How Some Men Harass Women Online and What Other Men Can Do to Stop It

Harass(Trigger warning: for abusive, woman-hating language and threats of violence)

When I write about feminism and men’s violence against women, I often receive supportive comments. While some of the praise is earned, much of it gives me a lot of credit for doing very little.

When women write about those same topics, it’s a different story. We men threaten women bloggers and writers with rape and murder. We call women “man-haters,” verbally abuse them, hack into their email accounts and stalk them. We alter photos of women, putting cuts and bruises on their faces. Then we excuse ourselves, saying we were “just joking–can’t you feminists take a joke?”

Racists harass people online; so do homophobes. Most people agree this is harassment. But my gender’s online harassment of women seems to go unquestioned, even defended, in most circles. Yet men’s online abuse of women has been well-documented by women such as Laurie Penney, Jennifer Pozner, Emily May and many other women.

“The sad part is that it works,” says feminist blogger Soraya Chemaly. “I have spoken to many, many women writers who ‘tone down’ their voices or stop writing entirely as a result of threats. … I mean, who wants to wake up in the morning to ‘Stupid, cunt’ or ‘I’ll go from house to house shooting women like you.’”

“The death threat was pretty scary,” says HollaBack! cofounder Emily May. “And there have been several rape threats. But it’s mostly ‘I want to rape you’ or ‘Somebody should rape you.’ Most are not physical threats–they’re more about how ugly I am, how nobody would bother raping me because I’m so fat and hideous. Once, after reading all these posts, I just sat in my living room and bawled like a 12-year-old.”

Jennifer Pozner agrees. “Very rarely have I gotten negative feedback that doesn’t include either a rape threat or calling me ugly and fat. Or sometimes they tell me I’m hot, but they hate what I’m saying– they’d rather watch me on TV with the mute on.” Pozner’s threats have not been limited to online: One man left a letter at her door saying he’d “find you and your mom and rape you both.”

Chemaly adds, “The point of the harassment, like harassment on the street, is to make the public sphere seem dangerous and to portray women as provoking a violent response through their actions.”

Pozner agrees. “It’s about the policing of women … using threats to keep us silent.”

Richard Rogers and Vanessa Thorpe called for a stop to such harassment in the Guardian two years ago. But most men have remained silent, as we do with many forms of our gender’s violence against women. Many of us blame the victim, suggesting things women can do differently to ameliorate the problem. We tell women to grow a thicker skin, not to “feed the trolls” and not to assume all men feel that way. Or we ride in on a white horse to “save” the poor damsels by insulting the insulters or threatening violence against those who are threatening violence. This makes us feel better, but often does little to help the women being attacked or stop the violence from happening.

When men are harassed online, it’s often because they are speaking out against rape culture. Comedian Jamie Kilstein reports receiving a few combative emails after questioning God’s existence or challenging Glenn Beck–but he received “thousands” after challenging rape culture . “There is a cost for betraying one’s privilege … [although] nowhere near the costs borne by the marginalized,” says Don Bell of the National Organization for Men Against Sexism:

Men could be silenced by the fear of being labeled as emasculated (weak), not linked to women sexually (gay), or dominated. …Men should be challenged to face their fears and risks because it is the right thing to do. Allying with women in support of feminist values–becoming pro-feminist–makes for better men and a better world.

Men’s online abuse results in women hesitating to write, stopping writing altogether and fearing for their physical safety. Many women have told me that such abuse doesn’t just happen when women are writing about feminism, it happens to them all the time. Amy Davis Roth blogged about atheism and was subjected to daily harassment as a result. Roth described a “typical day” as “Wake up. Make coffee. Block hateful messages on Twitter or other social media … Make art.” Sarah Sentilles was disparaged and ridiculed when writing about theology, attacked for being “childish,” her words called “chatter” despite her two doctorates.

In the early 90s, Rush Limbaugh popularized the term “feminazi.” Across the country, we men opened our mouths to laugh, and closed our ears to feminist wisdom. In the name of “humor,” male comics and pundits call women names and threaten them with violence–the rest of us don’t challenge it, but further attack those who do. When we apologize, it’s a fake apology, like comedian Daniel Tosh’s.

