ACHTUNG: enthält Begriffe, die Sie gegebenfalls verstören oder beleidigen könnten.
*trigger warning: Content contains explicit language
„Bitch, I cut your head off and rape your neck!“
„You fucking writer-cunt, you are shit, your work is shit, go and do some blowjobs!“
„You wanna get paid? What for? Try to sell yourself at a refugee camp!“
Excuse me for surprising you with these. But this is what online harassment is like: You are opening your email, your twitter, your wordpress blog account, and find some new and absolutely unexpected comments or messages. Then: Bam. A slap in the face. Anonymously – sometimes not even that! – some threaten to hurt, to rape, to kill you.
(Dieser Artikel von Nina George, Womens Writers-Beauftragte des deutschen PEN, ist Teil der Länderreports zur Situation schreibender Frauen und wurde vom PEN-Zentrum Deutschland zum 49sten Internationalen PEN und PEN International Womens Writers‘ Committee-Treffens in Bled, Slowenien am 10.5.2017 präsentiert. Er erscheint am 27.6.2017 auf Deutsch) —> Weiterlesen:
I received these extreme messages – here just three out of fifty or sixty over the last two years – because of a photo that showed me with the Turkish journalist Can Dündar; the other abusers told me they would feed their swine with my dead body or send policemen to skin me. The second one was a reply to an article about ebook piracy online and the risk of profit cuts for writers concerning the business of second-hand ebooks. The last one I got for a critical essay about freedom of speech on the web as well as about fees for authors and the value gap on the Internet between intermediaries and artists. Not very controversial topics, actually.
Every time when I am about to write about women, women’s rights, authors’ rights, or make a public statement as a speaker, or in a panel, or on air, I get at least one to ten messages that are sometimes abusive, hateful or just mean but not mean enough to call the police.
I write columns, which are published in 31 newspapers simultaneously. I am an activist on women’s and authors’ rights and consultant for several German political parties. I also give lectures or write something for a bigger audience on a regular basis.
Yet, now I expect a hate message every time I do it online.
Welcome in the daily life of a woman writer.
„Go and die!“ Online harassment is about abusing women – not men
A great deal of hate speech online is addressed at women journalists, bloggers and video bloggers, speakers and activists as well as women writers – simply because they are women. Several studies and research all over the world state that women writers are the main target of online-abuse in UK, in India, in US, in Germany and elsewhere. 5 % of all messages a woman writer receives harasses or attacks her.
Every fourth young woman has been stalked online and faced with sexual harassment. According to the „Gender Equality Unit“ of the European Commission, women in media, politics, and also female human rights defenders are much more attacked than their male colleagues. The European „No Hate Speech Movement“ says that particularly Muslim women, refugee women, feminists as well as women who speak up in public are the main victims of trolls and haters in Germany and Europe.
As soon as a woman speaks up, some people – most of them men, most of them strangers to the female writers – use hate speech and online harassment to try to silence her, to push her out of a particular, common and important digital space – on Twitter, Facebook or in comments of newspapers and blogposts online. Online misogyny spreads quicker than herpes.
„Ugly feminazi-slut“: Freedom of Speech or Cyber-Mobbing?
The DEMOS-Report, „Misogyny on Twitter“, found more than 6 million instances of the word „slut“ or „whore“ used on the platform in a span of just six weeks. Twenty percent of the misogyny study tweets appeared to be threatening. An example: „You stupid ugly fucking slut I’ll go to your flat and cut your fucking head off you inbred whore.“
A second DEMOS study showed that while male celebrities, male journalists, and male politicians have to deal with the highest likelihood of online hostility, it is women, who are significantly more likely to be targeted specifically because of their gender.
By the way, half of the tweets to blame a woman as a slut came from … women.
The British newspaper The Guardian has analysed 70 million comments left on its site since 2006. The Guardian discovered that of the 10 most abused writers eight are women – and the two men are black or gay. Regardless of what the female journalists are writing about, they receive the most hateful comments and threats – mostly from men. Some sections at The Guardian attracted more extreme comments, the highest rate of blocked disruptive comments against female writers are: opinion, articles about women’s rights, politics, sports (soccer!), environment, Israel – and rape.
All of these women writers have often been degraded with so-called „author abuse“ instead of being criticized with regards to content. For example: „You are so ugly, you are underfucked, you are a femi-nazi“. At its most extreme, the abuse takes the form of threats to kill, rape, or maim. The less extreme, but very common abuse is body-blaming or comments against ethnicity, sexuality, and religion.
