legislation to get the social media companies to work with law enforcement to track these people down. But on a much larger scale, it has to come down to raising people who aren’t narcissistic hateful people. I don’t know how to affect change about that beyond raising my own children. I think it’s good to have the conversation and for people to realize how widespread this is and how it affects people.

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  6. What a great piece. It isn’t shocking to see young girls’ atrocious behavior when you then see how their parents act either at sporting events, birthday parties or even their school functions. I’ve been shocked when I’ve seen some of the e-mails parents have sent teachers. I will definitely share, and thanks for addressing this issue.

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  7. So, putting together a post, I had to come back and read even more closely. This is such a strong post. The only thing I could say about it in the way of constructive criticism toward improvement is that there is so much packed into it, it makes my head spin a little. This could easily be turned into series of posts. Here are some things you could do with it:

    Take the part about the commodification of women and run with that. You’re right, and the contrast between male celebrities and female celebrities is stark. “Commodification” means something (or someone) is being sold.

    Empathy. Same as above. I did not know that declining empathy was a measurable sociological effect, and that is something I must look into now. I agree, it is the responsibility of parents to teach it to their children. In my opinion, empathy is mostly learned behavior. Declining empathy has serious consequences. I could write you an essay about the implications of that (and maybe I will 😉 )

    Explore that weird thing that happens when we interact through technological media. I tend to see social media as a blessing. Without it, there is no way I we could even have the conversation we’ve had today. But you are right. A reckoning is in order. My sister is my closest collaborator online, and most of the contributors to our blog are women. The way women are treated online is egregious, and the depersonalization that comes with technologically-mediated communication is a part of the problem.

    I could go on, but I will not. That is three things worthy of further exploration, and this comment is almost long enough to be a post. Best wishes 🙂

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    1. I agree, I could absolutely write many more posts digging a little deeper into each point. The commodification of women and the “empathy gap” are two that I feel really strongly about and could go on for days…. I want to explore the decline of empathy and entitlement, I’m curious to see if the two go hand in hand.

      I don’t know if you remember, but I commented on the post where you mentioned the Hess article and told you that it inspired me to write about something that had been brewing in my mind for a few months (ever since I read the op-ed by Lauren Mayberry). This was the post that your post pushed me to write. And this is the one that got Freshly Pressed! So thank you for that! That’s the coolest thing about blogging that was an unexpected surprise when I started doing my blog, I never realized that I would be inspired so much by other writers… I feel like I’ve learned so much from other bloggers and I feel very lucky to have stumbled upon some smart and talented writers! I will definitely be writing more about this, and about the many comments I’ve received from women who have experienced this kind of treatment. It’s appalling… Thanks so much for the support from you and Diana with some of these posts!

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  8. And here’s another one 🙂

    I wish we’d found this post when Diana and I were talking about that Hess article nine days ago. The way I found it was, I was browsing the “Feminist Friday” tag looking for some good posts to put into a roundup so I could actually keep my promise and publish a Feminist Friday roundup before midnight. That tag is depressing. I am hoping there’s another tag somewhere and tons of people are using it for these posts instead of this one.

    The upside is that, since there are so few people using this tag, anyone who does write a Feminist Friday post and tag it as such is sure to be read by me. Because I am following it now and checking it every Friday afternoon.

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  9. Funny thing running into this post. My daughter’s ex has been sending her threats via texts and leaving ‘your next bitch” voice messages on her phone. She is 23 I don’t know what he does online. But when she finally decides to do something and with my support because I heard him on the phone threatening her, his parents blame her. She caused him to react in this way. As a result of the threats I called the police, he is stalking her. Police decide to file charges. Now she is the one who needs to stop this? She is the one who needs to recant her statement to the police? She is the reason he is incarcerated? How did she become the reason that this kid became a loser. How is she the reason that your son decided to hurt people and break the law? How is it right to ask my daughter to recant her story and have her perjure herself and be charged with some criminal act to save your kid? Perhaps parents like these are the reason that we see so much indifference in our world. What did you teach your child? I am pretty confident that I didn’t raise a daughter for the sole reason of making your son a degenerate narcissist who blames his short comings others. Thanks for posting this, we need to change our attitude. And it starts at home.

