It’s important that individuals who engage in hateful behavior and threats of violence don’t go unchallenged and do face some measure of accountability - that said its also critical to remember that the domestic violence ‘game’ targeting me is a symptom of our deeply misogynist culture (both online and offline). In far too many online and gaming spaces sexist behavior is still unfortunately considered normal, acceptable or expected. This particular domestic violence ‘game’ is just one of the more extreme manifestations of the sustained cyber mob style harassment campaign directed at me which has been perpetrated by hundreds if not thousands of (mostly) anonymous internet users over the course of several weeks.
The attempts to silence women (and members of other marginalized groups) goes far beyond just my experience. Women who speak out on all sorts of topics, from politics to entertainment, face the threat of cyber mob harassment as recently experienced by Bioware writer Jennifer Hepler, British columnist Laurie Penny, gamer icon Felicia Day, Shakesville blogger Melissa McEwan and that’s just to name a few. In the last couple of days alone there have been alarming online threats made against videoblogger Laci Green and Toronto-based organizer Stephanie Guthrie.
The online harassment epidemic also effects a great number of women who don’t have as much public recognition or support. We have no idea how many women have been scared into silence, deleted their blogs, removed their videos or simply refrained from saying anything on the internet altogether - but I am certain its a significant and depressing number. That has to change.
Additionally, online services and websites need to do a much better job of creating safer, better moderated spaces and provide the tools and functionality that empower those being harassed and abused via their systems. In short online harassment and abuse needs to be taken seriously by the companies and institutions that provide the infrastructure for our lives online.