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Editorial: Online misogynists attempt to silence female journalists

After three years with the organization, this will be the last opinion piece I write for The Gateway.

Since becoming a staff member, I’ve been contractually obligated to contribute at least one editorial to the opinion section per semester and I’ve never looked forward to the experience. In part because I don’t enjoy the act of opinion writing, and also because I’ve always been absolutely terrified of being attacked post-print over the internet.

I follow a lot of female journalists on Twitter, some who I know personally and others working in other parts of North America. Though they live in different places, one commonality between them is that I’ve watched almost all of them be aggressively threatened for a piece of work they’ve published.

This fear has generally led me to try and find uncontroversial opinions when putting together my mandatory editorials, since for the longest time, I didn’t feel like I was emotionally strong enough to handle the disgusting harassment I’ve seen my peers receive. So I played it safe. In the past, my opinions have ranged from stuff like “I like Christmas,” to “Ebola is bad” to “I like the Students’ Union.” Even though these are rather bland topics, I still panic when I see comments on the articles, as I’m always terrified of having my intelligence and journalistic integrity questioned, especially due to the thought and effort I put into every piece.

But putting my opinions out there and having others criticize them has made me into a stronger person. I chose to get involved with one of the more visible student groups on campus, which has given me a chance to have my work judged and torn apart by readers, making me a better writer (as I try to improve) and helping me learn to not take criticism of my work personally. There’s always going to be somebody out there who doesn’t agree with what I do or say. And that’s okay.

While I steer as far away from controversy as much as possible most of the time, other writers at The Gateway face it head on, striving to create dialogue about topics that they feel passionately about. I’ve always admired these brave individuals, who seem to give little thought to what the internet will say and simply strive to force campus readers to think critically about issues around them.

The most recent instance of this was when Gateway volunteer Kate McInnes wrote an article discussing why she feels the 5 Days For the Homeless campaign run by some UAlberta students is problematic. This is obviously a polarizing issue, and as made clear by the Facebook comments section on the article, a lot of students across campus are interested in bringing discussion about the event forward. Discourse between students is great, it allows people with differing opinions to come together, debate, learn, and grow as people.

I have been lucky, as I’ve never received gross or threatening messages in my few years as a journalist. But, our writer Kate received excessive, misogynist insults and threats of sexual and physical violence via private messaging when voicing her thoughts on a controversial issue. In a public Facebook post she shared five of the 20 private messages she’s received, with perceptible rises in misogynist violence in each succeeding comment.

Watching these threats is part of what fuels my fear of participating in journalism. From witnessing the Gamergate insanity, to seeing female reporters harassed on camera, to seeing my own friends be called a “stupid bitch” for raising their voice, it makes it hard to want to share thoughts and contribute to the “freedom of speech” everyone fights so hard for. When your chances of being demeaned, having your intelligence questioned, or being threatened is higher, why would you try and contribute to an open platform to voice concerns you have with the world around you?

I have witnessed The Gateway’s comment section over the last two years, and the women who write for the opinion section are much more likely to be accused of having flawed arguments, ill-researched articles, and being told they have no right to comment on a topic than the men who contribute their two cents to any given subject. As McInnes pointed out to someone asking why she’s in journalism if she can’t handle these comments on Facebook, “I don’t see my male colleagues being told they’d sound better with a dick in their mouth.”

Female journalists are three times more likely to be harassed online than their male counterparts, and student journalism is no different. Since we are a campus publication, most readers understand the basics of sexism and racism and don’t directly fall back on calling a woman a “dumb c*nt” when they disagree with her. But that statistic doesn’t exactly create feelings of hope when thinking about being a writer for the rest of your career. If being harassed is considered an occupational hazard by many women in journalism, why would anyone want to enter that industry?

Aggressive threats of physical and sexual violence are part of being on the internet, and while I hate that this is considered a normalcy, it’s a reality. But the intent of these threats when directed at a woman is to silence her and stop her from sharing her opinions. Brushing these off as an occupational hazard just opens the floor to more and more of these comments.

