MSNBC Anchor Melissa Harris-Perry Opens Up About Being A Target For Online Harassment
Ugh – the influx of online harassment directed at women continues. During her segment last Friday, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry confessed she experiences online harassment, saying she is at a point where she no longer feels comfortable using her Twitter account to retweet what she likes, because she fears her harassers will attack other users. As she said:
I don't retweet anything that I really like, because I fear that I would send all of my haters — all of the harassment that comes to me — over to some person who doesn't deserve it. It is literally quieting whatever little digital voice I might have otherwise had.
Harris-Perry follows a number of women who have been the target of very public social media campaigns lately. Earlier this month, pop culture critic Anita Sarkeesian — who is known for her feminist criticisms of video games — was threatened with a school shooting, which forced her to cancel her appearance at Utah State University. To make matters worse, it wasn't the first threat she received, and it won't be the last. Sarkessian, along with Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu, Leigh Alexander, and Jenn Frank have all been threatened repeatedly as a part of a large-scale hate movement known as #GamerGate.
Any harassment is too much harassment, but this trend continues to grow in ways that are straight up horrifying. A recent study by Pew Research says 40 percent of Internet users experience some kind of harassment, especially female users.
The Internet has given women and girls the potential to have their voice heard across continents, but it's also, unfortunately, become a tool misogynists use to silence them. When women like Harris-Perry, Sarkeesian, you, and me are harassed off the Internet, we are being silenced, prevented from expressing our opinions. We are having our spheres of influence truncated and our discourse disrupted. To put it simply, regardless of your sex or gender, this should be making you mad. Really, really mad.
You may not be able to do anything to protect public figures like Harris-Perry, but you can protect yourself and your loved ones from trolls. If you see online harassment happening to someone, offer them assistance in seeking help. If you experience it, report it and seek help yourself. And if you ever, for any reason, feel unsafe because of something someone says to you on the Internet, report them and notify the police immediately.