UnFree Blogosphere and the Price that Women Pay

By Astrid Rachelle Fiano, Esq.

I happened across this story in the latest Slate, and I find it relevant both as a story about blogging, and as a very disturbing collateral effect of gender discrimination. Kathy Sierra either disbanded her blog or at least reduced activity on her blog due to repeated attacks against her by anonymous and semi-anonymous posters to her blog and other blogs. The attacks involved the typical language and gender epithets usually expressed to bully a woman into a state of fear, including expressions of sexual violence. Photo-shopped graphics were also posted, apparently with the intention of terrorizing Ms. Sierra.

Ms. Sierra’s blog concerned metacognition and computers, not abortion, the EPA, Equal Pay, Gay rights or any usual incendiary subjects. Yet, the vitriol directed towards her would seem that she had done a disservice to the very essence of manhood (the attacks were more than likely from all male posters). In fact, according to Slate, such posts against females on the net, including bloggers, are on the rise. One question becomes how does a woman handle this—get away as soon as possible, or refuse to be cowed. That probably depends upon the woman and her ability and sensitivity to targeted violence—I doubt Ms. Sierra even imagined that such misogynistic reaction would occur.

A macrocosmic take is that the reaction from these males explains why gender discrimination is still prevalent, and still so hard to fight. Any time a woman is able to professionally and competently, not to mention expertly, present herself as an authority on an issue, it seems to provoke an atavistic response to take her down. This fear, hatred and violence is just under the surface of certain men, and expressed in the freedom of web anonymity, but also in every condescending comment to a female worker, every instance of favoritism towards a male employee, every action taken on a sense of entitlement to a sexual favor (the same under-acknowledged problem of misogynistic attitude exists in the still-unsolved decades-long murder and torture of women in Juarez, Mexico).

In a way, I’m glad this phenomena has occurred, as it may remind women, and men who support womens’ causes, that until such behavior and misogynistic opinions are considered by the populace to be the wrong thing to do, and such sentiment is continually expressed over these actions gender discrimination will never end.