Misogyny is everywhere, and I don’t see women ceasing to be harassed for voicing their opinions anytime soon. But the only way to challenge this is to keep writing and ignoring them.

And that is what I urge fellow women at the university to do. Keep writing. Keep contributing. Keep challenging what you perceive as flawed. Tackle the systemic structures that have been put in place to make a disconcerting number of people think that sexually harassing a woman with an opinion that differs from theirs is okay. This attempt at silencing women should not be tolerated.

Kate McInnes has handled her critics and her bullies exceptionally. I admit that watching her defend her stance as someone uncomfortable with putting myself out there has been inspiring. I truly hope that what has happened based on one article doesn’t deter other women from coming forward to voice their own opinions at The Gateway. Because really, us being afraid to speak out is the intent of these threats, and if we are afraid, we let them win.

All that being said, maybe this won’t be the last opinion piece I write for The Gateway.

41 Comments

  1. You still have no produced ANY research to support your ‘opinion’……..that make me 6 points ahead, I have and opinion and I have provided research to support that opinion.

  2. Look at you all so sweet…I know 12 years you have more knowledge and opinions of both sexs. You’re falling behind real fast, better get a life and education and a job before your displaced by the next generation.

  3. Winner and champine. That wouldn’t be you. You’ve just proved you can’t read, can’t extrapolate can’t research and don’t actually hold any kind of opinion, on anything.

  4. Yeah people are really delusional sometimes its the victimhood complex these feminists and social justice warriors are preaching to us constantly

  5. Agreed people need to stop acting like women need to be protected from the internet . Instead of obsessing over rude comments, ignore them like a normal person.

  6. lol

    so this is a paragraph and a half of weird arguments that have nothing to do with what i was talking about

    culminating in a ridiculous personal attack

    sucks about your shitty life though

  7. I reviewed your links. None of them back up your generalizations.

    If you’re going to make statements like, “80% of the time we are told we are cunts, cock suckers, looking to get fucked. that our ideas are stupid illogical, and ignorant.” you can expect to be challenged.

    Frankly, you are a text book troll yourself, right here with insults like, “I think you are too darn lazy”, “grow up” etc.

  8. http://time.com/8265/internet-trolls-are-actually-sadists-study-finds/

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3408616/Internet-trolls-sadistic-psychopaths-kick-abusing-people-online-Video-reveals-traits-cause-people-post-mean-comments-web.html

    https://cs.stanford.edu/people/jure/pubs/trolls-icwsm15.pdf

    http://www.popmatters.com/column/193518-this-is-why-we-cant-have-nice-things/
    http://ryersonian.ca/online-aggression-and-anonymity/

    I also have personal experience of being THREATENED online in just such a fashion because some ‘troll’ didn’t like being called out for bullying behaviour, I am quite sure he received a knock on his door from the RCMP
    You might want to ask yourself if it is YOUR opinion that is poorly concieved and researched. Personally I think you are too darn lazy to research to support your opinion.

  9. supporting the homeless is problematic that is actually a truth, between the homeless who are agoraphobic, to the mental troubled, to the unemployable, throw in various members of the public who scream blue murder because no ones provide lost cost housing to THEM, and don’t want THERE taxes paying for “drug” addicts, and even more dramatic they don’t want THOSE people in their neighbourhoods. To government bodies who would like a one size fits all solution, but don’t want to pay up keep on city owned houseing, and must also deal with a whole host of problems related to housing for low income to no income citizens. Yeh I’d agree that “supporting the ‘homeless is problematic’ so why don’t you put on your thinking cap maybe you will come up with some brilliant solutions to that complex problem?
    Am I angry YES indeed I am, you are obviously angry as well because you don’t want me or any other woman to hold you accountable for your words, your actions, That might mean you have to become a force for good in the world. Me I’m sitting here recuperating on two levels one from the vicious virus/bacterial infection that has tromped itsway through my head and body for the last two and half weeks, on top of also recuperating from and adapting to the death of my son last year, the triple bypass 17 months ago. Injustice is injustice, and you can’t tell right from wrong, in your relationships and communications with the opposite sex or with the men of the male species who do appreciate and respect the women in their lives and the ones the meet on the street and in the pubs.

