Top of the heap

Jessica Valenti is the woman who gets the most blocked comments at the Guardian’s Comment is Free.

When the Guardian examined the 1.4 million comments that have been blocked by moderators since 1999, they found that eight of the 10 writers receiving the most blocked comments were women, and topping the list was … well, me. Sure, there’s a small part of me that’s proud – I’m No 1! – but the bigger truth is that I’m mostly just exhausted.

I’m tired of laughing it off and rolling my eyes. Because while misspelled threats or entreaties for me to get back in the kitchen are certainly easy to mock, the disdain with which they’re employed is not very funny.

For all the progress women have made, there’s always an online comment section or forum somewhere to remind us that, when given anonymity and a keyboard, some men will use the opportunity to harass and threaten.

“Some” meaning “a lot of.” That’s the part that’s not very funny.

[I]t’s not a coincidence that the articles of mine that attract the most abuse on social media are those about rape, harassment, political representation or everyday examples of sexism. Anything that suggests there’s still work to do for true gender equality sends some men into a rage – a response that mostly serves to prove my point.

If the mere act of writing about women’s issues sets off a stream of harassment and threats, surely we are nowhere near where we need to be.

No, we’re not. It always surprises me, but we’re not.

She points out that other people get interesting conversations on their threads. She would like that too, but it doesn’t happen.

I’m tired of having to explain, over and over again, why the tone of the comments under my pieces is indeed sexist. It’s not just a matter of critique – all writers get that – it’s the way that criticism manifests. Are my male colleagues called cutesy nicknames? Do they have their appearance commented upon?

I’m tired of seeing people call it “criticism” when it’s actually sexist harassment and abuse.

What may be the most difficult – for anyone who faces these kinds of harassment or threats – is that it just doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Harassers largely go unchecked by social media companies and media platforms; law enforcement agencies still haven’t sorted how to deal with online abusers; and perpetrators are still celebrated as “free speech” warriors.

Oh well, soon climate change will mean we won’t have to worry about that kind of thing.

3 Responses to “Top of the heap”