Ironically, when women call men out on our harassment, they are harassed even more. I wrote a Ms. blog about Tosh last year and it drew some criticism but mostly praise. But when feminist blogger Cristy Cardinal wrote about it she was threatened with rape and murder and her email and Twitter accounts were hacked.

Yet, most men care deeply about the women and girls in our lives. It pains us to hear that you stop yourselves from writing online, walking outside or wearing certain clothing because of the harassment and violence our gender heaps upon you. We’d rather it never happened to you, so we often pretend it doesn’t. We move from denial to anger at you for bringing it up, then from anger to bargaining–we question the statistics you cite, or distract with anecdotes of women who abuse men. We sometimes go through the whole Kubler-Ross cycle of death and dying before we’re ready to move to “acceptance.”

But some men do not seem to care about anyone but themselves. These men seem to take glee in making anonymous online threats, sometimes as part of a political movement that refuses to acknowledge men’s violence against women as an epidemic. Instead, they see men as the real victims–of feminism. Their self-appointed victim status gives them the right to call women names, threaten and intimidate at will.

For me as a man, the “acceptance” stage involves really listening to what women’s lives are actually like. It means getting sick to my stomach when I hear my friend Cristy Cardinal has been threatened, or admitting that I benefit from male privilege even if I don’t harass women online myself. It means that when I laughed at Bill Maher calling Sarah Palin stupid or a bitch, I made writing and life that much harder for Soraya Chemaly.

The “acceptance” stage also means I’m ready to do something positive. It’s not enough for me to simply not harass women myself–if I don’t raise my voice when I see this, I’m letting the Limbaughs be the lone voices of my gender. So I’m proud to be part of a growing movement of men who are listening to women, learning from women, becoming active bystanders and “aspiring allies.”

Clearly there’s no one “right” way to intervene, but I’ve already heard several suggestions. Men, we can’t remain silent any longer. Let us:

1. Listen to women’s experience of online abuse and threats by men. Let us read articles about it – the ones linked here are a good place to start. Instead of suggesting solutions, we can take in how hurtful the comments are.

2. Reach out to the target of the abuse. Ask her what she’d like to you do, if anything.

3. Write, “I think you’re right,” in Comments sections of articles, Facebook postings etc. of feminist women.  Whether or not they’ve been harassed or attacked, agree with them and do so publicly.

4. When men harass women online, speak up. We can say something like, “As a man, your harassing comment offends me,” in the Comments sections.  Say how it hurts you rather than speaking on behalf of the target.

5. Name the specific silencing tactic being used: name-calling, focusing on a woman’s appearance instead of her argument, etc.

6. Use humor. We can post something like, “Dude, put down your club–your caveman is showing!” Search online for feminist comedians of all genders who have done entire routines on this.

7. Watch for “professional trolls” from the “Men’s Rights” or “Father’s Rights” groups. They will often use terms such as “misandry” and refer to the feminist movement as anti-male or the domestic violence movement as an “industry.”

8. Send supportive emails, letters, candygrams, etc. to feminist women. Thank them for the good work they are doing–not just when they are targets of online harassment, but all the time. “If you see someone doing good work, you can be sure they’re being told they’re fat and ugly,” says Emily May. “Nice emails counterbalance the noise.”

9. Flag Facebook posts (or pages) when they’re abusive. If it’s a comment, click on the X to hide the post.  You then have the option to flag it as abusive.

10.  If the perpetrator isn’t an individual but a company, boycott the company. Write negative reviews of it on “Yelp” or other review sites, or  suggest policy or legislative changes.  (See the Ecological Model for Social Change for the philosophy behind this. )

What else would women like men to do? What would you like us not to do? I’d love to hear your responses in the comments section.

Photo by Flickr user Steve Meyer Photo under license from Creative Commons 2.0


  1. Just closed out of my fb account “social construction”: talking about men’s violence against women. Couldn’t even create a new page with another email address: shut me out of that, too! Scary. Big brother censorship! Conspiracy. Need fair use regulation.

