From the folks at BlogHer, today is Stop Cyberbullying Day. For many women the internet has become another place of fear. Threats of rape, violence, cruelty and just plain bullying have stopped many women from using their voice. Read a recent story here.
I know I've allowed the pressure of a group of sexist men to shut me up on various sites. I felt it was easier to hide my opinions and let other voices prevail than stand up to a group of cruel voices. I've had the trolls leave sexual comments on my blog (as well as the fundies who tell me I'm going to hell). I try to not let this bother me and just continue to use my voice. But my experience is small compared to other women - the ones who fear leaving their homes or writing anything at all.
Control through fear is one common way for women to be denied a voice. From the outspoken/thoughtful women who were tortured with a scolds bridle for daring to voice an opinion to those who were downed/burned as witches for using their minds there has always been ways to silence women through fear. Now its the threat of rape and violence (complete with photoshopped pictures) that is forcing women into silence.
Hate speech and threats (even online) are illegal and should be reported. But it will take groups of women coming together to say that we won't take this. When we see a woman being bullied online our response shouldn't be to avoid conflict and involvement leaving her to fend for herself. We should support her (even when we may not agree with her). We need to let others know that threats are not permitted, nor are they a valid way to win the argument by forcing dissenters into a fearful silence.
I encourage everyone to use their voice, support women, and take a stand against cyberbullying.