Identities.Mic: Actress Ashley Judd, who has been active in Hollywood for more than two decades, is also a die-hard University of Kentucky Wildcats fan. While watching her team play the University of Arkansas Razorbacks on Sunday, Judd posted a since-deleted tweet that suggested the Razorbacks were playing dirty — an act that apparently triggeredan avalanche of online abuse, much of which was sexual in nature.
It’s not new; we’ve seen this over and over, more and more light has been shed on this issue, and yet it still remains an issue.
Then again, I suppose that should be of no surprise. Feminism, off and on social media, is still up for debate, women are raped and abused daily (as are men who dare show any sign of femininity). So, if we haven’t fixed those problems over the centuries, why should we expect any less from social media?
We’re worried about when protecting people becomes pure policing, and restrictions on freedom of speech. I understand that. But, it becomes a cycle of pure hypocrisy; men want to feel free to say what they please about women and to women, and then complain about their freedom when someone objects. But, what they say about and to women is, in turn, doing to women what men don’t want done to them. These men are out to shut women up, but can’t handle it in return.
There has to be a way to define social media use, so that the difference between freedom of speech and useless, and potentially harmful, harassment become clear.
Some online forums have tried to do this by eliminating particular words. That never works. One possibility would be to observe how words are used; are they directed at someone, or used in general?
But, even then, you risk policing, and it’s hard to be objective.
You’ll always have people (mostly men) crying that women are too sensitive, and who will refuse to see that the greater amount of harassment, bullying, threats, and violence happens to women, no matter how much proof you show. Unfortunately, some of these people are in positions of power that allow them to crush any potential change.
So, what is to be done?
A dear friend of mine engaged in a debate recently about a transgender woman being removed from a gym bathroom after another woman complained, and her membership being revoked as a result. Just for expressing her opinion on the issue (and yes, she was being very reasonable in her debate), she was doxed. They even went so far as to anonymously e-mail her employer. I hated myself a little for telling her that, though I agree it was wrong of them to do that, she needed to be more careful about debating people on the internet. When she does that, she becomes a target (an undeserving one, obviously).
Unfortunately, there’s not much to be done at this point. Like the unfair way in which we’re expected to deal with rape culture, we must deal with online harassment. We have to be cautious. Until other, more broad and related things change, wave to tread carefully, lest we become the next tragic headline that arouses another short-lived, quickly-smothered cry for justice.