I am a writer on the internet. I also have a vagina. As a female blogger, there’s one hard-and-fast rule I have learned from other seasoned vets: Don’t read the comments. In most internet comment sections, you’re likely to find hate, vitriol and probably some racism and more hate too.
Most of the time I do read the comments. Most of the time I really appreciate what readers have to say and even learn from some well-written responses. But I’m also no stranger to a healthy portion of internet hate, including hate tweets from random trolls who decide to take their beef with me to Twitter.
I’m not the only one. In recent Demos research that examined over 2 million online messages, analysts discovered that female journalists received a disproportionate amount of hate compared to their male counterparts. Male public figures received 1 in 20 abusive messages, and female public figures received just 1 in 70 abusive messages. However, more than 5 percent of all messages received by female journalists were abusive or derogatory in nature.
This is not OK. While I am not a “high-profile” writer, I am a working writer, and it is my job to share my opinion for a living. I have quickly learned that not every opinion I voice is welcomed with open arms, and that is fine by me. There are plenty of times I disagree with other writers on the internet, but I refrain from sending them hate mail or writing an abusive comment on their blog.
Why all the hate directed toward women? Researchers didn’t conclude why these hateful messages posted to women were offensive, but Salon.com did hypothesize that much of the slander was misogynistic, sexist or gendered in nature. Not just a small amount — a lot of misogynistic internet hate written by anonymous trolls.
This may be hard to imagine unless you wade deep into the dark waters of internet trolling. To paint a clearer picture, many trolls who comment on posts written by women threaten rape and sexual assault. It’s one thing to write an unpleasant anonymous comment on the internet; it’s quite another to target an abusive comment in a way that implies misogynistic sexual assault.
I’m not afraid to be a female writer on the internet, and I won’t stop sharing my opinion. I am saddened by the fact that research now supports what I have already suspected: Female writers get the most hate from trolls who are uncomfortable with letting women speak.