At the Center for Inquiry’s Women in Secularism conference this may, Soraya Chemaly gave a presentation discussing how the free expression of women online is being threatened. Part of her presentation was on the ways women are uniquely targeted, but the part that brought the most clarity to this issue for me was the section of her talk where she discussed how our societal definitions of violence are gendered.
Violence, threatened violence, and implied violence that targets men is recognized, validated, and taken seriously. These threats are real threats. Violence, threatened violence, and implied violence that targets women is not recognized. Instead it is redefined to be something else. It is a reaction to a provocation. It is an interpersonal disagreement that has inconveniently demanded public notice. It is the cost of being online. It is anything other than what it is: violence, threatened violence, and implied violence.
When we demand that misogynist harassment be taken seriously, we are saying that the implied violence and threats of violence against women be recognized in the same way that implied violence and threats of violence against men are recognized. We demand that rules regarding harassment be written to detect both kinds of threats equally. We demand that the tools to deal with harassment work as well on the abuse that targets women* as on the abuse that targets men.
Stephanie Zvan, ‘Are Men Reallu Harassed more than Women?’