The Internet is probably the most influential and fundamental invention of my lifetime. I’ve seen the birth of America Online, Macbooks, iPhones, and Androids; I’ve seen obscure websites like Facebook and Twitter grow into the juggernauts they are today. It’s pretty amazing to be a part of something like that.
I’ve also seen the darkest parts of the Internet and what it can do to people. How it can ruin and sometimes end lives, and how one click of a button can change everything. I was watching a popular show on HBO called Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and he was covering a story about Internet harassment. It’s mind blowing the amount of harassment that goes on, and if you don’t think that it does or that it’s not a big deal well congratulations on being an average white guy. If you are a woman and you make the “mistake” of trusting someone, or if you dare to have a thought in your head and post it on the Internet then you are probably going to face some sort of harassment or even worse. Take Anita Sarkeesian for instance. Those of you who are not familiar with her probably aren’t into video games; she’s very popular amongst that group of people, sometimes for the wrong reasons. Sarkeesian is a voice for women in video games and a critic as well; she frequently posts her reviews online and vocalizes the obvious sexism in the video game industry. She has not only received lewd remarks for doing so, but some of these are much more serious and threatening. She has received death threats not just geared towards her, but her entire family. She has also received rape threats that often are graphic and way too disturbing for me to even quote. Despite the threats she still keeps going, refusing to let these threats of violence deter her from her end goal.
Amanda Hess, a writer who posted a critique on the harassment of women online, received threats that were along the lines of “I’m going to rape you and cut off your head.” She went to the police, (it is against the law in California where she lives to make threats of bodily harm) and the police officer that came to her door didn’t even know what Twitter was. The officer didn’t really think that a crime had been committed even though clearly it had. When the police don’t understand something they cannot investigate it,if they can’t investigate it and come to a conclusion, then the person who committed the crime gets away with it. How would you feel if you were that person? Knowing that this sick individual got away with doing harm to you or your loved one?
Online harassment doesn’t just stop at threats of violence; there is another way women are harassed and humiliated: it’s called revenge porn. Revenge porn is where private and/or nude photos are posted online for the world to see without their consent. Now I can hear the response already: “Well if you don’t want that to happen don’t take those sorts of pictures!” First of all, not all of the pictures are taken; some are stolen from hacking webcams. Secondly that statement is what I like to call “victim blaming.” What you do in your own personal time with your partner is YOUR business, the news and other sources have hard-wired this sentiment in our brain. What victims are often told are “Sorry about your luck, but you trusted the person so it’s kind of your fault” or if it’s about general harassment some victims are often told “Just turn off your computer, it’ll go away eventually.” Okay first “turn off your computer” is not practical because we use the internet almost every minute from our PC’s to our phones, I mean somewhere in the world right now there is a sheep herder in some remote location using wifi; secondly blaming a person for something because they trusted another person is stupid, what if that person stole from you or worse? How would that make you feel? “Oh sorry about your loss but it is kind of your fault for trusting that person.” Insert any other crime into this situation, “I mean if you don’t want to get robbed, don’t live in a house!” “If you don’t want your identity stolen don’t shop online!” See what I mean? It’s all about the way we think about these things, and how they are presented to us. It’s always the victims fault until suddenly you are the victim. What you do with your significant other is your business, and if they betray that trust then our response shouldn’t be “well you shouldn’t have trusted them.”
If a woman goes to the police stating that someone threatened her life on Twitter, or if she goes to a lawyer because her vindictive lover posted nude photos of her online the response should not be “What in the world is Twitter?” or “Well you should date better people.” This is 2015, and the fact that women are still being harassed just because of the simple fact that they are women with thoughts is ludicrous.
The purpose of this article is not to rant or rage, the purpose is to get people to think of things differently. We need to raise our daughters to be strong and independent, and our sons to be respectful and upstanding. If you go to John Oliver’s YouTube page and watch the video on Online Harassment, you’ll see it has a 40% “downvote.” Why? Because people don’t want to talk about it or acknowledge that it’s happening and that’s the major part of the problem. We can be part of the solution by bringing it out in the open, talking about it, and teaching our children that these things are wrong.