  2. Lynn Sahlem says:

    Ben I am so glad to know you! You and Frank show me that all men are not the same and that you can evolve! 🙂 Keep up your excellent work.

  3. Jack Anderson says:

    “We men threaten women bloggers and writers with rape and murder.”
    ” We men ” ? Speak for yourself. I refuse to be lump summed into a group of men who verbally or otherwise abuse women. I do not do it. I do not condone it. I stand up when it happens. Do me and other sane men a favor and don’t pull us into some pool of idiots simply because we share the same gender, thank you very much.

    • K. Standard says:

      So you’re already doing what he’s suggesting all men do. Good for you. No, really, good for you. However, contrary to your claim, I don’t think I read anywhere that he said *all* men were guilty of leaving women hanging out to dry. Rather than getting all bent out of shape because you feel that you were “pull[ed]…into some pool of idiots”, why don’t you just help educate some of the thousands of men around you who gleefully participate in propagating rape culture? Not just get all uppity when it happens, but talk about it, like it’s a real and everyday thing. Sure, as a woman, I can try, but some of those young men will turn on me, and they’re scary. I’ve sat in my locked car in a grocery store parking lot, waiting for 911 to connect, because some guy who thought I’d cut him off in traffic decided to call me names then follow me home and “teach me a lesson.”

    • Megan te Boekhorst says:

      I find it interesting that you’ve seemed to ignore the entire article and focused on your own feelings and reactions to one line. Yes, there seems to be a contradiction in the article when he later acknowledges not all men participate in rape culture and the harassment in women but honestly by focusing all your attentions on this, you are participating in the distraction tools and in part, likely without truly meaning to, allowing the male privilege/rape culture we currently live in to continue. You are not focusing on the real, terrifying issue at hand and furthermore taking away focus on the real problem. I understand your anger and frustrations at being lumped into a group. As a woman, I’m often lumped into the “slut” “whore” or “tease” group. But for any forward movement to be made, we have to focus on the bigger issues and not distract from them on the smaller issues. When rape culture is stopped, the lumping of all men as violent cavemen who threaten rape to women who speak up will also stop.

      • He’s participating in rape culture by disagreeing with your opinion in other words. To be honest, if you understood the previous poster’s feelings, you wouldn’t tell him to be quiet.

        I love feminism’s ideals, but I am constantly reminded of how ruthlessly close-minded and political its proponents are. It actually has driven me and millions of other guys away from the movement, and I think that’s sad.

        “When rape culture is stopped, the lumping of all men as violent cavemen who threaten rape to women who speak up will also stop.”

        Or we could just not support your cause. Do you realize that you are DRIVING people away when you say things like that?!

        • Scott Braun says:

          You know what, man? I get upset, too, when lumped into the same category as cavemen, or when I hear quotes like the one you’ve picked out. But do you know who I get upset with?
          Because I pay attention. And it doesn’t take much to see how an average woman’s everyday experiences would make her feel that way. And it takes maybe just a touch more awareness to realize that, for the most part, things ARE that way.

          I get angry at other men for making me have to constantly prove that I’m not like they are. I get angry at other men for putting people I respect through awful crap on the daily. I get angry at other men for the pain in a woman’s eyes when she’s found love but her sexuality is a minefield of past horrors. I get angry at other men when I see how utterly common the responses to articles like this are. I get angry at other men for the notion that because you personally haven’t done anything wrong that you’re aware of, you think that you haven’t benefited from the culture, or that you bear no responsibility to spend your life recognizing your privilege or finding sensitivity enough to change the future.

          • Yes. Thank you.

          • Awesome!
            Thank you,

          • The White Knight on his Trusty Steed, coming to save the Damsels in Distress. You are a true hero, Scott Braun, and you deserve kisses from the damsels you save.

            – I don’t particularly like being lumped into the group “men”, who are supposedly cavemen.

            – There are laws against terroristic threats and harassment, for instance. Commentary that doesn’t reach that level but is negative may just be … free speech.