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    1. How incredibly scary and frustrating for you! The whole notion that the victims of threats like these are somehow responsible or “caused” it is ridiculous and nonsensical. It seems to be a somewhat common response though. I completely agree that parents like this are a large part of the problem. So many parents don’t hold their kids accountable for anything, starting early in childhood. So many parents continually bail their kids out. The kids learn that they are more important than anyone else and are invincible to the consequences. It is infuriating. I hope this guy gets put away and gets help and leaves your daughter alone. What you are describing is one of my nightmares as a mother…

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    1. I am so sorry to hear that you have experienced this Sara. I have had a lot of women comment on this post saying the same thing. It is so heartbreaking to hear how many people are affected by this kind of behavior….

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      1. Thanks Gretchen, sometimes the advice, “the best way to handle it is to pay nil attention,” is not true, as then it only multiplies our troubles. Sometimes, it’s best to report such bullies.

        Regards
        Sara

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  10. Things are much worse for women where I come from. They don’t even get to dine with their male counterparts in parties, they sit around small tables in a remote corner and do chores (this happens in the countryside)

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    1. How awful. I wrote a post a few months ago about Feminism that highlights women in other countries who are fighting against mistreatment. I think a lot of people in the U.S. don’t realize that it is still an issue in many parts of the world and that we need to support other women, everywhere. In our country a lot of people will try to make you ashamed of being a feminist, but equality for women is nothing to be ashamed of. Especially when women around the world are still mistreated and suffering. Thank you so much for sharing this with me and for reading my blog…

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    1. I read your article. It is absolutely ridiculous that anyone would imply that what a woman wears is in any way to blame for being assaulted or raped. I know it is an argument that has been used for ages, but it is just an excuse to not deal with the real problem. And you’re right, the real problem is that some men view women as less than them, something to be used and discarded. I really enjoyed reading this, and I agree with you. A REAL man respects women and treats them with respect. Thank you for sharing this with me!

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  11. Thanks for sharing this, its very sad that women have been degraded through popular culture and its even sadder when some women themselves have been deluded into thinking that being a ‘strong independent’ woman involves taking their clothes off for the cameras and dancing provocatively. I think when our children have strong positive role models that they can relate to, the world will be a better place. Please check out a post we wrote on our blog about bullying, self harm and suicide as a result of cyber bullying.
    http://lightinaglass.wordpress.com/2014/01/04/i-want-to-kill-myself-bullying-self-harm-and-suicide/

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      1. Thank you very much for your kind words. Share the post with anyone who you think might find it useful; it might be that it is exactly what they needed to hear.
        Peace be with you,

        Light in a Glass

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  12. Wonderful article. Amazingly, it’s not just men doing the assaulting either, it’s women against women as well. The comment on some vloggers YouTube channels is disgusting. I have frequently wondered what has happened to courtesy and manners?

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    1. Thank you! I so appreciate the support from you and Emily. Getting to participate in your RTT blog hop makes me feel like I’m getting to sit with the cool kids at the lunch table! And congrats on your Superhero Keg Party being Freshly Pressed, that was some kind of crazy genius!!!

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  13. Behaviour onlin is not considered in the same way as offline. For example if we go to a club and have an accident, the onus is on the club to make sure we don’t sue them whilst using their premisess. Online, every company can say ‘there is nothing we can do.’ I believe that if people are using your premises the onus should be on the owner to protect them, just as it is offline.
    There ARE choices. Moderate comments or switch them off. But large companies want to have their cake and eat it.

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    1. I think you’re right, these companies don’t want to get their hands dirty or have to hassle with it. Surely they have the technology and the means to track people down who make these threats. Unfortunately they probably will never do it unless they’re forced by legislation… Thank you for reading!

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  14. in my opinion its wrong to bully people to begin with because when the bully bullies some they have fun with it but when some bullies the bully they get mad about it and they attend to fight every one… this is coming from some one who was bullied all of his elementary school year

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    1. I am so sorry to hear you were a victim of bullying. I hope that you came out of it ok and were able to move on and find peace. Bullies bully (I believe) because they are insecure. They have to bring others down so they feel bigger. It’s NO excuse, I have told my own children this. When someone is bullying them, I’ve tried to explain to them that the bully is a pitiful small person and not worth their time or concern. Of course that is easier said than done. Bullying in any form is despicable….

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  15. Lot of food for thought here about the things I want my young son to learn about life and how to treat other human beings and the subtle messages he receives from various media. Thank you for that.

    You’re right. It’s important.

