Online harassment is an issue that affects women’s ability to safely access and use social media. Many women have been outright driven away from social media by armies of harassers. This issue would already be serious if social media was being used in a relatively casual way, after all women should be entitled to interact online just as much as men, but as social media becomes a bigger and bigger part of people’s lives it becomes more and more difficult to function without the use of social media. Many jobs require some degree of a social media presence. Because of this many women are in a difficult position, where online misogynists make going online incredibly difficult while at the same time not going online limits their opportunities.
One social media platform that has become a hotbed for harassment is twitter. Due to the openness of twitter, trolls are able to deliberately set up harassment campaigns against specific individuals. These campaigns are often done in a very subtle way, for example a popular anti-feminist, such as Milo Yiannopoulis, Thunderf00t, or Vox Day, will begin arguing with a feminist’s posts in order to draw their fans attention to these individuals. Their own interaction may or may not qualify as harassment itself. For example, Milo Yiannopoulis directly engaged in harassment towards his targets whereas Thunderf00t tends to go out of his way to avoid explicitly calling for harassment. A recent trend for organizing these campaigns in the neo-Nazi community is to find someone who either is Jewish or whose last name at least sounds Jewish and to put their last name in triple parenthesis. The other neo-Nazi’s will see this and they will all target the same individual.
This affects women in a number of ways. Of course, there is already the emotional fallout of having a large group of strangers sending them abuse and rape threats. A lot of this serves as a silencing tactic. The women are unable to voice their own opinions for fear of what will happen if they speak out. The anti-feminist Jack Barnes has admitted that this is his deliberate goal in targeting women. http://www.wehuntedthemammoth.com/2016/01/19/jack-barnes-mra-feminists-need-to-learn-to-fear-retribution-from-us/
Some women have felt forced to quit social media entirely because of this. Obviously even on the surface this is terrible, but it goes deeper. Social media has become a huge part of life and is more and more necessary for day to day life. Many women don’t have a choice when it comes to whether to use social media or not. This is especially apparent when one considers that some trolls find their targets’ email addresses and go out of their way to send harassing e-mails. Some companies do the majority of their pre-interview applications through e-mail, so these women have to sort through vulgar and threating e-mails in order to find employment. Further, there are some jobs that are done primarily or entirely online, but given the nature of many online communities these jobs are less accessible to women. For example of online e Ellen Pao was the CEO of the online forum Reddit. After some unpopular actions from her, both because of the dismissal of a popular moderator being misattributed to her and her attempts to clamp down on some of the harassment going on in the site, the community turned on her. The forum was filled with racist memes relating to her calling her “Chairman Pao.” They attempted to get her personnel information and sent her and her colleagues death threats. Eventually Pao resigned. This shows just how powerful a tool harassment has become in the hands of misogynists and racists. Normally it would seem rather odd to describe a silicon valley CEO as not being in a position of power, but due to her gender and her race she was targeted and eventually the harassers got what they wanted when she stepped down.
Really all of this can be boiled down to issues of accessibility. Women are often unable to access social media in the same way as men do. Where most men can make a post about their opinions as a matter of course, many women have to be exceedingly cautious about what they say if they want to avoid being dogpiled by trolls. When these men look through their e-mails, they don’t have to filter through hundreds of threating e-mails. And finally, if these men take on a job that has a heavy social media component they don’t have to worry about bitter trolls doing everything in their power to make their jobs as miserable as possible. Harassment has not only made social media inaccessible to women, but inaccessible to women who need it. By targeting these women on social media, the trolls are able to target them in all aspects of their lives.