lifestyle

A letter from the editors and writers of Mamamia.

It’s not often we are able to jointly author a post from the 20 or so women who work at Mamamia.com.au and our parenting site iVillage.com.au. In fact, this is the first time ever. Because, like any group of women, we have diverse and nuanced opinions.

We don’t all vote the same way. We range in age from 20 to 48. We come from different religious, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. But what we have in common is our passionate belief that women are entitled to have a voice in the public conversation. Particularly online.

Whether women choose to write in small, confessional ways about their personal lives or to comment on the world in which we all live, whether to call out injustices, express opinions or simply recount an experience, we think women are as entitled to do this as men.

And yet.

Many women who speak their minds – on websites like Mamamia and ivillage, on social media or in mainstream print or broadcast media – are subject to the most vile abuse. Many of us receive death threats and rape threats. Many of us are abused online in the most vile, aggressive and putrid way.

This is not new but it’s getting worse. The Internet has always been a forum for robust debate at best and disgusting abuse at worst. And when it comes to women expressing their opinions, the worst of the Internet – and of human nature – routinely lets fly.

We won’t call it trolling because that makes it sound somehow harmless, like an ogre in a fairytale with goats in it. This is abuse and its sole intent is to silence the women at whom it is so ferociously hurled.

Men are abused online too, of course. But it’s rare that you see a man threatened with sexual violence when he voices an opinion. It’s rare that the abuse received by a man will involve graphic, base descriptions of his genitals. Or his children. Or his parents. Or his partner. Or his weight. Or his age. Or his face.

For women with a point of view, those types of abuse are disturbingly familiar to us. They are pretty much a checklist for that most hideous creature: The Gutless Misogynist who creeps out from under his rock to try to silence women online.

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For expressing our opinions in a civilised, respectful way, our writers and editors have been subject to threats of death and rape, threats against our children and families, the denigration of our partners, our sexual histories. And that’s just the start of it. These repugnant – and in some cases criminal – responses to female writers range from 140 characters on Twitter to rambling, defamatory, gut-wrenchingly personal bile spewing blog posts of 5000 words on sites that advocate raping women. It’s evil. It’s often illegal. It’s cowardly. And it’s pure, pure misogyny.

At the zenith of these outbreaks, when the abuse is aimed at you, it can be relentless and scary and incredibly, deeply distressing. And it does make you withdraw from the fray. For a time. How can you not? Sometimes – in the case of some women – it becomes too much and they never return to publicly expressing a view.

Well, at Mamamia, we have a message for those twisted, gutless abusers who hide behind keyboards and spew bile from their fetid, women-hating hearts. It’s not going to work. We will not be silenced by you. We will not be shamed or humiliated or scared. Your intimidation and threats will not stop us from writing or speaking.

We will not name you and shame you. You wish. We will not send our millions of readers to rain merry hell on your sorry arses even though we have considered it. Because we know that’s what you secretly crave. Attention. And traffic. We’re going to deny you both of those things and refuse to shine our light on your sad little pathetic corner of the Internet.

Instead, we will continue to write and debate and discuss things that matter to us with all the women (and the vast vast majority of men who stand united with us in their utter contempt for you) who come to Mamamia and iVillage to be informed and challenged and entertained every day.

While your fetid breath inhales and exhales misogyny, we will continue to provide a forum for women to write honestly and without fear.

So suck on that.

Comments closed on this post at 4.30pm, Friday the 14th of February. 

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