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.
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.