    Congratulations on having your excellent writing recognized, Gretchen.

    Lots and lots of smiles over this. Keep on keepin’ on, lady.

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    1. Thank you so much Matt! Thanks for reading and offering your support, especially given all the traffic and attention you’re getting lately with your profile on WP… I imagine that’s keeping you super busy! Thanks for putting all your positivity (I think I made that word up) out there for the rest of us to soak up… may it come back to you tenfold.

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      1. Ms. Kelly — Are you so sure WOMEN are especially attacked on the internet? I’ve never heard of this. And thinking it over now, it doesn’t seem true. Women may feel the pain WORSE than guys, and thus find the anonymity-laden internet more relatively hostile. But I think the rudeness, meanness, nastiness, etc. is distributed without sexism or prejudice. Blacks may also falsely think themselves singled out. And gays.

        Your post is richly ironic to me because my new blog exploits the (temporary) anonymity and pseudonymity of the internet to the pure max. I’m waging merciless WAR upon all of mankind. And I’m going to ENJOY my brief period of camouflage, until my unique expression of views slowly-but-surely “outs” me.

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        1. you’ve “never heard of this” because you won’t listen. You are a bully and you are harassing the women and men on this site as well as your own blog. You’re hatred is of yourself and doesn’t belong here.

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  16. The way women are treated online is only a reflection of how they are treated in real life. Considering that women are usually blamed for any wrong doing against them (she was asking for it, she shouldn’t have been in that part of town, she shouldn’t have talked back, she shouldn’t have stepped out of line), it’s not that surprising to me that they are also bullied online. We raise men in most of the world’s cultures to feel powerful and entitled, yet, we do not raise women to feel the same way. It’s probably time we change that for the next generation.

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    1. So true, that’s a great point. It is just a more magnified, obvious example of the treatment women receive in real life. I also agree, men are often raised to feel powerful and entitled while girls are taught to be demure and sweet and polite. Even in modernized countries, this is still a (subtle) part of our culture. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, it’s given me a different angle to look at this from… I appreciate your thoughts on this!

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    1. I think ignoring it allows these men to continue to do this. They move on when they get no response but I’m not sure it actually stops the behavior. I sincerely wish that ignoring it would make it go away. Thank you for reading this and sharing your thoughts!

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    1. Thank you! It is sad, we think we’ve come a long way but in some ways old behaviors continue, just in more discreet ways. I hope by the time my daughters are adults we can say that it is no longer happening. Thank you for stopping by to read this!

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  17. Great post. You’ve nailed it with the teaching empathy to children as a priority. We need to keep working on creating & promoting social expectations for online activities.

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    1. Thank you! I think empathy is crucial to so many of society’s ills, I wish there was a way to affect it beyond our own children. I know in the middle schools and high schools in my town they are teaching kids about “sexting” and the risks and dangers associated with it. I think it needs to go further than just the obvious cases and into the more subtle instances of bullying and harassment that occur far too often. Thank you for reading this!

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  18. Brilliantly said. This topic, especially the connection between pop culture, social media, and the lack of empathy in young people, is constantly on my mind nowadays. It infuriates me that so many people just accept it.

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    1. I do think it’s a perfect storm of all of those factors. I don’t know if I’m right, but they all seem to play into this whole culture of taking others down, making others feel small, entitlement, lack of respect for others, lack of concern for others… and yes, I think it will only get worse if we don’t take it seriously now. Thank you so much for your comments and for taking the time to read this!

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  19. Thank you for this! A generation with even less empathy is the greatest tragedy. Thank you for starting, and continuing this conversation! I posted the weekly writing challenge tonight on my blog, Ever Upward http://www.jlbf4.wordpress.com. Just wish more of us could understand that we can all still have our differences and be compassionate towards one another!

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    1. Hi Damion, I did look at your blog. I haven’t been at this for long so I may not have the best advice, but one thing I will say is don’t worry about whether you are saying something that people want to hear. Just go with your gut. There will be someone somewhere who will want to read it and gain something from what you have to say. Good luck with blogging!

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      1. Thanks Gretchen, or Kelly, whichever you may go by. I appreciate the feedback and this will help me improve on the development of my blog. As I’ve said recently, much appreciated.

