The Internet is a Hostile Environment for Women (and it’s not getting better)

Surprise! Sexism and misogyny are still huge problems on the internet, even though women have a stronger voice and presence online than ever.

Case in point 1: stolen nude photos. Let’s just get this straight. Every adult is allowed to take nude photos of themselves and do whatever they like with them. There’s nothing illegal or immoral about nude self portraiture. Ok, sure, you might run into obscenity laws if staple them to phone poles or something. What’s illegal and immoral is stealing someone’s private photos and making them public. That’s not okay no matter how famous they are.

But of course half the internet wagged its fingers at these young women for having naked photos of themselves in the first place. As if it were their fault they were violated. Yeah, we all know that our stuff stored in the cloud may vulnerable, so be careful what you put there. But that’s true of any internet connected device. How much should we allow privacy risk to dictate how we behave?

Case in point 2: Death threats for talking about video games. Seriously. I’m not a gamer, but I love watching Feminist Frequency’s tropes versus women series. There is some serious sexist bullshit in some games, and some people get very very angry when this is pointed out. C’mon! Are we not a bit more evolved than that?

Anita Sarkeesian has tried to report the offenders when they started making death threats against her and her family, but law enforcement has no idea how to deal with anonymous online abuse. And she’s not nearly the first or only case of a vocal woman being threatened and terrorized online. There are a dozen or so that I know of… and I don’t know the whole internet.

Case in point 3: Zelda Williams. Shortly after her father died some Twitter trolls said some incredibly nasty things to her. Who would do that to a grieving person? Why? She quit Twitter, despite the love and support of so many others.

Case in point 4: Cee Lo Green getting defensive about his rape charge. The guy admitted to drugging her and taking her to bed. Regardless of what else occurred or didn’t occur, that is plenty bad. He should be apologetic. Or quiet.

Trolls of this type are hiding behind the anonymity of the internet to abuse people. It’s getting harder to be truly anonymous, and hopefully we’ll be able to kick some of these people off the internet. Hate speech and death threats are never ok. But even milder, insidious sexism is entrenched everywhere. It exists in real life, of course, but it’s so much easier to see on the internet where the misogynists think they are safe from reproach. The decent people of the internet should do everything in our power to get the trolls blocked.


Arming the Crazies

About 30 minutes into the midnight premier of ‘The Dark Night Rises’ a young man began firing into the crowd at a packed suburban multiplex in Colorado. At least 7 people died, and as many as 70 more were injured. Over the days to come we will learn more about the shooter, who we now know to be a 24-year-old man who recently left medical school for “unknown reasons.” Could those reasons be “mental health issues?” Somehow this seems like a fair guess.

In Canada in 2000, there were 0.54 gun homicides per 100K, people, whereas the rate in the U.S. was 2.97 per 100K (Wikipedia). If you’re good at math you’ll notice that we had over five times more homicides by gun than our neighbors to the north. But Canadians can legally own guns, so what is the deal here? I put it down to gun laws and healthcare.

A couple of months ago a disturbed young man walked into a friendly neighborhood café in Seattle and started executing people. He had been kicked out of the café before for aggressive and angry behavior. His family worried about his mental health but could not convince him to seek help. Before the day was over he had killed five people including himself. He legally owned six guns.

“Registration of firearms in Canada has been an issue since the 1930s when the registration of handguns became mandatory. Over the past few decades, legislation had become increasingly restrictive for firearm owners and from 1995 until 2012, all firearms were required to be registered.” – Wikipedia

Though U.S. gun laws vary by state, in Colorado most guns can be purchased without a permit, registration, or license. In Washington state handguns must be registered, but all of the guns owned by the café shooter were registered legally to him. The man who shot Gabrielle Giffords was known to be mentally ill, and yet he legally purchased guns. Who decided that letting crazy people have guns is a good idea? That’s not quite the spirit of the 2nd amendment: “arm the crazies.”

The other thing that Canada has and we do not is universal health care. This means that mentally ill people and their families can seek help without fear of bankruptcy. Could this also play into how many more random or disturbed shootings we see here? Probably.

Canada’s not perfect. Countries like the U.K. that ban the public ownership of guns have much less gun violence. Just recently (following a loosening of gun registration law) a shooter went on a rampage in a Toronto shopping mall. Gun control lobbyists can add these tragedies to their platform. Presidential candidates will most likely try to avoid offending the NRA. But as long as we keep arming the crazies, these horror stories will keep happening.