Women bloggers seek to fight online misogyny, critics decry threat to free speech

Taking a cue from Howard Beale, feminist bloggers are banging their keyboards to say “I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”

Just what are these women so angry about? Misogyny. And not just any misogyny, but Internet misogyny that ends up in their email in-boxes, comment sections, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.

While women decrying the hatred of women is nothing new, what is new is the number of women bloggers coming out of the woodwork to openly share their experiences of hurt in an effort to launch a campaign against online misogyny.

The New Statesman’s Helen Lewis-Hasteley recently brought together nine female bloggers to recount their plight as victims of online hate. The women’s complaints focus largely on being called mean things, from the traditional women insults (“bitch,” “fat,” “ugly”) to those overtly sexual and violent.

“I’m not sure what the solution to all this is, although I’m beginning to wonder if it might be worth one or more of us having a go at taking a test case through the criminal justice system,” wrote freelance writer Eleanor O’Hagan, telling her tale to the New Statesman. “In the meantime though, I think it’s imperative that women who write online continue to speak out about the abuse we’re subjected to, and that we expose the Internet misogynists at every opportunity we get.”

Lewis-Hasteley told The Daily Caller that people are generally unaware of just how much hatred women are subjected to online. While she advises female bloggers to try to find the motivation for the hate, she doesn’t recommend engaging the haters.

“What I wouldn’t recommend is responding to individual attacks on email, or if a website is created about you, by trying to engage the abuser,” Lewis-Hasteley noted. “From everyone I’ve spoken to, very few have had a good response, and in one case it led to an escalation.”

Blogger and comedienne Kate Smurthwaite told TheDC that expressions of hate against women are all too prevalent online, but if there is one upside at least it demonstrates just how “widespread” the hate is.

“Germane Greer wrote many years ago that women have no idea how much men hate them. Well, thanks the Internet, now we do,” Smurthwaite explained. “And it’s a problem that needs to be faced up to. Many schools already teach students about the history of ethnic minority communities and the ongoing battle to end racism. Women’s history (herstory) should be compulsory for male and female students from an early age and young people should be encouraged to understand the issues that women still face in the home and the workplace.”

Being from Great Britain, Lewis-Hasteley explained that they have laws against “hate speech” which allow female bloggers to turn their negative comments into a criminal case. In the United States, however, no such remedy exists, so American women bloggers have to find other avenues to combat the hate.

Feminist blogger Sady Doyle’s suggestion to create an awareness raising hashtag — “MenCallMeThings” — took fire on Twitter at the beginning of last week.

“Misogynists don’t like women,” she wrote at her site, Tiger Beat Down. “It doesn’t matter how uniquely charming and witty and acquainted with various fine bourbons you are. Are you a woman? Then they don’t like you. And they especially don’t like you telling them what to do. By, for example, asking them to cut it out with the misogyny.”

There is also is a petition, boasting over 189,230 signatures, calling for Twitter’s peer, Facebook, to begin policing pages that promote sexual violence.