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        1. No problem! Just keep doing what you’re doing, I found your writing very interesting! Also, networking with other bloggers and commenting and even joining in some of the blog-hops and writing challenges that are on the Daily Post that WordPress hosts will help you connect with other bloggers and that is who your real audience will ultimately be. Best of luck!

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  20. My oldest son didn’t have very good social ques and suffered for it greatly. It’s an even worse problem with the web now a days. I think the only way to beat a bully is to stand up for yourself.

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    1. Yes, and to stand up for others. I think bullies go after people when they think they can get away with it because they are cowards. I am so sorry that your son had to deal with people treating him poorly. There’s no excuse for it.

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      1. You are an angel. XOXO Thanks so much. I have been a victim of online bullying and it’s easy to not understand why. Your post helped me to see more clearly.

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        1. It has been absolutely heartbreaking to see, just with the comments I’ve received on this post, how many people have been victims of this kind of abuse…. I am so sorry to hear that you had to go through that. I wholeheartedly believe that it is not you, it’s them. If they don’t abuse you, they’ll do it to someone else. Saying to not take it personally sounds like I’m dismissing it, but I guess a better way to put it would be that it’s not your fault or responsibility. They are sick people…. I am touched to have you say that this post helped you… I wish you all the best.

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    1. Thank you so much! And thank you for re-blogging! I love your comment, it’s funny how so many people go to great pains to paint a wonderful picture of themselves on social media and then some choose to go under cover and spew such ugliness!

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  21. Reblogged this on Breaking my Boundaries and commented:
    Have you been harrassed, called vulgar names, or threatened ? Gone are the days of bullying face to face….it is so much easier for people to take their “cheap shots” shrouded in some level of anonymity. As much as people “fake good” through different forms of social media, also their core evil side also comes blasting out as well. Great article and a reminder to show a little empathy and compassion for individuals.

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  22. The media.. I see it getting blamed all the time. I agree that children see these things younger and younger. I agree that they internalize them. It is the parent’s job to help put it in context.

    A woman wants to bare it all on tv has the same rights as a woman who doesn’t. Both deserve respect for their decisions, neither should be judged.

    I think we all secretly hope out daughters will be wearing turtlenecks well in to their 30s but they won’t be. I want to live in a world where it won’t matter what a woman dies or what she wears, it won’t impact how she’s treated.

    You’ve brought up great points. I enjoyed reading it!

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    1. I would love to live in that world too! I certainly don’t want to come off as a prude, I consider myself a free spirit, I think the human body is a beautiful thing and shouldn’t be a thing of shame. I try to teach my kids these lessons, hopefully I’m getting through to them. They’re still somewhat young so it’s hard to tell if it’s working. (ages 13, 10 and 4) Women (no one for that matter) should be judged by how they dress or how they look, one day hopefully that will be the case! I hate to jump on the media blame game, it’s certainly not the media’s fault. It’s just everywhere. I think you start to become more aware of it when your kids are seeing it. Thanks for reading and for your comments!

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  23. The computer has good points and bad points. It is the person who feels empowered by standing behind the computer who spreads the anger and hate. I am afraid it will continue as we argue the rights of free speech.

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    1. Yes, most bullies are cowards and hide in the shadows. I am afraid this issue isn’t going away any time soon. I wish I knew the solution or the answer. In the article by Amanda Hess that I reference, she really does a great job of explaining the impact it has on the person on the receiving end. Thank you for reading!

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  24. That was extremely well written Gretchen. I have been a victim of cyber-crime caused by a disgruntled work colleague. I reported him but nothing was ever done. I don’t think my employer was aware of the psychological effects, but your writing has captured it perfectly.
    Don’t ever be afraid to have an opinion x

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    1. Thank you so much. I am so sorry that you had to go through that. How awful and incredibly frustrating it must have been for you. Part of the problem that Amanda Hess goes into great detail about is the lack of concern on the part of law enforcement and the social media companies. They don’t seem to get how scary and real it is… Thank you so much for sharing your story and for stopping by to read my blog!

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  25. There was a news item today about football players getting suspended from a university team for racist & sexist tweets. And I’m glad someone took notice of it. Because more and more I see people hiding behind social media, when really it’s more like stepping up to a microphone and telling the world what you think. I hate that women are bullied online. I hate that our first instinct is to record abuse and not stop it. Our voyeuristic tendencies have removed all our empathy.

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    1. You’re so right, it is more like stepping up to a microphone. What a great way to put it! And I worry that our empathy is being dulled as well… Thank you so much for your insightful comments!