            – There have been lots of hoaxes lately, with racist and sexist messages being sent at universities etc. with the victim as the perpetrator. Since a big part of feminism is playing the victim, I don’t doubt that there is some exaggeration of the problem here.

            – Men also get threats. Lots of them. People in general get threats for anti-feminist topics. Read the account of Esther Vilar (“The Manipulated Man”) when she went on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Death threats galore.

      • Joshua Hanley says:

        @Megan: You’re totally right.

      • newyorkguy says:

        Once again, I agree with your post entirely as well.
        re: “anger and frustrations at being lumped into a group”
        What the columnist is talking about when he states: “We men threaten women bloggers and writers with rape and murder.”
        “most men have remained silent, as we do with many forms of our gender’s violence against women,” is speaking of men as a class (God forbid we speak in terms of social class in the USA), not individuals, who continue gender discrimination against women – and calling out individuals to be aware that when they are remain silent, in the face of others’ sexist actions they are still allowing the sexism of rape culture, of patriarchy to continue. It may not be easy to speak up, but we, as men we must – it may not be easy, but it is most certainly, not easier for the women who receive ugly and obscene sexist taunts and insults, and threats of assault and bodily harm, just for speaking the truth…. support all feminist goals… it’s the only thing that matters!

  4. Hello all I was thinking there is a nother way to treat this and that is to turn it around the peson that say I hate you and call u fat , thank him for taking the time to comment on your beauty and he should not feel bad for being fat and ugly and that there is always someone that loves him and tell the person you are so thrilled that he is following your every move people hate that make a new comment and thank them in person mention what they say . The more we do this the lesd they will they live of fear
    Peace and love to all

    • Stephanie D. says:

      Dear John V,
      I admit that a dry sense of humor can be useful to paralyze an insecure attacker and sometimes it works. I’ve used sometimes, the problem is that 50% of other times you are just making the attacker more angry. The online world is okay (even when you can receive a lot of hate and its damaging) but I wouldn’t play my chances to anger an attacker who lives near me.
      All the best!

    • stacy vlasits says:

      John, this is an article about what *men* can do, not an opportunity for men to give advice to women. That “job” has been (over)done by wiser men than you and I’m pretty sure the entire point of this article was to do *something else.*

  5. I am a “gamer” and see this often in the video game communities. I personally lie about my gender so I do not have to worry about the harrasment, which ranges from ‘hey baby, lets get it on’ to ‘die fat ugly bitch.” it’s just easier to change gender. But, then again this is the point of the article. I have to PRETEND to be a MAN in order to avoid harrasment online and my crime or personal failing is simply being female.

    Of course there is discrimination against men. I honestly don’t think anyone truly believes there isn’t. But the majority of women experience sexual harrasment several times in their lives, I know I have and every one of the women in my life has as well. I have personally never met a man who was attacked verbally or otherwise because he was male. What’s being argued here is the disparity between the attacks on women by men and also the ferocity of those attacks. I recently watched a short video about rape called “don’t rape” which death with this sort of thing – where we say ‘don’t wear that’, ‘don’t write that’, ‘don’t go there’ – all these statements punish the victim. Instead of saying to him ‘don’t rape her’ we say to her ‘don’t wear that’. This is our Fact. We need to all understand the current situation to change it.

    A lot of the comments after these posts argue apples and oranges but are reactions to perceived disrespect or ignorance. Attacking someone is the problem – period – but many men need to recognize the disparity of the ratio we are dealing with. I can only write from personal experience and my on circumstance, just as everyone else does. But if only one person walks away from the article and says “man, that is just not funny” after a friend, coworker or acquaintance calls her a bitch, fat, ugly or meat simply because she’s female it helps.

    • Shaun Vavra Hall says:

      I too am a gamer and over the years I have heard all the stuff that you have mentioned and I’m sick of it as well. I’m a guy and I want people to have a good time without have to worry about some idiots remark. I really believe people should be band from these games if they are going to act like idiots. Unfortunately the gaming companies are slow to respond and sometimes they don’t respond at all. Some companies have a zero tolerances for this kind of behavior. I don’t think it is enough though… There should be consequences for threatening someone.

