Dylan Jane Manderlink, Arkansas, USA, SSH Blog Correspondent
I recently watched a few anti-street harassment videos made by nonprofit organizations and I was so elated and proud to see the anti-street harassment movement get traction and attention. But then I read the comments below and my mood drastically changed.
I could write a rant on every single misogynistic comment I saw and feel better about getting it off my chest. But I’m not sure how much good that would actually do at the end of the day. I don’t think there will ever be a feminist article or blog post to end all misogyny and hateful trolling, but I am tired of waiting for my turn to speak and I am getting impatient with feeling punished for my feminism. Above all, the anti-feminist and misogynistic discourse is precisely why we need feminism in the first place.
Online misogynistic trolling is a form of harassment and violence – just like street harassment. The two serve to promote a harmful and pejorative notion that women are fundamentally subordinate, invalid, incapable and solely exist to be ineffective and powerless. So when I was scrolling through the deluge of vulgar and demeaning comments on YouTube, one troll particularly fired me up by saying “People are free to hit on you” in response to a video about catcalling. Of course all of the trolling and misogynistic comments were derogatory and slandering, but this comment just represented the distance that exists in society from shared humanity.
This comment wasn’t even a disguised attempt at male supremacy, misogyny, and self-satisfaction – it was brazenly there for all to see with every lack of care, decency, and respect as possible. Allowing men to have a “free pass” at hitting on and catcalling us is a denial and complete neglect of my rights and personhood. No one is free to hit on me. I should be free to walk through a public space without falling victim to harassment, unwanted comments and glares, public sexualization, and unsafe circumstances.
With this being my last post through the Blog Correspondent’s Program, I’ve been searching for a particular aspect of social activism and advocacy surrounding street harassment to write passionately about. I’m certainly passionate about ending and raising awareness of street harassment but I think what I’m most fired up about right now is in reaction to the dejection I often feel when advocacy efforts are severely ridiculed, trivialized, and damaged by online trolls.
I know activists and advocates often recommend not reading the comments posted by trolls on feminist articles, videos, and social media but it’s difficult to ignore the blatant disregard for an important fight against the mistreatment, inequality, and marginalization of others. The misogynistic online trolling I’ve seen on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter has not only made me feel stunningly uncomfortable and uneasy, but it has showed me how comfortable people are with defaming, dehumanizing, and attacking others. Although reading the comments posted on feminist and female activist videos and articles upsets and offends me, it’s also what motivates me to keep fighting this fight. And if the trolls want me to give up and throw in the towel, they couldn’t be more wrong. If anything, the anti-feminist trolling has given me more ardor in my commitment and involvement in women’s rights, feminism, and social activism.
I want this post to not just serve as a strong grievance and indignation with misogyny and trolling against feminism and anti-street harassment activism. I want to put this hateful act of misogynistic trolling on display so that it’s no longer thinly disguised and permissible. It’s harrowing to admit how normalized anti-feminist online trolling has become and I want to call attention to how much of an anomaly it should be (or how non-existent it should be).
Don’t get me wrong, I think free speech is a basic right we all deserve and should be entitled to, however, when this form of free speech serves the sole purpose of “putting women back in their place”, making women feel even more unsafe and inferior, objectifying women through abhorrent commentary, and invalidating women’s existence in society, then I cannot and will not support it. I will no longer stand for an online narrative that is incredibly short-sighted, unjustified, offensive, and inglorious. As advocates and activists, I understand that the idea of changing this narrative and pushing back on the trolls is a lot easier said than done. Not only can responding to the trolling make women feel unsafe (because people who speak up against trolls are often threatened), but sometimes it can seem like a lost battle because it doesn’t end. I’m not fully recommending we respond to every anti-feminist and misogynistic trolling instance, but I am certainly fired up to out them and put their inflammatory and insolent behavior on display.
So that’s what my last post is about. I will no longer allow women to fall victim to a false belief system and disempowering narrative due to the pervasiveness and poisonous impact of online trolling and public misogyny. Although standing up to the trolls or raising public awareness of the harms of trolling are difficult and disheartening, if you are creating change you believe in, then don’t feel discouraged.
For anyone looking to improve the quality of social media and virtual spaces for women, let’s start now. Who’s with me?
Dylan is a recent graduate of Emerson College and currently teaches 8th, 10th, and 11th grade Digital Communications and Audio/Visual Technology in an Arkansas high school. You can visit her personal blog and follow her on Twitter @DylanManderlink.Share on Facebook