By Seana Sperling
It seems that more and more we are hearing female scribes and filmmakers speak of coming under some kind of attack, whether it is cyber attack or other types of attack in the physical world. Naomi Wolf speaks of tampered and intercepted mail in her YouTube presentation of her book The End of America. Gloria Naylor speaks of stalking, monitoring and defamation of character in her fictionalized memoir, 1996. At a 2008 Town Hall presentation in Seattle, Amy Goodman spoke about being detained at the U.S. Canadian border. She also spoke of having to guard her dying mother while her mother was in the hospital. What do these women have in common? They are all talented, outspoken liberals and all have come under attack in the “Land of the Free.”
The antipathy towards women with opinions becomes even more evident when you go online. From anonymous posts on the Internet to bigoted articles dressed up as jest, female writers are prominent targets. The excerpt below is from a letter to The Stranger Newspaper posted on their SLOG. “When you publish articles condemning misogyny and then organize social events for people telling your female writers to go kill themselves, it’s tough to believe your job is not just to cash in on human misery while pretending to care.” http://slog.thestranger.com/categories/teh_internets/page3.html Some female writers have even received death threats on SLOG.
So why now, in this enlightened age, are these attacks tolerated? Why is it that some old Neo-Nazi can say any inflammatory thing he wishes and does not get Trolled to Death, yet many will go on attack if a woman stands up for her rights or the rights of others?
A female filmmaker for Hollaback recently created a video of a woman walking through the streets of New York. She was constantly catcalled, and a couple of times followed while being catcalled and no bystander said a word to the bullies. When has this ever been acceptable behavior?
Later, much discussion and criticism of the woman filmmaker followed online and even on some soft-News programs. In a civil and equal society, verbal abuse should not be tolerated against anyone. Why in the new millennium are women still being targeted for this type of bullying? Also, why would there be such a backlash against the woman filmmaker for merely outing the bullies? Can’t people handle the truth?
There was a video of women catcalling men that was circulating on Facebook. Yes. It is funny, but only because it is ironic. Women are taught from youth to be kind, respectful and above all quiet. Society allows the boys to be obnoxious, loud, extroverts. If a man is commanding, loud, etc., he is a leader. Yet, if a woman exhibits these characteristics, then she is called a b%^*&h.
I recall driving to the mall with a couple of gay male friends in 2005. There was little parking, but I spotted a space in another aisle. I jumped out and ran over to hold it for the driver to park. I suppose I must have made some kind of driving faux pas because my friends seemed irritated and one said, “You are such a Lesbian.” Since I’m straight and he knows it, I suppose this was meant as a put down, but I certainly did not take it that way. It is interesting to see how this word was used to put me in my place, as if calling me a lesbian was some kind of punishment. Frankly, I know, and have known some really brilliant and funny lesbians, so I just took that as a compliment. It did show his antipathy towards women however, which was a little shocking. How dare I, a mere woman, do anything out of the ordinary.
The disrespect shown to women on the street, the backlash against women who call the bullies out, the attacks on women who are public figures all point to a dangerous rise in discrimination against women. It also points to society’s rising tolerance of the behavior.
Hopefully, this is the apex of the cycle of discrimination against women, people of color and all minorities. Hopefully the bullies will back off and the hatred will soon wane. There is that hope, but we cannot just wait. All of us must bring awareness by writing, filming, speaking, etc. about the injustices and discriminatory treatment some are experiencing. Don’t let the rightwing trolls drive women and people of color from the Internet. Don’t let the bullies harass either on the street.
A woman should be able to walk down a street without so much negative attention directed at her. A woman should be able to exercise her first amendment right without fear of retaliation by Internet Trolls. We should all have our constitutional rights, women, people of color, the poor and other minorities. Otherwise, The Constitution and Bill of Rights, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Women’s Movement and all the other work that went into making the U.S. a free land, has been squandered.