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  26. Is it just me, or shouldn’t death threats get you arrested? It shouldn’t matter if you’re doing it online, in person, or via a well versed letter sealed and mailed to you. I thought threatening someone’s life was not legal to do.

    I get it can be hard to track these people down, but the providers of services that are used to send these threats should have some responsibility to at least provide the needed information once the authorities have been contacted.

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    1. I completely agree. Surely they have ways of tracking down the people who are doing this. It doesn’t seem like it would be that hard! And death threats should be treated much more seriously in all forms. Thank you for your comments!

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        1. That is so awful, even though I know it happens all the time, there have been so many women who’ve responded to this with the same kind of stories. It is so sickening that this is happening to so many people. But I have to say, your response, tracking down his relatives and calling him out… that’s pretty awesome… I hope that you exposing him means he’ll never do it again. I understand if you don’t want to answer, but I’m curious to know how you were able to track down his info? If these guys could be exposed like this, I would imagine that it would be a huge deterrent. Good for you, I hope you got some peace of mind afterwards… Thank you for reading and commenting!

          Like

  27. So very right and so well written. what you said about the sexualisation of women rings true when you see how clever women get ridiculed for their appearance when they are not conventionally beautiful. Women should be judged on a deeper level than outer appearance alone. There are a few examples of this such thing in the media recently in the UK. Terrible.

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    1. Absolutely. Women in positions of power get scrutinized for their appearance, how they dress, how much or little makeup they wear. I didn’t think about this aspect as I was writing this. Amanda Hess, the journalist I referred to had many comments about her “lack of beauty”. It’s sad that how a woman looks is the subject of scrutiny or abuse or cruelty. I think the common denominator is that there are some who want to knock women down any way they can. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this, it gives me more to think about and consider with this whole issue…

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      1. You are more than welcome, it makes me angry! Its an issue that needs talking about so that maybe we try and change perceptions and treatment of women. I enjoyed reading your post anyway, well done!

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    2. I have some news for you — if you think being conventionally beautiful makes that sort of stuff stop, you’re kidding yourself. If you don’t look like that, you are harassed for it. If you DO … heaven help you. If the stalker/harasser WANTS you to suck his dick, do you think he’s going to be any nicer about it?

      Conventional beauty is like having a cross-hairs painted in your chest. People don’t like to hear this, but it’s true.

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      1. I think in many instances looks have nothing at all to do with it. I think these kinds of people are equal opportunity offenders. They will harass you if they find you ugly. They will threaten you if they find you pretty. I think they really just want to bring women down no matter how they look. Your last statement is chilling. I agree that there are probably people that target conventionally beautiful women specifically. I think this issue hasn’t been examined enough to get hard numbers to back that up yet, it would be interesting and possibly helpful to look into it more closely. If some stalkers/harassers motivations are different based on the way the woman looks, that could be information helpful in figuring out why people do this. Thank you for reading this and taking the time to comment!

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      2. I do not think it does, and I did not say otherwise. As I said, women are judged by outer appearance, and this is for all reasons. The sexualisation being discussed has ramifications for all women. Prominent and clever women are being harassed online for not being beautiful, which is as bad as being harassed for being beautiful. Neither should occur.

        Professor Mary Beard, for instance, has had a lot of trouble with online harassment; which is sad because why is her appearance relevant to her informative television programs? It shouldn’t be!

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  28. Gretchen, what a lovely piece you have composed here! I applaud you for shining light to this; however it is not surprising to me whatsoever that women are continually objectified, bullied and harassed in life and online. I understand it so far as to say that our society places women on this unattainable pedestal and they assume that women should act like, look like, feel like sexual beings because after all, in a patriarchal society, that is what they are meant to be like. But it shouldn’t be that way. Women should be able to express their own opinions without fear of consequences or threats of rape, lewd sexual acts, and general overall harassment. I know that it will never change because if you strip off all of the societal influences and what makes societies different, all societies are the same in the respect that patriarchal in nature. It is a real shame.

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    1. I agree, that this goes back to the beginning of civilization. I do have hope that things can change. As more women take leadership positions and more women speak out and stand up, I truly hope that eventually there will be a shift from the patriarchal society. It does run deep so I know it won’t happen overnight but I am hopeful. I really appreciate your comment, it makes me want to edit this post and look at it from this angle! Thank you for reading!

