We need to talk about trolling
What can you do to stop the hate?
Trolling is online abuse - someone deliberately says something to upset you or make you feel afraid. Last week, a study came out that came as a surprise to no one: Trolling has affected more than HALF of NZ’s women, and 6% felt suicidal as a result. Trolling towards women is completely different to what men experience – it’s often aggressively sexual.
1 in 5 of us who are under 30 have been threatened with sexual violence and a quarter of ushave been threatened with death, rape, or sexual assault. In fact, young women everywhere report much higher rates of sexual harassment, stalking, and sustained abuse.
Why are women under attack?
So why are we being attacked online? Sexual abuse is primarily about power –people getting off on domination, rather than mutual pleasure. Considering that this dynamic is supported by so much of the internet’s content - porn - it should come as no surprise that trolling women plays out these same dynamics with such alarming frequency.
Another dynamic that makes people think it’s OK to troll is a sense of entitlement to women’s bodies, again reinforced in popular culture that sees women as objects.
So what can do to stop the hate?
It’s easy to feel helpless when so many of us are being attacked, with such scary and frightening threats. What can we do in the face of all that aggression?
Well, we can start by talking about it . We can share what’s happening to us by talking to our friends, and our support networks . We can look at the way what’s talked about in class, the way people talk in sitcoms, and how women are depicted in ads, and on billboards compared to men. We can look at the way we’re raised compared to boys, and how the cultural dynamics support this kind of behaviour.
But most importantly, we can protect each other from it by reporting trolling behaviour, and deleting comments when we can.
So don’t get used to it. Don’t accept it. We can all do better. But we need to have each others’ backs to get there.