      Anyways SMA, I will not tolerate this kind of behavior and will speak up and report whenever I see this kind of crap. I hope one day, gaming can be fun for everyone.

      • As a mom of teenagers I worry about the abusive sexist and antigay things rude people say online gaming. It’s terrible. My son plays with a headset that uses the speakers on the TV so I hear everything that goes on. I was very proud of him when he told some (probably older) guys off for laughing about ‘raping’ a woman who was playing Halo with them. It makes me sad that she had to hear those things while playing a game.

        This kind of bullying is so common online I feel overwhelmed.

  6. They say that the pen is mightier than the sword.

    The best pens are double-edged, fountain pens.

    Use your words, not as a weapon, but for the creation of art.

    Use your art for creation. Vita brevis; ars longa.

    It may seem vague to you. It seems succinct to me. There is little we can do about this. How can I help?

    Men, too, threaten violence against men who speak up. These are not idle threats, they are busy threats. These men have stopped paying attention to the real world. They will be punished, but not by me; that would be blaming a victim. The cycle must stop before it can go.

  7. After being molested by my grandfather at 3, raped at 34 by a male friend of my then husband and being slammed in the head with a car door by a police officer, one tends to grow a thick skin. There will be no crying at anything they can dish out to me, I’ve cried all the tears I’ll ever cry about all of it. I have no fear, threats do not shut me up. I laugh at their ignorance and rise above it. If a man wants to take on the karma, come and get me. But before you do, I’d like to say thank you, cause it makes me that much stronger, Makes me work a little bit harder, Makes me that much wiser, So thanks for making me a fighter. Made me learn a little bit faster, Made my skin a little bit thicker, Makes me that much smarter, So thanks for making me a fighter … and a SURVIVOR! t.y. to Christina Aguilera for those awesome lyrics.


  8. r.j. pare conveniently takes out of context the reason why the phrase ‘mansplanning and ‘gas-lighting’ is directed at those men who whenever they comment on feminist blogs, tell the feminist writer ‘they are the experts not the female author.’

    ‘Mansplanning’ means a male making a statement about a subject he has no knowledge of whatsoever but because he is male he assumes he is the expert. No need for the male to actually read an article written by a woman because the male is the expert not the woman. It doesn’t matter if the woman is an academic because the man claims he is the expert not the woman. This is what women have endured since time immemorial – men claiming they are the experts on all subjects and we women are expected to remain silent and listen to a male mansplanning.

    Gas lighting means what men do when they write claiming the female author is wrong because of x, y or z and it is a deliberate male strategy designed to make the female author believe she is in the wrong. The male presents no evidence apart from the fact he is male and his claims are supposedly ‘the default truth!’ For example a male would write and tell a female author – your experience of male sexual violence is wrong because I know most men do not commit these crimes against women. Really? So the man is the expert despite his ignorance of the subject in question.

    All men do not need to engage in misogyny or utter male threats of violence against women because women have learned that male violence against women is real and we women never know which male will be violent and which male will not be a misogynist. But all men benefit from mens’ constant incessant misogynistic threats of violence to women writers/bloggers and the end result is women are being silenced; women are being erased from male only supposedly internet. On-line misogyny is identical to male street harassment of women and girls because the aim is always the same to maintain male domination/male control over women and girls and to ensure women and girls restrict their freedom of movement and restrict their right to voice their opinions.

    I’ve yet to read or see men routinely being threatened with rape by a female commentator. I’ve yet to read or see men being subjected to minute criticism of their physical appearance; such as focusing on their increasing girth; their lack of hair; the way they dress; their age. Why not? Because men are not dehumanised sexualised objects that is why but men continue to view women as mens’ disposable sexual service stations not human beings. Such claims that men are routinely subjected to threats of violence by females is another aspect of ‘mansplanning.’