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  29. Phenomenal post, Gretchen, thank you. This has been on my mind lately for several reasons. One, I’m new to blogging and am bracing myself for just this sort of random act of online abuse. Your post is the third or fourth article that has caught my eye in the last couple of days. All describe attacks or the issue of attacks.

    Finally, just this morning I wrote a brief piece about concerns I have about people using profanity or sexual terms in order to grab attention. I did exactly that, by calling my piece XXX Rated. It’s sexy, and it catches the eye. You read further and there’s nothing sexual about it. I did this deliberately, because I wanted to see what sort of difference it would make to my stats.

    I should state here that I write for enjoyment, not profit. My interest in statistics is purely that of a novice who is learning how things work. The stats intrigue me and the feedback is motivating.

    Writing erotica, or satire, or comedy, is one thing. But I do have concerns about writers, especially female authors who pepper their work with the key words just for the sake of drawing attention and getting those hits on their site… I can’t support that. And I’m not too crazy about the fact that I’ve just broken my own rules!

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    1. I don’t think you broke your own rules, I think it was a brilliant way to make your point! I am going to have to read that post… did you see any difference in your stats? I would bet you got some views from some interesting google searches! An interesting experiment…. Thank you for your comments and kind words!

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      1. Hi Gretchen! My stats jumped 200%! Oh there I go again, breaking the rules – my statistics course tells me that kind of reporting is bogus without context. So, my stats went from 0 to 2 hits. I’m going to track this for a bit and will report back. I hope your message is heard far and wide.

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  30. Thank you so much for this amazing piece of writing. I can’t even begin to tell you how close to home this hits. I reblogged this because I feel like I wouldn’t be able to approach the subject any better than you already have. So many women, myself included appreciate and will appreciate the voice you are lending here.

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  31. Reblogged this on TheWrightGirls and commented:
    “And they are considered targets by some simply because they have the audacity to log on to the internet” — I love this thought. Why should I be a target just because you know of me or know who I used to be? Whether men do it themselves or they get other people to do it for them…grow a pair. Don’t hide behind some fake email address and fake name and then call me a liar! If you don’t have my number or don’t speak to me daily, or even monthly…then you know I exist but guess what? Your existence has obviously been removed in my mind, in my memories and in my life.

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    1. It is infuriating that someone would think that they have a right to treat anyone like this. I have not experienced, personally, this kind of harassment. I have had men (who I barely knew) speak to me in ways that I know for a fact they would never speak to my husband. They like to make themselves feel big and powerful by talking down to someone else. Of course, that is mild compared to what a lot of women go through. The bottom line is that anyone who engages in this kind of behavior is a sad, pathetic pitiful excuse for a person… Thanks for your comments, you’ve got me all fired up now! And thank you so much for re-blogging and sharing with your readers!

      Like

  32. Very well-written. I wonder why we as a society have got this insane rage within us; one that makes us so sickening the moment we have anonymity. It’s really disturbing to know that violence has crept into online media too.

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    1. It is disturbing. I wish we could figure out the root of the anger that fuels this kind of behavior. It is sad that this anger found a new outlet with social media. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and for reading!

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  33. I had a touch of internet bullying when someone commented on my POPE JOAN post she said “You are a f***ing judgmental goof” on my book blog.. That was all she said but I was so outraged myself! All I did was talk about the book I had read! I promptly wrote a blog post of my own on my book readers blog, which I later deleted! I felt like I was needy and crying out for attention.. I hope I embarrassed her!

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    1. I have to think that someone like that must have some issues, right? Who would respond like that to a book review? Of course, anyone who vents anger and hatred on the internet certainly has some issues that have nothing to do with the person they are attacking. I know that makes it no less hurtful or scary. Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

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    1. I don’t think many people (myself included before reading about this issue) realize how often this is happening. It is incredibly sickening and even though I offered reasons why this may be happening, it still boggles the mind that anyone would even want to engage in such behavior. Thanks for reading!

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  34. People who threaten female writers with guns are scared of the truth and power of women. I can’t help but think of the young but wise Malala speaking up for her right to an education. Thanks for the important voice in your post Gretchen Kelly and for keeping the conversation real.

