Mind the Gap

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Soraya 2013

Many people are under the impression that online sexism against women is a thing of the past. They believe, since men and women are now freely allowed to — and do so regularly — use social media and voice their opinions all over the internet, that women aren’t discriminated against for having these opinions. This is not the case; there is a huge gender gap in the online convergence environment. As unbelievable as it may sound in our generation, there are actually men (and some women) in the world that despise women and think they shouldn’t have a voice. The main source of this online gender gap is generally from one thing, misogyny.

The internet is regularly recognised for its ‘openness’, but ‘open’ in no way means ‘equal’. While it may create a place for people to voice their opinions, it also magnifies the inequality between genders. The problem with the web is the ability to appear anonymous. Since the option to send harassment without consequence is available, there is nothing stopping misogynists from voicing sexist opinions. This has lead to ‘trolling’ becoming a sadly normal phenomenon. Many women have spoken out about their online experiences of trolling after lobbying for women’s rights, such as Caroline Criado-Perez who received threats of death and sexual assault after she successfully campaigned to get images of women onto British banknotes. Females who are then speaking out about harassers are accused of trying to suppress free speech, a contradiction since the women are simply using their own free speech.

Alarmingly, a University of Maryland study revealed that young people posting in chatrooms with female usernames receive 25 times more malicious messages than men. The authors of the study then advised parents to tell their children to not divulge their gender online. The message? Young girls can use the internet, they just have to hide who they are.

Whilst sexism is an old problem, new media has made this hate against women almost acceptable, as long as it’s online. We don’t approve of misogyny in the real world, so it should not be tolerated online. Discrimination against women is still very much a prevailing issue.

Lizodool 2012
Lizodool 2012

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Reference:
Moore, C. 2014, ‘#mencallmethings: identity and difference online week 10′, lecture, BCM112, University of Wollongong, delivered 13 May 2014.

 

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