Feminism | Posted by Gina S on 01/20/2012

Countering Hatred on the Internet

Feminist Frequency FTW

Feminist Frequency FTW

Let’s face it: hatred on the internet is big. Hatred of all varieties including sexism, racism and homophobia (etc.) are found everywhere online, and some sites in particular are known as a breeding ground for offensive and insulting users (yes YouTube, I’m looking at you… )

Recently I was fortunate enough to stumble upon the Feminist Frequency YouTube channel. For those of you who aren’t familiar it, Feminist Frequency is a YouTube-based video series run by Anita Sarkeesian, who creates intelligent, thought-provoking videos on the rampant sexism in the pop culture of contemporary society. I very much enjoy watching all of Anita’s great videos, and was happy to find that on each there was an intellectual exchange of ideas, praise, and even debating – that’s reasonable debating- going on in the comments section. It was great to feel involved in a feminist-friendly community, but I couldn’t help but wonder how Anita achieved this. After some research, I found out that she moderates her video comments, and has to read a ton of sexist comments each time she does so. In an interview she stated that she “gets a lot of harassment…you might be surprised at the amount of times that I get comments that say ‘get back in the kitchen’ or ‘go make me a sandwich’. It’s nearly on a daily basis.”

As I began to research more feminist-related videos and vloggers on YouTube, the sheer amount of users who post sexist, stereotypical comments astounded me; there are the faceless commenters who cower behind their computer screen and type slurs of abuse because they can, (and I understand it is cowardice that drives them to do this), but more importantly, I saw a lot of videos, some even by women, who claim that feminism is unnecessary, man-hating and even literally evil. Seeing women who have become so misled and misinformed about what feminism is to the extent that they are actively talking trash about a movement which aims to give them rights and equality was seriously upsetting for me. Personally, after seeing the anti-feminist videos and comments myself, I felt as though I should just avoid searching for feminist vloggers at all. But after further reflection, I feel it’s best if we all adopt a similar technique in dealing with hateful/sexist users on YouTube. Here I present my guidelines on how to deal with internet haters:

1) YouTube nowadays is synonymous with hate. It goes without saying that if people can find a way to talk down to people/celebrities and their fans/subcultures/races/LGBT community/etc. without direct consequences, then they will. Be warned ye who enter here!
2) Ignorance can be bliss. Sometimes. Try not to click on videos that you know are going to upset you. We’re all guilty of it, but if you can tell it’s a ticket to haterville, the best thing to do is avoid it. You probably won’t win a war against an anti-feminist vlogger and their YouTube subscribers. No matter how intelligent your argument, they always have ‘get back in the kitchen’ to counter comment you, attempting to dismiss your relevant points. Generally, such ignorance/stupidity is not worth a counter comment.
3) Learn to distinguish the internet from reality. No really, don’t roll your eyes! It’s not likely that these people would act so obnoxiously sexist in real life- they’re hiding behind the internet. Many users who post stupid slurs such as ‘make me a sandwich’ are anonymous lurkers, who on closer inspection have a blank profile with no personal information. In remaining anonymous, these individuals intend to spout whatever rubbish they so desire. There’s little ammunition for a counter-comment as no one knows who they are. Some call these people trolls, but coward, lowlife, scum, parasite…they’re all good.
4) Surround yourself with likeminded individuals! Using feminist-friendly sites and participating in discussions with fellow feminists is a great way to ensure you feel part of a community who hold similar beliefs and values as you do yourself. Not only is this a way to meet new people, it’s reassuring to use these sites. Also, chatting with friends whenever internet hate has got you losing faith in the human race is always helpful.

I hope these tips help all who wish to connect with other feminists and think internet hate is a burden. I also hope in the future we begin to see a rise in the number of wonderful YouTubers such as Anita, who work to create a hate-free space that’s comfortable for feminists to use without the risk of pointless haters looking for trouble.

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  • Talia bat Pessi @ at 12:43 pm, January 20th, 2012

    Excellent points. Ironic timing, since a feminist blogger friend of mine recently got linked to from a neo-Nazi website and has been getting horrendous hate mail ever since. Her response was absolutely beautiful though. http://jwa.org/blog/how-should-we-respond-to-neo-nazi-internet-trolls

  • Johannah @ at 2:46 pm, January 20th, 2012

    @Julie Z, do you get a lot of anti-feminist hate comments you have to sift through?

