You need to read this piece by Jill Filipovic about the level of online harassment she gets on a daily basis as a woman on the internet.
I know these harassment stories are ubiquitous to the point of being boring. “Women get rape threats” is not news. Amanda Hess helpfully details the actual costs of these threats: The hours of work lost to tracking someone down online, to reporting someone to the police, to developing self-protection mechanisms when the police fail, to, in extreme cases, hiring professional enforcement for speaking gigs. For me, the costs included a law school education, professional contacts, and a robust work life.
But what about the things you can’t put a price on? How many stories weren’t written because the women who could best tell them were too afraid? How many people like me, damaged and lashing out, paid their online cruelties forward? How many women look back at the person they were before their skin thickened, before they learned how to deal, when they were a little more sure-footed, and how many of them grieve a little bit for all the good things that got lost in the process of surviving?
What does an online landscape look like when the women most able to tolerate it are the same ones who are best capable of bucking up and shutting parts of themselves down?
It’s easy to leave a snarky comment on a blog post, put up a snappy comeback on a Facebook page, or smack someone down in a Twitter feed because there is a veil of anonymity. Even if you use your real name among friends, there is still the sense of power engendered by being behind an electronic barrier of a screen and keyboard — not unlike being in a car in traffic — where you can yell and scream outrageous things knowing that you are comparatively safe from harm until the road rage hits back.
But I know too many women — and one is too many — who endure online threats of rape and death on a daily basis and as a matter of just doing their job for it not to be something that is a scourge that must be faced and defeated.