Experienced Online Harassment? You’re Probably a Woman: #NowWhat

Online harassment is all too real for all women.

ColumnAny woman who goes online knows that in order to survive, you have to never read the comments, and know that at any moment, some bonehead could call you stupid, sexy, or a bitch based on anything you write, tweet, or snap.

This story isn’t new. But no matter how many reports concerning online bullying are penned, or the number of women who speak out about being harassed online, the story doesn’t change. In fact, it just seems to get worse. A few recent examples of this annoyingly old sexist story concern a depressing article written by a “journalist” about Sky Ferreira, and a series of hate tweets directed toward a woman.

This boob’s profile

Art Tavana wrote an article that appeared on the LA Weekly’s site on Friday, June 17. The piece was billed as “edgy”—something most weekly rags do quite well. But in the article’s first paragraph, Tavana’s attempt to be “edgy” and provocative falls flat, flopping into totally disgusting, sexist territory.

Tavana compares the work—and breasts—of Sky Ferreira and Madonna repeatedly. Sure, it’s fine to compare Ferreira’s work to Madonna’s music—they are both pop stars—but when a writer uses multiple words to figuratively drool over Ferreira’s form, one wonders what the hell this guy was thinking. Here are a few of the things Tavana wrote:

“Both Sky and Madonna have similar breasts in both cup size and ability to cause a shitstorm.”

When describing Ferreira’s 2013 album cover: “A third unnamed group that included me couldn’t help but reminisce about Madonna’s defiantly atomic boobs — the two knockers that altered the course of human history.”

“In the now-infamous photo, taken by Argentine filmmaker Gaspar Noé, Ferreira looks like a dirtier Madonna: square jaw, strong eyebrows, lulled green eyes, crucifix, bleached blond hair, translucently pale skin and killer tits.”

“She looks like a more cherubic Sharon Stone, icy but also sweet, like a freshly licked lollipop.”

While it’s yucky that this writer thought it was totally cool to write all this stuff about Ferreira’s body, let’s not forget this piece also got the approval of the Weekly’s editors.

The editor of the article has since apologized for letting the piece run as it did, but the apology doesn’t really matter. Sure, apologies are great, but why the hell do people—specifically men—think it’s okay to write about female artists like this? Would they describe some frontman’s dick multiple times in a piece? I really don’t think so.

And I’ve never read a piece about a male pop star that just talks about his sex appeal—it always mentions his influences and music style, etc. This piece was basically just about the artist’s  looks—the writer barely mentioned her work or musical talent.

Those hate tweets

A conservative website wrote a piece about Laila Alawa, a 24-year-old entrepreneur, about a week ago. In the piece, the writer used some of Alawa’s tweets to claim she said “9-11 changed the world for good.”

Well, I think we all can agree that, yes: 9-11 did change the world for good—as in permanently–the world will never be the same. Sadly, the conservative site twisted Alawa’s words to make it seem like she said the event changed the world for the better. And to make the piece more splashy, the article also mentioned that Alawa was a homeland security advisor. Well, kind of…

“The story came after the Department of Homeland Security released a report titled Countering Violent Extremism,” CNN reports.

“Alawa was part of a subcommittee that helped brainstorm solutions for the report. She told CNNMoney that the subcommittee met about three times over a six month period and that she spent about 40 hours on it in total. Her name wasn’t on the report itself, but her involvement can be found on other documentation online.”

You can imagine how people who frequent this type of conservative site reacted to the piece. Readers bombarded Alawa with hate tweets, such as:

“I hope you die slowly in a pool of pigs blood.”

“Can I use that towel on your head to wipe my a**”

Since the conservative piece ran, Alawa has been scared for her safety.

“This has been really difficult,” Alawa says.

“[The police] didn’t understand what ‘doxxing’ meant.” CNN adds that doxxing is “a type of harassment where trolls use public platforms to dig up personal information and threaten someone’s safety.”

Since the attacks, Alawa has also been scared that her company, The Tempest, a site that “gives voice to millennial women of all ethnic backgrounds,” will suffer because of the inaccurate piece, and the online attacks.

Well, Alawa, we stand by you and the work you do. The world needs more intelligent entrepreneurs who are dedicated to stopping racism and lifting up people of all ethnicities.

Now, we know these won’t be the last instances of online harassment toward women. But it is encouraging that more people online, including women and men, are becoming fed up with the Internet’s propensity to let sexist and racist pigs spew stupidity.

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Image of Sky Ferreira via Shutterstock, Jaguar PS

Abbie Stutzer

Writer, editor, and owner of Ginchy!, a freelance writing and editing company, and home funeral hub. Adores smart sex ed, sustainable ag, spooky history, women's health, feminism, horror, wine, and sci-fi.