John Oliver: Tackling online misogyny.

Why We Need Feminism Part N: Misogyny Online

Why We Need Feminism Part N: Misogyny Online

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
June 23 2015 7:00 AM

What Do We Do About Misogyny Online?

John Oliver
John Oliver.

Photo by Comedy Central, from the video

Not surprisingly, the issue of misogyny on the Internet has hit the news again.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

The blatant and horrid misogyny women face online has been an issue for as long as there’s been an Internet. Recently, though, with the advent of Gamergate, it’s been amplified to a terrifying degree, with women receiving organized attacks, including death threats.

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There’s also the problem of doxxing (publically listing a person’s information like phone number and address), which has also led to Swatting: calling the police with a fake claim of (say) a hostage situation and giving the address of the person you’re targeting. The police raid that person’s house, and this can lead to incredibly dangerous situations, and severe psychological harm.

John Oliver did a typically brilliant report on all this for his show Last Week Tonight on HBO on Sunday.* Watch:

I’m very glad he tackled this; it gives this issue a wide audience, and I think it’s very important that people with a soapbox use it to help those who may not have as loud a voice.

There’s a trick in our brains that makes all this hard to fight: We tend to listen to people who are like us, and not listen (or not listen well) to those who aren’t. In this case, that means that some men may not hear this message from women talking about it. But if a man says the same thing, it gets traction. I hate that this is the case, but it means these groups can use vocal advocates, allies, among men.

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That’s why I write about this as well. I’m a middle-aged white guy, and pretty much the bull’s-eye demographic for a lot of the problems faced by women, minorities, and other marginalized groups. My hope is that if I speak up, others will as well.

As I’ve done before, I’ll make this simple. Men (and anyone, of course): Don’t do this. Don’t threaten, harass, doxx, or SWAT. It’s grossly, morally wrong.

I’ll note it’s also massively ironic, since it so face-palmingly proves the point that we really do need feminism.

If you’re worried about doxxing and swatting, then I suggest you bookmark the Crash Override Network website—created by harassment survivors—and especially their resources page, which focuses on prevention and supporting victims.

Here are other articles I’ve written on this issue. Some advice: Don’t read the comments, unless you need yet more proof of Lewis’ Law.

*Correction, June 23, 2015: This post originally misstated the name of John Oliver’s show as This Week Tonight. It’s called Last Week Tonight.