  10. ‘5 days for homeless actually removes homelessness from the larger systemic context of social inequality and makes invisible the effects of settler colonialism and
    racism of which homelessness is greatly a product. ‘

    …how?

    What?

    Sometimes people just want to help. That doesn’t remove the greater context at all. What you’re doing is stopping people from helping the homeless because you’d rather they got on your political bandwagon. That is cuntish behavior, so crying about being called mean names after doing so is disingenuous as all hell.

    ‘Click-bait is “Rihanna seen topless”‘

    No, clickbait is any dumb bullshit written just to get clicks. ‘Helping homeless is a problem’ is clickbait.

    Finally, why are you bringing up stalking and threats? If someone did that, arrest them. But I bet they didn’t ; they called a cunt a cunt and now she’s come to cry over it. Too bad, she can suck a dick 🙂

  11. Of course this campaign does a lot of good, it creates awareness, and awareness of homelessness is a step towards its eradication. However, no campaign is perfect, including campaigns for homelessness so yes, many things about this movement are problematic. These are just a few – While the intention is there, 5 days for homeless actually removes homelessness from the larger systemic context of social inequality and makes invisible the effects of settler colonialism and
    racism of which homelessness is greatly a product. At the end of the day, the campaign makes homelessness appear as though it is a passing phase – a fun five day adventure, when in real life homeless young adults couldn’t possibly sleep outside a university library because they’d be thrown out. To help the homeless, long term plans of action have a much higher chance of actually making a change – further than a few months after 5 days of homelessness ends and everyone goes back to pretending the homeless aren’t really there.

    Those who disagree with me can certainly state their claims and I would welcome the discussion but the point of all of this is that nobody (any gender) should be called a cunt or told to suck a dick simply because they’re opening up a discourse. You can disagree by simply saying …”I disagree because of X” but all the hate messages Kate received is just sickening and calling her article click-bait is just strange. Click-bait is “Rihanna seen topless” not “These are the problems a campaign can have”. As well, just so everyone knows: Harassment is not speech. It is an act of violence. It
    can include threats, stalking, abuses of power and others kinds of
    unwelcome attention. So while speech can be used as a means of harassment, harassment itself is not protected speech.This is why there are laws against such behavior.

  12. Yes, saying that a woman would sound better with a dick in her mouth REALLY is just about a man disagreeing with a woman and nothing more. /sarcasam

  13. That kind of ad hominem is precisely the kind of writing that gets critiqued. It doesn’t get any better as an example – a poorly conceived opinion with no factual support. And of course, the preemptive complaint that any criticism is misogyny. Brava.

  14. So I take it your a white male, who believes in bullying and intimidation with which to get your own way and force your opinions on all others as correct and absolute, most specifically any female who has the audacity to speak out against male supremacy most often observed as negative to all women regardless of race, age, or intellect?
    Its sad really sad that so many good men are tarred by your attitudes and opinions rather like Jesus Christ really sent for crucifixion by a crowd of men who could shout louder than the rest. He listened to, talked to and respect the women he met, equally as much as the men who collected taxes, fishermen who stuck of fish and sweat, feild labourers and shepherds who worked so hard and so long, they didn’t get to hear the news and gossip of the day because when they weren’t working they were sleeping. The craftsmen who potted clay and the carpenters who went from village to village to build the buckets, frame the homes, manufacture the tables and chairs, steps, and barrels…..

  15. Never ONCE have I witnessed any male writer/journalist/commentator be described as dickless, I have however seen female writers/journalist/commentators be decribed as dickless as well as cunts.
    very very rarely have I seen anyone counter an opinion, or researched piece point for point with researched and articulate points so the differences can be debated. Perhaps your male buddies should work on that…..

