It’s never surprising when women are harassed and threatened online, it’s an everyday reality for almost every woman with a high profile online to receive daily hate mail with threats of rape, dismemberment, and murder, along with the requisite gendered slurs.
Numerous think pieces have been written on this issue, detailing the way women are attacked online in various communities, including the tech, gamer, startup, and atheist communities, where women have been subject to sustained, vicious harassment.
Yesterday reached a new(ish) level of awful when Utah State University, which was to host a talk by feminist gamer critic Anita Sarkeesian, was subject to a terrorist threat over her appearance, and, later last evening, Sarkeesian was forced to cancel her talk because weapons would be permitted at her speech, due to Utah’s open-carry laws (Update: according to the university it is actually the conceal and carry laws that affected their response).
In the letter, the person making the threat said that he would write his “manifesto in her spilled blood” and he claimed that feminists had ruined his life. He refers to feminists as “misandrist harpies” and likens his threatened attack to the Montreal Massacre, which resulted in the murder of 14 women in 1989.
It’s evident that harassment of women online is not going away anytime soon but one way to help combat it is to heed Anita Sarkeesian’s advice, that she delivered at the XOXO Festival this fall, to “actually believe women when they talk about their experiences.” Or you can make like this man, Tim Colwell, did and show harassers the door, making it clear that they are not welcome in his community or his space. And, finally, here is a list of dos and don’ts for dealing with online sexist harassment.