    There is no parallel between the increasingly blatant male hatred/male contempt for women and mens’ claims they are the real victims because an individual woman has supposedly ‘upset their feelings.’ Women are not accorded the same socio-economic power men accord themselves and the crux of the issue is men are reacting to what they view as women’s increasing encroachment on male rights and male only spaces. It is to be expected that men will react with threats of violence because men will not relinquish their male power without a struggle – but claiming misandry exists is another aspect of ‘mansplanning’ or reverse patriarchal logic. Men have never been oppressed because of their sex but men have always oppressed women because our sex is female not male.

    Therefore misandry does not exist because misogyny is the institutionalised male/hatred/male contempt for women because they are women not men. An individual woman can express hatred/contempt for men but her opinion does not alter one iota men’s socio-economic power over women because men continue to be ones clinging tightly on to their unearned power and male rights.

    By the way men have no problem in claiming ‘you women are the ones to blame for x,y or z’ and yet when women hold men accountable for their condoning/justifying/minimalising male hatred/male contempt for women’ there is always the straw man argument. Namely ‘you can’t claim all men are like this.’ But it is okay for men to claim ‘women do x,y or z as if all women are the same. Male supremacist illogic which as usual serves to deflect attention away from womens’ issues and put the focus once again on men and their rights; their grievances; their demands; their expectations.

  9. michele marino says:

    I think it’s time for the men’s liberation movement. The “men-i-festo” movement. Menifesto – combining the words manifest: to make evident or certain by showing or displaying;
    Readily perceived by the senses;
    Easily understood or recognized by the mind.
    and men, who have been given a long list of do’s and don’ts in order “to be a man,” which is somewhat ridiculous if you really think about it. Who made up those rules anyway?
    I think the root of this problem of abuse, is due to men’s suffering. This is why I suggest that it is time for their liberation. What I would like to see happen, is for men to give themselves permission to open up the conversation about their experience having been raised as a male in contemporary society. To allow themselves to redefine themselves as they see fit. To complain about how unfair it is to be told that you must reject a large part of yourself in order to fit into your role as a “man” in society. To take back their right to feel feelings, to reclaim their rights to cry without being ridiculed or teased, to be honest about what they may have been thinking or feeling throughout their entire life, but were scared to death to share it with anyone else because they were socialized to believe that to be their human selves was wrong.
    To reject any part of your human self, will manifest in deviant behavior. If society tells a human being to deny a part of their human-ness, such as feelings, emotions, tears, hurt, pain, fear, love, caring, or any other characteristic associated with “female-ness,” society is forcing them to repress and stifle these powerful energies, causing them to live in a state of perpetual self-conflict. Of course it will manifest in this ugliness we call abuse.
    Can you imagine having to live up to some crazy expectation that you might not necessarily aspire to?
    I’d like to see men find a space to air their grievances about their fears, resentments or confusion about the pressure put upon them to carry the financial weight of a family. To be able to admit to having been afraid, but having no one to share those feelings with for fear of being “weird,” or “unworthy” or laughed at.
    I’d like to see them heal from the damage that modern day socialization has done to them because I believe that this is the root of the problem.
    It will most likely take centuries for society to progress to the point where people can attain some sort of true actualization, where people can simply be who they are without all this hurt in between, but maybe the discussion of the online abuse of women by men will cause us to look at ourselves and realize that it is time to heal.

    • First, the word “manifesto” already has the word “man” in it. I think it’s a little bit unnecessary to change it to “menifesto”

      Second, while there are valid problems that men face in society, we have to acknowledge the fact that those problems are used to prop up a society that systematically favors men over women. It’s hard for me to get too upset about a guy who is teased for crying when that same guy would still be taken more seriously than myself in most situations, simply for the fact that he’s male.

      Third, I support the idea that all people should be allowed to express their gender and sexuality without being torn down by society. I think many of the ways we socially gender males are destructive and harmful to both men and women. However, I don’t think this was the article for you to start writing your “menifesto.”