  16. Studies show that males who verbally(in text also) the person are anti social, social inept, and mysoginist,
    Most people can take an attack on an concept, or take issue with someones opinion. or have a reasonable exchange of ideas IF those attacks and exchanges are respectful.
    The editor and many women who share those opinions in comments sections all over the internet are in the main NOT treated with respect. 80% of the time we are told we are cunts, cock suckers, looking to get fucked. that our ideas are stupid illogical, and ignorant. Yet a Man will make the same statements use the same research rational and logic. and will be either applauded or met with counter arguments that are respectful. No ones telling that guy that he’s a cocksucker, or takes it up the rear, or is a cunt.
    When a writer writes for a publication, that publication has taken note of their qualifactions assessed their research abilities, and their writing credentials. They respect that persons opinion and ability to produce the kind of copy which represents their journalistic ethics. Its just too bad they can’t assess the commentators who respond? react with their personal issues to women, to female journalists. So grow up, gather some maturity, honor, and respect.

  17. Surely you are talking about victimizing culture? because that is what I am seeing more and more. People afraid in new situations who victimized to make themselves feel more powerful and less afraid. Accept they NEVER learn how to go into new situations and so they still victimize in every new situation. Never learn new social skills. never learn to manage without mom or daddy, there to intimidate for them.

  18. Your joking aren’t you???????? most girls who are consider by the ‘lookers’ male and female are harassed and bullied made to feel unworthy of even being IN school because of their looks. Stalking is done by anti-social, socially inept males who believe any female the consider less than perfect should be grateful for any attention from any male. Having been ‘stalked’ in highschool by a young male who thought because I didnt date or have a social life that I should tolerate his company and his ‘thump’ of affection, he was shocked to his size 9 dress shoes to have his 6 foot self lifed off his heals by 99lb, 5foot female and told to pick on someone his own size.
    YOU IDIOTS who seem to think you are men rather than males need to spend more time with yourself, learning the roles, the challenges of becoming men. NO male is a man because he puts down women or stalks and rapes.
    You want to be men, then find self respect, find honor, find a role in society that contributes to its betterment. Do good, with honour and self respect. Perhpas then you will have no need to put women down or share, and office, teach a skill, because you will have actually become something and someone worth watching, do your time.

  19. Oh, it has everything to do with it.

    Think about it : she writes clickbait “Supporting the homeless is problematic”. Then she expects to come out of it smelling like roses?

    The rest of your comment really betrays what an angry individual you are. Maybe you’re the one who needs to go ask what it means to be a useful member of society?

  20. sorry what does this have to do with the Editors opinion piece? Oh! right NOTHING.
    So far I’ve read three responses proving the editors point! If you have nothing of value to say to the point, then perhaps you should consider whether you have anything useful to contribute to a society built on the equity of human beings male and female and all the variations in between.
    Once you have done reflecting on the matter, maybe you need to ask your mothers just exactly what it means to be a useful contributing member to a peaceful respectful society???? Perhaps its time you shut off your computer gaming programs, and started sitting in the back of law courts. When you go to the movies sit in on the childrens movies for a change maybe rebuild your innocence, recoupe, your love of your mothers, stopped seeing women as boobs and butts, and remember your mother had to TEACH you to wipe your ass, before you learned to use a computer.

  21. Apparently, university students have trouble distinguishing between aggressive and vigorous criticism and using explicit sexually harrassing language. I see my tax dollars are being put to good use.

  22. Just a tip… If you journalists stopped writing misandrist articles and racist articles against white people (white men in particular), most of this “harassment” would stop. You write antagonizing material that enrages people, and you act surprised when you receive hate mail later? I mean, you journalists write garbage such as “White men must be stopped: The very future of mankind depends on it” then you have the audacity to claim you are persecuted after receiving hate mail. It seems like you like playing innocent.

  23. Sara, if I were to point out that victim culture has no border between US and Canadian universities, and that you’re being petty, would you see that as misogyny?

    Note that I’m stating this as a hypothetical to protect your feelings.

  24. If a writer slings crap, be prepared for some of it to get on themselves. Men or women who pick fights of course will get backlash. When the writer is a woman, calling the backlash “misogyny” is cliche and elevates them to gender warrior martyrdom.

