With the ever-increasing population online on social media apps such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, women have become victims of online harassment. Women often experience speech that may incite hatred, violence, harm and all of which are often highly gendered and highly sexualised. Though many social media platforms have policies in place to protect groups from hate speech, it still exists and is still very much a part of women’s everyday life online.
Social media platforms portray themselves as accessible to all, where everybody can express themselves freely. However, what these social media platforms fail to recognise is that women experience a certain amount of social control within their lives. This control may be pressured by family, public space, education or even the state. These controls demand women to behave in a certain way focusing on their appearance, sexual reputation and the conformity to feminine norms. Due to the way patriarchy behaves, when women step out of these, they are punished.
This punishment offline may include, humiliation, criticism, violence or even formal punishment. Online, when women step beyond these social controls, they often encounter extreme abuse. This can range from name-calling all the way to rape threats and the sharing of women’s personal information often jeopardising their personal safey.
Amnesty International conducted a poll asking about women’s experiences of online violence. Their results showed that around half of women who had experienced online abuse said that this abuse included sexist or misogynistic comments.
16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence
The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign that kicks off on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until 10 December, Human Rights Day. Online Harassment and Online misogyny are a form of violence which impairs women’s ability to function normally. Reflecting on the aim of #16DaysofActivism, misogynistic hate speech really can act as a form of violence towards women. While laws against online harassment are yet to catch-up, crime rates are on the rise everywhere.
Misogynistic Hate Speech: A Form of Violence Against Women
Some of the effects of being a target include:
Constant monitoring of the material they post
Adopting male personas with the hope to avoid online harassment
Issues regarding self-image
Withdrawing from social media altogether
All of these effects listed are brief categorizations and do not discuss the effects on individual women, hate speech can affect everyone differently. However, the effects listed above demonstrate how women’s voices can be silenced by online abuse and violate women’s right to freedom of expression.
Misogynistic hate speech presents real harm towards women and it must be recognized as a real form of violence. Through these #16DaysOfActivism, we must begin to raise awareness for social media platforms to step up and provide a safe environment for women to express themselves. Online violence reflects the patriarchal systems present offline, therefore, we must begin to tackle gender inequality simultaneously to eradicate online violence towards women.
Misogynists specifically target, troll, or abuse women who express their political, social views or dare to disagree with traditional views on social media – a constant challenge faced by women activists or leaders. Addressing online violence will require collective efforts from individuals, corporations, and governments. We invite and encourage everyone to speak up against any form of online misogyny and harassment of women.