      You want “to see men find a space to air their grievances about their fears, resentments or confusion about the pressure put upon them to carry the financial weight of a family?” Then go make that space. Seriously, go start a blog or a website and make sure it’s a safe space for men to air their legitimate grievances and not just another hack MRA site for men to attack feminists. Then you can come to articles like this, comment on the actual topic at hand without changing the subject to talk about men’s problems, and you can leave a link to your website so people can join your discussion.

  10. Jude Alexander says:

    Never thought I’d read something like this. I thought we were stuck with it. You know what, in the 80s, you couldn’t walk past a building site without being sexually harassed. Then they introduced sexual harassment laws, and now you can. So there is hope. The Internet is like a big 80s building site.

  11. Unfortunately, many men are feminist in theory but not in action. Several of my self-described feminist male friends consistently post sexist remarks on facebook. Recent posts by “feminists” have included making fun of women (not people) who say “totes” (I guess it’s only cool and quirky when Paul Rudd says it); quoting David Sedaris along the lines of women with a hyphenated name should just go by “bitch”; Anne Hathaway is an ugly, overrated, self-important bitch with horse teeth; single women (not people) in Brooklyn are annoying bitches. If these men are supposed to be on my side, then I’m in trouble. I really do hope that more men and women speak up against sexist language, even if it means publicly insulting your “feminist” buddy. Or look up the clip of Amy Pohler on SNL saying “Don’t tell me what to do!” and post that if you’re going for humor.

  12. Collin Moore says:

    Hey, this was a really great article to read. Personally, I find it as a great source of educating myself on how to react to certain situations like these in groups. It’s now bookmarked on my laptop, so I can use it as a resource whenever I need to.

  13. I love this article, and everything about it.
    As a biological male, but aspiring female, the public mistreatment of women has always tugged at me in a sick and special way. It affects me, even though my perceived male privileged shields me from it. I never know what I should be doing to combat it/prevent it. My most common reaction is to respond with rage, and that very seldom helps.
    I was in a very odd situation recently, where i was at a concert with a girlfriend. She kept on getting her ass slapped by random passers by. People neither of us knew. I wanted to bitch slap every single person who walked by, thinking her body was fair game to grab on and touch and molest, but every time she saw me react to it even slightly, she’d grab my arm and say “it’s not worth it, just ignore then, don’t give them the satisfaction of know they’re bothering you”. THAT was a hard thing to do, especially when the unwelcome touching was accompanied with some nasty sex talk that she would always tend to fire back at them with elevated vitriol. I guess her game was making them think she either didn’t care, or was into it, was her defense mechanism against letter them see her feathers ruffled.
    To me, this seems really wrong, but I didn’t know how to articulate it. What can I do, in the future, if I see this sort of shit going down again? I want to be a good friend to my friends.

    • Megan te Boekhorst says:

      You have to respect your friends wishes and do nothing if that’s what she wants. But knowing you’re there to support her is always helpful. It might give her the strength to use a different strategy the next time it happens.
      You can also talk to her outside of the situation when there isn’t so much going on. I know at times I get flustered and not think clearly enough to come up with the best method of defence as it happens.
      Thank you for wanting to do something.

    • Mippitt says:

      Just by being there and being supportive, you are doing all your friend needs you to do. Because you stand next to her, ready to react if she needs it, you reduce any fear she might feel that the unwelcome groping might be taken further. To fight might make the situation more dangerous, might separate you from your friend, might bring the evening to a nasty end rather than a good one.
      As a woman (and I don’t work out!) I’ve learned to pick my fights, and I choose when I feel I need to make a stand, and when the situation isn’t worth the risk that might come with that . . . and if I feel I need to complain to someone about their behaviour, then it’s ME doing the complaining – I don’t want to be the little woman hiding behind the big strong man, because that can only lead to the harassment moving on to other women who don’t have a friend there to support them . . .

