As a Media and Communications Studies student with an ambition for a future in journalism, my research for this blog post was alarming.
In 2009, Amy Wallace, a journalist for Wired Magazine wrote an article on an anti-vaccine movement focussing on a prominent doctor in the field, Dr. Paul Offit. Following the publication of her article, Wallace began to receive emails and comments calling her a prostitute and a c***. There were even photos of her head photoshopped onto the body of another woman wearing a strapless dress to make Wallace look as though she had behaved scandalously while researching the article.
Amy Wallace is not alone. Sex and relationships blogger Alyssa Royse has had her own share of hate, one person going so far as to say “You are clearly retarded, I hope someone shoots then rapes you.”
Female journalist Amanda Hess has received abusive tweets and emails including one from a convicted murderer who said, “I’m looking you up, and when I find you I am going to rape you and remove your head.”
Every celebrity gets dished their own share of hate, and one Google search of Justin Bieber will relieve any doubt that online hate is confined to women. However these women are not celebrities. They are reporters. They are people fulfilling a job the same way a man would. However, in the period 2000-2012 of the 3,787 people who reported harassing incidents on the internet, 72.5% were women.
Perhaps it is a perception of women as weak. Or a hatred of women in positions of power. Or perhaps it is a lasting image of female inferiority. Whatever the reasoning, in online participatory culture, sexism is not fading.
Anonymity is merely armour for the weak. But it is what keep the discriminative fire alive.