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    1. Yes, I agree that there must be a lot of fear behind these threats. I did another post about feminism that was about Malala and other women around the world who are doing amazingly brave things to fight for the equal rights of women. Many of us in the more modernized countries take some of these things for granted while others are still struggling just to survive in these cultures that view women as second class citizens. Thank you for reading and your comments!

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  35. Great article, it really is unacceptable that anyone gets treated in these ways regardless of gender. I find it interesting that we do accept much of this, to this point as well the issue of passive aggression between people on social media sites is a plague that needs to be culled also.

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    1. Thank you, It certainly happens to males too, especially boys. That is why I won’t let me kids (teen and pre-teen) venture into social media just yet. It’s too easy for people to target them, to bully them. I don’t know why so many people seem to need to pick others apart. It’s a sad reflection on our society I think. Thank you for commenting and reading. And wow, thank you for sharing, I’m honored.

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    1. And they should be aware of the effects it has on the people on the receiving end. Unfortunately I don’t think the people issuing threats are too concerned with others’ feelings. Thank you for reading this!

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  36. Oh Lindsey, that is pretty scary! It seems like everyone I’ve come in contact with on WordPress has been so cool, but I’ve only been on here a few months. I’m so sorry that happened to you! I hope it resolved itself and didn’t last long. How did you handle it with the man? Did you ignore him?

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  37. I got some threats from a man a few years ago. He threatened to find me and shoot me with a shotgun. He was a wordpress person. When I contacted wordpress support, they told me there was nothing they could do about it. Since I knew there was no way this man could ever find me, I wasn’t worried…. But I was very disheartened my the wordpress lack of action. I was on my own in that situation…

    Anyway, this was a very thought provoking post and I thank you for sharing it.

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  38. Thank you Kelly! It is disturbing to be sure. It seems to be getting worse, I keep waiting for things to come full circle, for the public to tire of the constant and widespread sexualization of women. It seemed growing up that these things were more rare, caused gasps and shock. It would be hard to shock people now… I worry about it with my daughters as well. I don’t want them to feel pressure to dress/act/dance a certain way. And I certainly don’t want them thinking that this is what they are valued for. We can talk about it and teach them but we’re fighting against all this other stuff that they absorb every day. It’s a constant battle… Thank you for sharing this!

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  39. Girl, you got me all fired up. And I think your point is proven by the fact that the things that make headlines, the things that go viral, the things that people share over and over again, are the exact things that fan the flames of this inflammatory behavior…and this thoughtful, well written post has only a few likes. I think about this almost every day as I raise my children, as they get closer and closer to the age where social media is inevitable, as I see the way my daughter views herself next to scantily clad women that seem to be everywhere…and scared that my son will expect that from the women who will come to be in his life.

    Nice work, Gretchen. This is something I WILL share.

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    1. Well done thank you for this blog post.

      I have to say that, yes, this is a real issue nowadays that people think that just because they can hide behind a veil of anonymity they can use whatever language they like against another. What I’ve found shocking is that younger girls (and even boys) will not only accept such revolting terms and slander against themselves from total strangers, but they will even use such language against themselves…I have no idea where this self-debasing behaviour comes from, but it certainly cannot be healthy.

      I myself have also had people who think that I might make a prime target, but then when I give better than I get, such people are often either scared off or act offended. Since when did the revolting use insulting of words against another become ‘fashionable’? What happened to behaving with decency and thought for others?

      As for your daughter and son, I can completely sympathize. There are times when I actually think (though I am not at all prudish in any way) that complete isolation would be the way to avoid abnormal impressions upon a young mind before it is able to form her/his own opinion. However, that is no solution, either.

      It is really a VERY scary thought that teenagers today are already thinking that such things are ‘normal’ and that they have to conform to it and basically show themselves off as whores (I’m sorry to day) on a social network in order to be ‘cool’, and, as a result, have no self-esteem for themselves, never mind the danger involved in doing this.

      A very sick thought, indeed.

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      1. I am in awe of people who can give better than they get. That’s never been a talent of mine! I honestly don’t know how to fight against everything my kids see and hear. I can’t keep them in a bubble. I have never considered myself a prude either, I am all for a woman (or man) expressing their sensuality and celebrating all of that. But it has gotten out of control and trickled down to our kids. I’m also a pretty laid back parent in most ways, but I really am concerned about my daughters thinking that their worth is in how they look and my son viewing woman that way. So far, they seem immune to it but they’re still young…

        Liked by 1 person

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