Hate, hate on the web

The back-and-forth of the recent verbal threats and harassment against blogger and tech guru Kathy Sierra is evolving into some more reflective commentary. For those of you who have a Salon subscription, I recommend the essay “Men who hate women on the web.”

One of the thoughtful and wry observations Salon editor Joan Walsh makes in the piece:

“And what does it mean that women writers have to drag around this anchor every time they start to write — that we reflexively compose our own hate mail, and sometimes type and retype to try to avoid it? I can honestly say it’s probably made me more precise and less glib. That’s good. But it’s also, for now, made me too cautious. I write less than I would if I wasn’t thinking these thoughts. I think that’s bad.”

That really struck home with me — the part about composing your own hate mail. It’s so easy to do! If a woman is overweight, she’ll be called “a fat ____”; underweight, she’s “a scrawny ____.” Old? That would be a “wrinkly ____.” Well-educated? “Ivory Tower ____.” Under-educated? “Trailer park ____.”

And on we go. If someone like Kathy Sierra (who looks like a model for the J. Jill fashion catalog, and is one of the strongest writers in the blogosphere) comes in for this sort of abuse, it’s not hard to imagine what could happen to the rest of us!

Perhaps I’m reading the wrong blogs, but it seems to me that the 20-somethings active on the web, men and women, have been oddly silent during this discussion. Is this dynamic absent from their web experience? Is this discussion so “old school” that it’s irrelevant to them? I’d be curious to know.


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