Last year, The Atlantic featured a piece appropriately titled When Will The Internet Be Safe For Women. Katherine Clark, a Massachusetts Congresswoman, shared: “Any woman who is using the Internet for her professional life or for her personal life has come across that moment where there is all of the sudden a hateful or sexist comment coming back at you.”
Whether you’re Taylor Swift, a woman in Congress, an outspoken feminist like Jessica Valenti, a journalist like Lindy West, or a full-time freelance marketing, branding, and social media strategist like me, chances are … you encounter endless men commenters, message-senders claiming they are really nice dudes all while threatening to hurt you simply because you shut them down or you didn’t give them what they want.
If you Google, “online harassment” … you will find endless stories about trolls and the great lengths they go to hurt those they troll. This isn’t a new topic. This is something that has been in the forefront of media well before 2015. And it’s something that isn’t getting better for women who use a) exist and b) use the Internet.
I’m not saying men on the Internet do not run into trolls, I am sure they do. But I am saying that more times than not, I’ve heard male colleagues in the same industry as me or male friends say, “ I don’t believe this really happens” and “It has to be only a few select women experiencing this.”
It’s a hell of a lot of women experiencing this. And any man trying to downplay the magnitude of Internet harassment towards women — well, they are part of the problem, too.
Downplaying that this happens is just as bad as victim blaming. I hear all the time, “But Charlsie, why do you message them back?”
Because I engage with everything that comes into my Instagram inbox unless the initial comment is batshit crazy (I am grateful for those because they weed out the interaction I’m sharing in this post). Why? While I don’t need to justify the why to you, I can say this: I land new business from messages popping up in my Instagram inbox pretty frequently. When you freelance full time, leads pop up everywhere and you’re always ready for them to come. Are the majority of my Instagram inbox messages worth reading and responding back to? Yes.
But that’s not always the case.
And I’m sick of these trolls thinking they are entitled to just troll women in any way they find that suits them on a Friday morning at 11:30am.
I’m sick of becoming a cunt, a whore, a slut, a fuck toy, a cum guzzling ugly bitch, a woman who should be raped, a woman who is not deserving of rape, a woman who should be killed, a woman who should look behind her when she’s out in public because “I’m coming for you.”
I can block these sad souls all the live long day, and you can too. But it doesn’t change the fact that this is happening. It doesn’t change the fact that men in your community, men with high powered jobs, men with wives, men with children, and men with little girls are doing this as a hobby.
Like this guy, who I am openly sharing because I’ve ran out of fucks to give. He’s a dad. He had kids. He has a daughter. He posts photos of his kids. His account is public. Yet he has the time to write “Smelly pussy” (side bar, real talk — I like how smelly vagina is now an insult … as if women in the entire history of their encounters with men have never encountered a smelly, sweaty dick) because I told him I wasn’t interested.
So here I am, with my “smelly pussy” and my “whore” self, just saying … enough. Instead of making the only option blocking, let’s call it what it is: harassment and speak up and say “This is not okay.”
And let’s keep saying “this is not okay” and “this happened to me” and “this is my experience” until we know for sure the next generation of women, the ones who haven’t even received their first mobile device yet, will never have to experience this.
Update (August 27, 2017):
A friend sent me what her Instagram inbox looks like this morning…
And Instagram got back to me about the report I sent them…
Another example showing how Instagram and Facebook are not here to protect women or make the Internet a “safe and welcoming place for everyone.” 🙄