food for thought: women documenting harassment

A number of thoughtful, articulate women have recently written on the subject of online and real world harassment that turns on some aspect of their embodied selves: gender, size, race, and so on. Here are teasers from those pieces; I encourage you to read them in full!

Melissa McEwan @ Shakesville reminded us all that We Need to Talk About This because silence allows naysayers to avoid the widespread reality of harassment (and worse):

That’s not a criticism of the people who don’t know. They don’t know, because we don’t talk about it. I don’t just mean we, the women who are targets, but we, the people. The readers who consume the content produced by those women. The media who refuse to have a loud and ongoing conversation about it. The law enforcement who ignore it. The lawmakers who have refused to create legal avenues of recourse for us. Our ostensible allies, who stay out of it, lest the sights gets trained on them. The harassers who silence us via more harassment. 

Tressie McMillan Cottom did a presentation on how race complicates our understanding of gender-based harassment in “Who The Fuck Do You Think You Are?” Academic Engagement, Microcelebrity and Digital Sociology from the Far Left of the Matrix of Domination (PDF) (h/t Geek Feminism):

I am not just a woman but a black woman performing a particular type of expertise for large, multiple publics. As such, my experience of negative comments differs from the dominant gendered narrative of online abuse. For example, I have never received a single rape threat. Instead, increased scale and multiple publics (generated by both digital writing and social media) have elicited comments and threats specific to my illegitimacy as an intellectual, e.g. expert. It’s why, “who the fuck do you think you are” is a common refrain among the thousands of negative comments on my blog, As a public writer, academic and black woman my location at the bottom of a racist, sexist social hierarchy mitigates the presumed returns to academic public engagement specifically and makes a case for reconsidering the theoretical assumptions of microcelebrity more broadly. 

Shanley Kane @ Model View Culture questions the universal value of being “Internet famous” if that means you’re pushed out of a job, intimidated away from professional gatherings, and made to feel unsafe in your own home and skin (h/t @sarahkendzior):

It is highly lucrative, much sought after. And yes, it is a huge asset in the careers and companies of many cishet white men. Visibility gets them jobs, raises, venture capital, customers, community support… chances at more visibility in a bountiful cycle of pageviews and cash, money and power. With visibility is supposed to come admiration, respect, access, affluence – and for most of such men, it delivers.

Yet for the rest of us, with visibility comes harassment, stalking, threats, loss of career opportunity and mobility, constant public humiliation, emotional and sometimes physical violence.

Ragen Chastain @ Dances With Fat describes both the overall pattern of harassment she experiences as an activist and one specific incident in hilarious detail in Trolls Gone Wild:

A troll pretending to be a “fact checker” e-mailed the person in charge of the dance circuit that I used to compete on, saying they need to confirm my three National Dance Championships.  The troll sent the e-mail from, and signed it “Jaime Rund, LIU, CW Post Campus.”

And finally, Rebecca Solnit’s classic piece on Men Who Explain Things To Me has been making the rounds again, thanks to the publication of her latest collection of essays by the same name:

The battle with Men Who Explain Things has trampled down many women — of my generation, of the up-and-coming generation we need so badly, here and in Pakistan and Bolivia and Java, not to speak of the countless women who came before me and were not allowed into the laboratory, or the library, or the conversation, or the revolution, or even the category called human.

If you have reflections or other links to share, please do so in comments!

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