6 Tips For Dealing With Sexism Online
Any woman who uses the internet is acquainted with the scourge of sexist people online— although some experience it more strongly than others. Earlier this month, feminist writer Clementine Ford got one of her trolls fired by posting his hateful missive online and tagging his employer. Her actions were met with a frightening outpouring of threats, so in a move of solidarity, Australian women banded together under the hashtag #EndViolenceAgainstWomen to share the names of her worst offenders online. The movement soon went viral, going beyond sexism on the internet to raising awareness about IRL sexism and abuse.
A poll released in 2014 showed that 25 percent of Americans have experienced online harassment in some form. Of that 25 percent, 57 percent are — you guessed it — women! Unless you're a big name feminist like Ford, Anita Sarkeesian, Brianna Wu, Jessica Valenti, or Lindy West, however, it's unlikely you'll receive a massive tsunami of hate directed towards you online. That said, it's almost impossible to be female and inhabit digital spaces without witnessing or personally experiencing a certain level of nasty tweets, pictures or comments.
Although there's no magic spell to eliminate all sexist jerks, thankfully there are ways to cope. Here are six tips from the experts for dealing with cybersexism:
1. Document The Harassment
It's always a good idea to screenshot any threats you receive. (For some, the sheer volume of threats is so great that this would, unfortunately, be impossible.) Cybercrime experts say that keeping all the evidence of harassment makes it far easier to pursue legal action in a worst case scenario.
2. Publicize The Harassment
For high profile women like Ford, their large social media platforms allow them to make an example of their trolls — and they're willing to risk the backlash of doing so. There's a certain kind of justice that comes when bigots who believe they can say anything online receive some real world consequences for their actions.
3. Ignore The Harassment
Launching an offensive against a troll or trolls is exhausting and too mentally taxing for many women to deal with. A majority of sexists online are looking to get a rise out of the women they attack, and therefore fail when you don't give them the attention they crave. However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and some women prefer to engage and respond and/or fight back.
4. Laugh At Your Harassers
If you don't want to launch a brutal offensive but don't want to stay silent, there's always the lighthearted approach, which is laughing your trolls into submission. Clementine Ford has suggested that humor is one of her favorite ways to respond to the egotistical, rage-filled men that go after her online.
5. Block Your Harassers
There are many wonderful tools online to block the haters out there. Apart from the obvious block and mute buttons on Facebook and Twitter, there's FireFox's CommentBlocker and Chrome's Forum Troll Stomper.
6. Take A Step Back From Social Media
It's not letting the trolls win if you decide to take a break from social media to decompress after experiencing a nasty exchange. Although there are certain cases where online harassment parlays into IRL harassment, many trolls are just angry blips on a screen that disappear when you log off. Focusing on the people and things outside your digital life that bring you joy is one way to cope with coming down from sexist harassment online. Living well can often be the best revenge.
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