  • Gme @ at 4:05 pm, January 20th, 2012

    Wow. Thanks for that post… Seeing all the hate against feminism and women that can be found on Youtube, especially in the comments section and in vlogs really got me down a while ago… I suddenly got the feeling the whole world hated feminists. But then I realized I was being ridiculous. Real life thankfully isn’t like this. I am surrounded by people who share my beliefs and support me. Sometimes one really needs to distance oneself from the internet.

  • Matt SS @ at 5:59 pm, January 21st, 2012

    Hate on the internet isn’t a result of cowardice. Its easier to hate on the internet because it has static information storage. If someone just says so and so is a homo how many people are likely to be around at the exact right time to hear it? Whereas a comment on the internet lasts almost forever. Also the internet allows asynchronous conversations which don’t exist as such in meatspace.
    The internet also allows access to a nearly infinite social landscape which is clearly delineated and can be navigated effortlessly with search engines.
    One cannot simply teleport highschools or churches or something in meatspace. But changing websites is easy.
    Additionally a lot of the hate that is visible publicly on the internet would be confined to social groups like teenage boys or frat houses or something. A lot of those people probably are racist or sexist or homophobic in real life as well.

  • Gigi @ at 10:19 pm, January 21st, 2012

    I have to dissagree Matt. Though what you’re saying may be true, the fact stands that people find it easy to perpetrate hatred on the internet due to the general lack of consequence and the opportunity to be anonymous while doing so.

  • Matt SS @ at 12:32 am, January 22nd, 2012

    It may be easier to reach a larger audience with your hatred than you could in real life. There might also be a larger amount of things to hate that are easily accessible vs what a hater sees in real life. For instance if you hate gay people and you search for “gay people videos” on youtube you can just follow the similarity links and find endless video to hate on. In real life you are limited to your visual or aural fields in finding things to hate on. I can’t think of many consequences in real life. I can say whatever I want unless I am in a moderated space like a school or restaurant or store. This is the same as the internet. And in the freedom of your own mind you can hate anywhere.

    I would contend that access to content to hate and other people to hate with is a far more powerful factor than anonymity.
    Being anonymous may have some effect but it is not the major factor.

  • Gigi @ at 11:42 am, January 22nd, 2012

    I’m not suggesting that any of those factors do not contribute to the internet hatred, I pointed out that anonymity is helpful for people who intend to spread hate, as if you look at the profiles of many of these people there is little to no information about them, as they clearly don’t want to be identified. If such hate is on display in real life, it could negatively affect many people’s opinions on that person, and if such prejudices are expressed with no regard for the situation it could affect that individual negatively, such as their chances of getting or keeping a job, for example. I also never suggested that real life prevents anyone from saying what they want; I explained that if a person does so, there could be a negative consequence that directly affects that person, unlike the anonymous internet haters in which case there would be no direct affect for the individual since they are anonymous.
    I never once suggested that it is the only factor, or main factor, but to me it is a major one, and whether it is or not really does come down to opinion without some solid evidence. I’m not stating that everyone who spreads hate over the internet is using anonymity to their advantage – in fact I do point out that there are many people making videos about this openly-, I’m simply saying that quite often this is the case. I respect your opinions but I’m afraid we’re going to have to agree to disagree. (:

  • Laura C. @ at 8:50 pm, January 24th, 2012

    I love Fem Freq! and I do see ALOT of anti-feminist videos done by WOMAN of all people. They have been very much misled. One of them told me I had no morals and values because I’m an atheist. Sometimes you just have to walk away because it like debating with a child.

  • Gigi @ at 10:13 am, January 26th, 2012

    @LauraC – the sad truth is that many people who make those sorts of videos are extremely closed-minded, hense the fact that they feel the need to spread the hate in the first place. Don’t listen to these people- athiests are capable of morality and values, just the same as religious people. This person was contradicting themselves anyway, since your feminism itself is a value. (:

  • stephen @ at 2:37 pm, February 2nd, 2012

    Another good tip is to deactivate the like/dislike bar, like Anita did. Sometimes it can be really hurtfull to get too many dislikes.

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