Is this still freedom of speech? In Germany, we have no laws against „Online-Harassment“, even though Heiko Maas, minister of justice, promotes a so-called “Netzdurchsetzungsgesetz”. But this draft law would leave censorship to private enterprises, which may be not in the best interest of freedom of speech.
But there is the UN-Charta:
„Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.“
Women have a right to use their voices and to express themselves in whatever way they want. Hate speech is a violation of this right. Hate speech is not free speech, and anyone campaigning for freedom of expression online should be concerned about how hate speech affects this right for women.
Article 27(1), United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
„Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.“
Since hate speech is used to silence women and push them out of public spaces, it affects the right to participate in culture and minimizes the benefits of scientific advancement.
Women’s right to participate in online culture is a critical part of full participation in public life.
„I’ll burn down your house“: Violence: From virtual to real
Another way of abusing women writers is online bullying like stalking and mobbing, DDoSiNg (meaning to hack their blogs and websites down or to crash their email-browsers), sending them rape and revenge-porn-videos, photoshopping their faces onto pornographic images and putting these pics online, and spreading false information about their bio or enterprise.
A report from the World Health Organization called violence against women „a global health problem of epidemic proportion“, from domestic abuse, stalking, and street harassment to sex trafficking, rape, and murder. This epidemic is thriving in the petri dish of social media.
German journalist and feminist Anna Wizorek as well as TV-Journalist Anja Reschke also report having received threats to be killed and raped; they call it: „a mirror of society“. Wizorek writes about sexism, while Reschke is the head of politics for NDR radio.
Maybe the outright abuse of female journalists and women writers on the internet is just another attempt to get control over any woman who raises her voice.
Do not feed the trolls. Or: What to do?
Sometimes the trolls are successful. Women stop blogging, posting, they shut down their social-media-accounts or even move house. Anita Sarkeesian, the Canadian-American media critic, blogger and founder of Feminist Frequency, was targeted by an online harassment campaign following her launch of a Kickstarter project to fund “Tropes vs. Women” in Video Games series, examining gender tropes and sexism in video games. Someone created a game in which thousands of players could virtually thrash her face. In October 2014, Sarkeesian received terrorist threats pertaining to her planned lecture at the University of Utah the following day; she cancelled the event.
„Ignorance is bliss”, „do not read the comments“, or „Do not feed the trolls“: the days of downplaying the extent of the problem are over. All of this raises a series of questions though: Who is controlling the proliferation of hate speech?
Should someone be responsible to block or allow it – or would this be against freedom of speech? Social media companies like Facebook often do nothing against violence or hate speech against women.
So, what can we do?
Education – see the bookmarks of https://www.nohatespeechmovement.org/bookmarks
Laws – to protect people from cyber-mobbing
Confronting, blaming and shaming – of misogyny: put this issue in the media.
Moderate and help others when they are attacked. Support those people who are not haters.
Talk about it – offline, too: Do not let hate speech become the norm.
Audience – talk about the subject in public. The changing of the PEN-Charter follows the idea of protecting writers and their voice – every writer when she is abused.
By the way, I hired a lawyer, who managed to track down the anonymous young man who suggested the following to me: „You fucking writers-cunt, you are shit, your work is shit, go and do some blowjobs!“
The man was sentenced to pay a fine of 2000 Euros and write a letter of apology to me.
However, I still ignore the trolls, and I never answered that letter.
Dieser Artikel ist Teil der Länderreports der Womens Writers-Beauftragten der weltweiten PEN-Zentren und wurde vom PEN-Zentrum Deutschland zum 49sten Internationalen PEN und PEN International Womens Writers‘ Committee-Treffens in Bled, Slowenien vom 10. bis 13. Mai 2017 präsentiert. Die Jahresthemen 2017 des PEN International: The Landscapes of Chaos, War and Peace and Is Hate Speech a Declaration of War?
Online-Harassment und Hate Speech treffen vor allem schreibende Frauen – aber auch ethnische Minderheiten, Flüchtlinge oder LGBT-Gemeinschaften. Das Internationale Womens Writers Committee des PEN arbeitet an einem Manifest sowie konkreten Handlungsaufforderungen, um mit diesem weltweit zunehmendem Phänomen des „Kriegs mit Worten“ umzugehen. Es wird im September auf dem jährlichen PEN-Kongress verabschiedet.
Nina George (43) ist Womens Writers-Committee-Beauftragte des PEN-Zentrum Deutschlands. In Kürze (27.6.2017) erscheint der Text hier ebenfalls als deutsche Übersetzung.
UPDATE: 19th June 2017, new translation by Astrid Ule & Eric T. Hansen