"The Internet Is Great (For Men)" Comic By Silvia Carrus Shows What It's Like To Be A Woman Or Non-Binary Online & The Comments Just Underline The Point
It's no secret that women and non-binary people are treated differently on the internet than men are; comments sections can quickly become hotbeds of sexist rants, death threats, and creepy come-ons posted as easily as emoji. UK-based artist Silvia Carrus' satirical comic "The Internet Is Great (For Men)" explores the trials and tribulations of being anyone other than a dude online in a scarily spot-on assessment of cybersexism — and it's accuracy isn't just in the comic's content itself. Reactions to the comic underline its point all the more. Says Carrus in an interview with Bustle, “Some of the comments were frankly so ridiculous that I just had to reply [to them] out of sheer incredulity. Especially seeing as their responses further proved the point of my comic.”
The comic, published on the feminist storytelling site Femsplain on Nov. 24, depicts two people demonstrating how simply existing on the internet as someone who doesn't identify as male can garner overwhelmingly negative and sexist reactions. The comic is pointed enough in and of itself; although of course everyone may experience harassment online, women disproportionately experience certain types of it: A 2014 study from the Pew Research Center found that 26 percent of women age 18 to 24 have been stalked online, while 25 percent have been the target of online sexual harassment. Not nearly enough research has been conducted tracking the rates of harassment for non-binary identities, but anecdotally, non-binary people also disproprotionately experience a great deal of harassment online.
That's what the comic shows in action:
But in a ridiculous stroke of irony, soon after the eight-panel comic was published, a host of commenters — largely men — began posting negative responses to the work, seeking to invalidate and disprove Carrus' message. In doing so, their harassment proved the very point being made in the comic. As one commenter who wrote back in support of Carrus put it, "Woman posts comic about how women can't say one thing on the internet without a bunch of f***ing men telling her she's wrong and stupid and weak; comments are full of men telling her she's wrong and stupid and weak."
While Carrus had expected some negative responses to her comic, she underestimated the sheer number of toxic comments her work would accrue — and how far some people would go to criticize her. “Some individuals even went through other comics of mine, trying to point out everything that was wrong with all the opinions that I had expressed in them. One person even went as far as to go through my Twitter account and complain there to me as well,” Carrus tells Bustle.
The fact that the comic was posted to a feminist website, and that Carrus' work primarily centers on the experiences of women and non-binary people, did not deter the vocal commenters from trying to tear her down. “The common idea seemed to be that I was attacking men because I didn't make the comic about everybody's online experience,” Carrus explains.
Instead of backing down and allowing the trolls to control the dialogue, however, Carrus took action. She responded to every negative post, engaging in long threads and enduring more mansplaining than one might think possible. “I just genuinely couldn't believe what I was reading at times. I couldn't understand how a father could actually think that telling his daughters to ‘stop whining about harassment’ is OK. I couldn’t understand how one person could believe that men get more online harassment than women and non-binary people. I don’t understand how one person cannot understand that sometimes a woman might like to make a comic about her own personal experience, and not need to include a man’s perspective,” Carrus explains.
So how can we make the 'net a more equal place for all gender identities? Carrus believes the key lies in supporting those who are being attacked, and reporting online harassment to the proper authorities, even if you don't know if the report may carry weight in the future. “I'm always really thankful for people showing support on my own comics when angry commenters start commenting, these small individual actions really make me feel less alone when engaging 'in battle,'" she says. "Whenever I see another person being harassed online, I will always try to support them, as one harasser very often becomes many, flooding your social media accounts with further abuse,” Carrus adds.
Instead of ignoring these incidents, Carrus hopes being vocal about online harrassment may help stop the trend of growing abuse. “One person starts, the other agrees with them and does the same, and so on. It's obviously not just men, but as that has been nearly the entire of my personal experience on the internet, that's what I made this comic about.”
To check out more of Silvia Carrus's comics and designs, check out her awesome website here.