As our offline and online identities become more and more intertwined, the internet increasingly comes to reflect the realities of our societies. Racism, homophobia, and misogyny are not confined to happen outside an internet context. And as it always has been in the world before the internet, our words and conversations have consequences. Still the implications have changed in the digital age.
Online conversations might seem like conversations. But unlike the spoken ones, the online conversations stick around. They become personal imprints on the internet that can be taken out of context by a simple Google search. This is the thing: online we can never be sure who is listening to our conversations, and this makes it hard to navigate between different social contexts.
However, misogyny online is not something that happens in dark and secret places. It happens everywhere; on Twitter with the use of misogynist language, it takes place on Facebook, it happens in comment sections of news websites and it happens as hacker attacks on women who speak out.
In the past year the internet have seen some powerful attacks at women online. In June 2012 media critic and the creator of Feminist Frequency Anita Sarkeesian launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a video series about gender stereotypes in video games. She suffered threats of violence, death, assault and rape on her Youtube channel, Twitter, Facebook and on her own website. Her Wikipedia page was edited, calling her a cunt and pornographic photographs was added. Her attackers also took to Kickstarter and tried to have the campaign shut down. Her website suffered DDOS attacks. Sarkeesian's attackers also made an interactive game where the objective was to beat her up. Her Kickstarter campaign was fully backed. In fact she got 11 times the amount that she had asked for.
Events like this have sparked a lot of attention to the presences of misogyny online. More female writers have started to write about the abuse they face online by being outspoken feminists.
But as a woman you don't have to speak out about feminist issues to become the subject of misogynist abuse. Sometimes it is enough to be in public. At one point Reddit featured a subsection where users could share and discuss photograph of women taking in public without the consent and knowing of the women. In January 2013 professor Mary Beard wrote a blog post with the title "Internet fury: or having your anatomy dissected online" about the comments made about her following her appearance on BBC's Question Time.
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This website is created for the Digital Sandbox course, that forms part of my degree in Digital Sociology at Goldmiths, University of London.
By Astrid Bigoni