  14. There is an atheist community that focusses on social justice and specifically feminism — it has as a result a band of merry haters who like to obsessively talk about and often abuse members of the community. Much to their annoyance I helped create a shared block-list on Twitter – so when one asshole sends an abusive –> annoying unsolicited tweet they get reported and cannot so easily jump from person to person trolling/attacking. Its here if anyone is interested – … While it is targeted at the anti-feminists attacking the atheist-sceptic feminists there is no reason why it cannot help people block and ignore more of them! Strangely enough they see this as a horrible infringement of their rights to annoy and abuse 🙂

  15. Great article! Ben, as a woman, I appreciate that your focus is on educating men about what they can do to stand up against harassment. I like that you encourage men to listen to women. I don’t wish to see men espousing their greatness at being male feminists, but if the majority of men made themselves feminist allies and followed your suggestions here, it would change the world.

  16. I love the list at the end of the article, thanks so much for sharing your thinking!

  17. Alison Witheld says:

    I’ll be marking my fourth year of being a stalkers victim in a few weeks time. A lot of on-line harassment, interference with my family and my business. Attempts to deride my professionalism, damage my community and work standing, Threats, text messages, silent calls, circulated malicious rumors, some of them printed and spread around my locality… the list is endless.

    When I was diagnosed with Complex PTSD in December 2011 and he found out he had a fun time with it online claiming that he was a victim of harassment by me and it was driving him MAD etc. This to show me how much he enjoyed finding out how he had eroded my peace of mind, all the comments tailored and designed to pin point and gloat about all his practical ‘achievements’.

    I was told by police that I shouldn’t use Twitter and Facebook – even to promote my business, I’ve given up my business, changed my mobile number twice although it’s pointless having one really as I’m not allowed to give my number to anyone except next of kin which is hardly convenient. Basically the police advice to me is to let him win…..

    My point is this, firstly that LISTENING and UNDERSTANDING are rare attributes these days among both men AND women. One of the most difficult things to cope with throughout the ordeal has been learning to cope with being misunderstood, my circumstances simplified or changed entirely to fit in with other peoples criteria and tolerance levels. Backs have been turned and ears have been blocked, I’ve experienced that with the police, the social services, the doctors and even my friends. Some people who have even been witness to the entire campaign still fail to understand, simply because they have no personal comparative experience to fully comprehend the consequences for me of the actions they witness or the importance of restorative experiences to counter the damage done.

    This I can understand but I find so hard to accept, it sounds like such a small and simple thing, but having someone who could understand how I feel would make all the difference to me. I’ve felt as though I’m trapped in a glass jar and nobody can hear me even if I scream. I’ve developed a cynical view on friendship, a general distrust of human kind and a preference for solitude which I know is not healthy but is inevitable, I no longer want or expect anyone to listen, that way it’s easier to live and lock away the pain and anger.

    Perhaps if just one person could have been there for me, could have stopped to truly LISTEN and understand then maybe things would have turned out different.

    Best help you can give a person dealing with harassment is to allow them some chance to get it all out of their head and their heart, I’ve always been mindful that it’s not good to say too much because most people don’t want to deal with the discomfort of the subject. I’m aware that I have developed a resentment/disappointment about the fact that ‘normal’ people are so weak in this respect.

    If just one single person had intimated that they had the time and cared enough to try to understand and allow me to share my feelings it would have been so much easier. Sadly I think it’s too late now, my personality change has completed, I am cold inside and nothing can touch me. I am content to be alone.

    Maybe someone you know out there could be saved from this sad alteration of character?

  18. Joshua Lee Schwarting says:

    Do you think that our sex-driven culture is closer to the root of the problem? Like- do you think that these crazy hateful remarks coming from men are simply a symptom of the REAL problem? Kind of like a recurring headache- you don’t know why it’s there- you just keep taking Tylenol to get rid of the pain. Is the headache the root of the problem? No, it’s a bi-product of the REAL problem (a symptom). What do you think the root of the problem is? The REAL problem? @everybuddy

  19. Thank you. That was a great post. Online harassment has become a real nightmare for women who constantly have to deal with unpleasant comments for their views on almost everything. The barrage of such trolls and rape threats targeting women is a new menace. Starting from pornography to cyber-stalking and voyeurism, web-based businesses thrive on such anti-women activities finding little or no regulatory hurdles.

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