News & Politics

How the Web Became a Sexist's Paradise

Everyone receives abuse online but the sheer hatred thrown at women bloggers has left some in fear for their lives.
Last week, Kathy Sierra, a well-known software programmer and Java expert, announced that she had cancelled her speaking engagements and was "afraid to leave my yard" after being threatened with suffocation, rape and hanging. The threats didn't come from a stalker or a jilted lover and they weren't responses to a controversial book or speech. Sierra's harassers were largely anonymous, and all the threats had been made online.

Sierra had been receiving increasingly abusive comments on her website, Creating Passionate Users, over the previous year, but had not expected them to turn so violent -- her attackers not only verbally assaulting her ("fuck off you boring slut ... I hope someone slits your throat") but also posting photomontages of her on other sites: one with a noose next to her head and another depicting her screaming with a thong covering her face. Since she wrote about the abuse on her website, the harassment has increased. "People are posting all my private data online everywhere -- social-security number, and home address -- a retaliation for speaking out."

To read the rest of this piece, visit the Guardian.
Jessica Valenti is the executive editor of Feministing.