    Ms. Cryser, people can dislike your ideas without it being misogyny. When a man is on the receiving end of ridicule nobody says it’s misandry. And some women don’t do your cause any favors. The George Elliott Twitter trial revealed the pettiness of some of the claims women make about “harassment”. Stephanie Gurtherie liked to dish it, but couldn’t take it. Unfortunately a man’s life was turned upside down on the way to being exonerated.

  25. You just can’t scream harassment and misogyny whenever someone calls you out just because you are a woman. That’s completely irrelevant to WHY people are angry in the first place.

    When you don’t do your job correctly and have no regard for proper ethics or procedure and think you can just right whatever the hell you want without ANY fact-checking, you WILL be called on it. Instead of whining that the internet is sexist, realize you are just a crappy person and people are getting mad at your ACTIONS and not your identity. Trying to deflect criticisms is just lazy and pathetic.

  26. I wish I could have an easy out to just lump all of my critics as a bunch of -ists when I get called out for saying stupid shit online.
    Look, if you want universal approbation, you’re in the wrong business. People will disagree with journalists. If it’s online journalism rather than a printed paper, they’ll call you a ‘dumb c*nt’ where ‘d&ckless’ doesn’t apply. This is not out of a belief that your gender makes you inferior, it’s because they don’t agree with what you wrote and they’re also assholes.

  27. Fat ugly girls don’t get stalked. Sure they wish they were, and they fantasize about it. But it never actually happens.

  28. “I’m always terrified of having my intelligence and journalistic integrity questioned”

    “When your chances of being demeaned, having your intelligence questioned, or being threatened is higher”

    Questioning and critiquing opinions is something valuable and necessary to discussion and critical thought, something that good journalism (even merely online) should aim to open. Someone disagreeing with you is not the same and should not be greeted with the same hide-in-shell response as being actually harassed online, and I feel like equating the two is doing an injustice to people who actually are harassed online. You deal a little with how criticism is okay in your opening paragraphs, but then jump back into describing how criticism is something to be feared again in the next.

    Your fear of being questioned because of all the “thought and effort” you put into every piece and the fear of harassment are two discrete fears. Conflating the two is what has led to this “criticism is misogyny” nonsense that has pervaded and dampened discussion forums in recent years. If you have indeed put a lot of thought and effort into your work, be proud of it. Discuss valid feedback on level terms and ignore clear ad hominem. Sometimes people read too much into criticism and treat it as a personal attack. As an online journalist, if this bothers you to the point that you can’t write, your initial thoughts might be right, and the career might not be one for you.

  29. Sara, given that many of your ilk ARE doing so, it’s really not as irrelevant as you would think. In this case, you may substitute ‘Canadian’ or ‘British’ as you like with the same results.

  30. “The reactions to X prove X” shouts the kafkatrap.

    And look at this shit: ‘The most recent instance of this was when Gateway volunteer Kate McInnes wrote an article discussing why she feels the 5 Days For the Homeless campaign run by some UAlberta students is problematic.’

    Really? A CHARITY movement of college students supporting THE HOMELESS is problematic? I can’t imagine how. Oh wait, yes I can – the writer needed some clickbait and found something to complain about. Then she got ‘harassed’ for it, what a shocker.

  31. Come back and answer your own question when you’ve been stalked both online and in reality. I think you’ll find that you lose an equal amount of sleep at night regardless of whether your stalker is at your door or watching your social media to find out where you’re headed for the day.

    And also… “American College”? Did you mean, “Canadian University,” perchance? Or is that particular comparison just completely irrelevant to the article/Travis’ reply?

  32. I wish it were bait. But you have to ask yourself, if it is really appropriate to equate real life stalking with online stalking, or being burned with cigarettes to people saying mean things on the Internet, or what is happening inside Islamic State to an American College.

  33. Hurin, this is like prefab bait looking for a response right? A rudimentary example of the junk feedback these authors deal with on a regular basis? Well done. Well done.

  34. It used to be that words like misogyny, harassment and abuse actually meant something. But I swear you people have used them so often you have actually worn them out.
    Today these words are reduced to describing a situation where a man disagrees with a woman.

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