Frontend Drupal developer with a penchant for arts & crafts. A floral geek some might say!

Harassment in the digital age

I hate that I'm writing this but I seem to be seeing this happen more and more today. Its happened to me personally and it's happening to my friends. I think pretty much every female developer has to deal with it, every female with an online presence actually... fuck it, every female. And men too but I can't really speak for that side of things but I can and will speak of the things that have affected and upset me.

People are going to disagree with your opinion and you with theirs and as a good friend says, "and that's ok". Because it's just an opinion, it's neither truth or lies. I think this is where a lot of confusion lies, people can't tell the difference between fact and fiction. Truth or Opinion.

If you share how you feel about something online and people respond to you saying you're wrong and FOO is right. They are wrong. They could come to you saying "I understand that is how you feel but did you know FOO, when I found out this it changed my opinion on the matter" but that's not what happens is it. People just fire a link to some article somewhere at you or spout off some fact which might in a half-arsed way be related. They don't stop to have any empathy for your situation they just plough in and impart their wisdom in an all and powerful way.

There's a term called mansplaining, which makes my skin crawl in itself, that is prevalent in my circles of social media. I think it has come about because everyone is so connected with each other these day that you believe you know these people. You believe you have a right to tell someone something in simpler terms because, well, they've never mentioned it before so they obviously don't know what it so better explain it in simply terms. Now let me mansplain for you. It's typically MEN who feel the need to EXPLAIN things for women who don't know better. Thanks guys, but you know what, I got it covered. If I don't understand something, I'll google the shit out of it until I understand it or maybe, just maybe, I'll ask someone that I trust to help me with what I want to learn. KEYWORD TIME: Trust. I don't read facebook shared posts and consider them to be piece of factual and educational literature. Just someone's opinion.

So what happens when this mansplaining, or confusion between fact and opinion gets heating and people start trolling or not giving in, how do you deal with it?

In a pub if someone starts "putting the world to rights" and you don't agree with it you get up and walk away. Or if you're really classy, you have a fight in the street and one of you gets carted off in a police riot van to stay in a nice comfy cell for the night.

As a woman who likes to go to the pub or have a dance on a night out I also encounter other kinds of harassment, such as guys who feel they are entitled to touch me or get into my personal space. Now normally I'd deal with this by getting someone else involved. You see, as a short female, some men don't value my worth enough to be able take my word for things. When I say I'm not interested, I'm really not. It isn't a game.

You should really be able to gauge that from the death stare on my face.

Anyway the other person is usually ANY taller man in the room, you just point at someone and say "He's my boyfriend" and go walk up to him, even if you don't know him. That's a skill I learned back when I was 18 and it rarely fails and with any luck the man you pointed at isn't a complete dick and you can smile sweetly, explain the situation and he'll turn to give the pest a menacing glare.

But what do you when this happens online? How do you get away from the trolls and pests without it ruining your life?

Everyone I spoke to has had a similar response to this question. Block them.

Well that's great and all but what happens when they start talking to your friends about you or the situation. Why should you have to go and explain YOURSELF to everyone because of someone else's actions?

Recently a friend asked for some help with a problem of theirs and they didn't like my advice. I wasn't offended that they didn't like it, it was my opinion and up to them to take it on or not. They trusted me enough to ask me, and I felt I had some advice to give on the subject having been in a similar situation before. Now the problem here is that the friend then decided to be angry with me because my opinion wasn't what they wanted to hear. I chose not to be offended by this and carried on with my life. I got a few emails telling me I was wrong but it still isn't a big deal. Then I was blocked on all social media account we were friends on. Ok, their choice, I'm upset by it but it's their call who they talk to or not.

So at this point I'm blocked from seeing what is being said about me on social media by this person, people ask me questions and I try to be as vague about it as possible. It isn't their business but they do care. The friend still isn't happy with what I said, asking for some facts that I simply can't provide. They get even more angry about this and the email come more frequent. I've been blocked from having a voice, but bad things are being sad about me behind my back, great! I'm a big girl, I can cope with that.

But these emails, do I block them? (It's ok, I'm computer literate enough to know how to do this, I made this website don't you know!) No I can't block them, firstly because this is my friend who seems to be in a bad place, secondly because this is the only way I can keep my eye on how angry they are at me, what if they come round and attack me? Things just got real... my head is telling me all the things I've learned from being a short girl in a pub. This person could get up in my space pretty easily. I tell them that I don't want to talk to them about this matter again and that I'd call the police if it happens again.

So when they contact me again and this time are very personal towards me, I pull on my big girl pants and I call the police. When I said I would, that was a fact, not an opinion. They deal with the matter and now there is a court case in my future, more greatness.

Now this person hasn't found resolution in their problems and other people are being affected by this, but hopefully at some point they will see that I was neither wrong or out to get them.

This series of incidents were actually easy to resolve. There are laws which state that when they are wrong. I knew this person so although the harassment was online mostly, it was easy to walk away.

But what about online, when you aren't sure about their real name or where they live? We're back to blocking them. That's all we need to do isn't, just push that button... but then they make a new account and they talk to your followers about you, they try to make you out to be something you're not and you're left with the only option of creating a new account and hoping they don't find you at the same time as hoping the other people who you want to be friends with DO find you.

A friend is having this problem on twitter at the moment with a guy in India being very creepy and personal towards her and a few of her BookTube friends, it all started when he didn't like their opinion and now it's escalated and causing a problem to a lot of girls. Twitter aren't interested in helping them, the only information they know about him is where he works, and although that could be incorrect they only really have one option and that is to tell the employer and hope he actually does work there. Then, again, hope that someone with 'authority' has the empathy or understand the problem with this and actually takes action.

Why is it so hard to tell someone that you don't care for their opinions or want to be bothered by them any longer so difficult?

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