I’m making it a point to strategically share some of the online harassment I’ve received after launching my Tropes vs Women in Video Games Kickstarter. I’ve already posted about the harassment via YouTube and Wikipedia but these were not the only abusive cyber mob tactics employed to try and silence me.
After struggling with whether or not to make the extent of the attacks public I’ve decided that it’s ultimately important to shed light on this type of abuse because online harassment and bullying are at epidemic levels across the internet.
In addition to the aggressive actions against me that I’ve already shared, the harassers launched DDoS attacks on my site, attempted to hack into my email and other social media accounts and reported my Twitter and YouTube accounts as “terrorism”, “hate speech” or “spam”. They also attempted to “dox” and distribute my personal contact info including address and phone number on various websites and forums (including hate sites).
In this post I will detail some of the image based online harassment and visual misogyny I have been subjected to over the past few weeks. Image based harassment is another common weapon used against women and members of marginalized groups online – often in conjunction with other forms of harassment. It’s certainly not unique to my situation. Recently Bioware writer Jennifer Hepler, Shakesville’s blogger Melissa McEwan and British columnist Laurie Penny have all been targeted by similar image based harassment campaigns.
Humorous photoshop manipulation, cartoons and image macros are a legitimate and important part of a healthy political discourse online especially when used to challenge powerful institutions, leaders or regressive social norms (the Privilege Denying Dude and Boehner’s Woman Problem are two of my recent favorites). It’s important to remember though that these same tactics can be employed as tools of oppression to lash out at or bully members of marginalized groups. There is a difference between using ridicule to challenge power and using it as a weapon to police the status quo by reinforcing sexism, racism or homophobia.
The image based harassment I’m discussing here is not part of any legitimate discourse but instead falls squarely into the category of misogynist abuse. It’s a critical distinction and is evidenced by the fact that all of the images are attacking my gender or presumed sexuality and rely heavily on pre-existing sexist stereotypes.
Image based harassment includes everything from vulgar photo manipulation to creating pornographic or degrading drawings of rape and sexual assault with the target’s likeness. These harassment images are then sent en masse to the target through email, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook or any other online service with messaging capabilities. Part of the trolling strategy with these images is also to try and get them to appear in search results for the target’s name as a way to attack their online reputation.
This harassment is best classified as a cyber mob attack as it’s a hate campaign loosely organized through various internet forums. Participating harassers will share these images as a way to show off and gain validation from their peers as well as to try and recruit others to join the harassment campaign.
The ultimate goal of this behaviour is to try and intimidate, scare and silence women by creating an online environment that is too hostile, toxic and disturbing to endure.
**SERIOUS TRIGGER WARNING**
The following images are vile, hateful, pornographic, and disgusting. Some rise to the level of what could be called imaged based threats or visual sexual assault. You should not feel obligated to read any further. I have taken steps to blur out some of the more graphic images and placed detailed text descriptions of the content underneath. Keep in mind that these are only a selected few of the harassing images that have been sent to me.