Online misogyny: It is real and it is dangerous

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Women marching in Chiang Mai, Thailand to mark the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day - Photo courtesy of Mizzima

The number of hate-sites and comment threads filled with brutal hatred and threats made against women is alarming, points out Syerleena Abdul Rashid.

It would be rather naïve to think that misogyny and the rot that comes with such filth has no presence in cyberspace and is exceptionally harmless compared to real life attacks, but it is real and it is dangerous. Misogyny bares a more sinister presence all over the internet because of the guaranteed anonymity it brings to the attackers.

Whenever women speak up against misogyny and condemn any type of violence against women, any male-dominated society will be quick to deny this. They will try very hard to distort the facts and make it our fault. It is always our fault when something bad happens to us and this is a fact that has been drilled into our minds since the day we were born.

Online bullying and misogyny is real. Many of us have been victims one way or another: the threats made to our families and personal safety, violent rape and murder fantasies, graphic emails or online posts with our faces crudely superimposed on something pornographic and of course, the never-ending personal attacks aimed at tarnishing our reputation and credibility.

Cambridge don and national treasure Mary Beard, who was a target of such horrible online abuse, said this while confronting many other female victims of online harassment: “The misogyny here is truly gobsmacking [and] more than a few steps into sadism… It would be quite enough to put many women off appearing in public, contributing to political debate, especially as all of this comes up on Google.”

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Such attacks deter most women from getting involved in politics or taking on any decision-making positions because our male-dominated society makes trashing and threatening women just too easy. The line that separates online misogyny and sadism (no, not the Grey kind) is very thin.

The number of hate-sites and comment threads filled with brutal hatred and threats made against women is alarming. No doubt, these are all specifically intended to scare women into passivity — even in cyberspace. If or when we respond, many of the men (and sometime women) will be quick to judge and say that we are crazy and over-reacting, followed by the overused B-word.

Don’t get me wrong; women are not the only ones who have to deal with online jerks and losers. Men are susceptible too, but women often targeted because – well, this becomes quite the norm when one lives in a patriarchal society — women are just easy targets. Women who write online or even have some significant presence in social media are often made obvious targets of online slander.

How many of us find ourselves in the middle of heated arguments where someone or a group tries to justify that when rape happens, the victim should just lay there and accept it? Or what about the slew of comments that appear on various social media sites — where name-calling and personal attacks are done so with intense violence and hatred? Unfortunately for us, our present system lacks a mechanism that can provide any level of online security; in the realm of cyberspace, anything goes and it is free for all.

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But let’s make one thing clear, especially for this year’s International Women’s Day: we are fed up with being afraid and done with being angry.

Malala Yousafzai, a brave young lady who needs to introduction, once said: “I raise up my voice – not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard… we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.” Quite frankly, I concur with her through and through.

The wave of online abuse targeted towards women has somehow or other aroused conspicuous fears where we feel most vulnerable to real, physical attacks. But women all over the world should never let fear override our common sense; understand that you are not alone, and together we can put an end to this abuse.

Today, 8 March isn’t just another ordinary day carved out by some powerful institution; it is a day dedicated to raise awareness and highlight the struggles women are made to deal with every single day.

It is a day where human beings express their gratitude to the invaluable roles women play in our society.

It is a day where women worldwide can relax a little, celebrate in solidarity and rejoice in the fact that women’s rights are gaining more prominence.

The growing level of support from society is a positive sign that should make us feel good and all of this won’t cost us a RM1200 trip to the hair salon to make us feel better about ourselves.

Source: themalaymailonline.com

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