Buzzfeed "What It Means To Be a Woman Online" Video Is Accurate and Demoralizing
Yesterday Buzzfeed released a video called "What It Means to Be a Woman Online", and if you've yet to watch it, you might not like what you hear. The video features several women with an "active social media presence" relaying their experiences with hateful Internet commentary. In just over three minutes, it succeeds in addressing the hugely disturbing issues of harassment and gender discrimination, both of which have only been made easier by the Internet. As these women chronicle the words of their online haters, they prove just how simple it is to degrade and demoralize from behind the safety of a computer screen.
But there's more to add to the conversation. In its video, Buzzfeed highlights four major consequences of being both a female and a frequent user of social media. From experiencing attacks on your physical appearance to having your opinions undermined at every corner, the video proves that, for women, the world of social media is nothing if not a battlefield. Here are Buzzfeed's four descriptions of what it's like to be a woman online and why they're so particularly unsettling:
1. "People Comment More on Your Physical Appearance"
Here the subjects of the video recount their interaction with hateful, sexist, and even racist commentary. The majority of the time, this commentary is centered on the subject's physical appearance and articulated in sexual terms. Of course, society in general already has an issue with objectifying women and reducing them to purely sexual beings, and this is particularly prevalent in media.
What interests me most, however, is the idea this commentary is supposed to be flattering. "They try to pass it off as giving me a compliment," says Erin La Rosa, Deputy Editorial Director for Buzzfeed in Los Angeles, "and I should be flattered that they're talking about my vagina or how hot I am." Clearly, this warped belief that highlighting a woman's sexual attractiveness is at all welcome or empowering needs to stop (cat calling, anyone?)
2. "People Give You Unwanted Compliments"
And by "compliments" Buzzfeed means "sexual solicitations" because, honestly, the majority of the commentary consists of men either asking for or offering naked pictures. Apparently the dick pic is the social media equivalent of a fan girl letter. This is just as troubling as online harassment because commenters feel as if social media gives them the license to skip the process of getting to know someone on a personal basis and go straight to, well, sex. Last time I checked you need to have actually met someone in person before you know that they're your soulmate.
3. "Your Opinion is Undermined Because of Your Gender"
It's unfortunate that we as women are still having to overcompensate to avoid certain gender stereotypes, and even more unfortunate that our efforts are sometimes futile. I am particularly irked, however, by the language used in the video to refer to these women. Rather than simply disagreeing with a woman's viewpoint (whatever the motive may be), commenters are quick to describe her using foul language for having an opposing opinion. The world "angry" is also frequently used to describe women, in addition to having certain negative racial associations. Alex Alvarez, a Buzzfeed writer and subject in the video, attributes being called "angry" to "being a woman who writes online but also being a Latina woman who writes online".
4. "You Learn to Deal With It"
Although I'm proud of the women in the Buzzfeed video for developing mechanisms to cope with their haters, I don't think we should ever come to accept or ignore this kind of behavior. Hopefully the video can jumpstart even more conversations about online sexual harassment and female objectification, because the worst thing we could do as women would be to remain silent about the issue. Filmmaker Jessie Kahnweiler ends the video with the line, "I'm not really ever going to shut up", and neither should we.