What the Internet Really Did for Lady Bloggers

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All the things that made the Internet a perfect forum for female blogger voices to flourish, also provided the same opportunities for a backlash of nasty, hateful, sexist commentary. This week, New York's Emily Nussbaum details all the ways the World Wide Web created a feminist conversation that just wasn't happening before. "Lacking editors (whose intolerance for insanity tends to sand off pointy edges), lacking balance (as any self-publishing platform tends to), laced with humor and fury (emotions intensified by the web’s spontaneity)," writes Nussbaum. "The blogosphere has transformed feminist conversation," she continues. But all this talk from uppity women brought the haters out, who conveniently had that same open Internet forum to air their sexist grievances.  

In the same week as Nussbaum applauded how much the Web has done for feminism, The New Statesman brings us the ugly truth with 10 stories of lady bloggers who have experienced sexual harassment and abuse as a result of writing online. "The sheer volume of sexist abuse thrown at female bloggers is the internet's festering sore: if you talk to any woman who writes online, the chances are she will instantly be able to reel off a Greatest Hits of insults," writes The New Statesman's Helen Lewis Hasteley. To give you an idea of the kind of stuff we're talking about, Kate Smurthwaite who writes for Cruellablog pulls an example from just this week. "IF THIS TRASH TALKING K*NT HAD HER F*CKNG, TONGUE RIPPED OUT OF HER SUCK-HOLE...," a commenter wrote. And sometimes things get more personal. A commenter once told Caroline Farrow, who blogs on her personal site about Catholic things, that she "deserve to die at the rusty scissors of a backstreet abortionist" while she was pregnant. 

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While the hate is unfortunate, Nussbaum points out that this type of commentary has actually made the feminist blog community stronger. "These sites inspired an even sharper cadre of commenters, who bonded and argued, sometimes didactically, sometimes cruelly, but just as often pushing one another to hone their ideas," she writes. It forced women to have better ideas and arguments, and also toughened them up. Many of the women featured in The New Statesman talk of how "they weren't always so thicked skinned," but after awhile just got used to it. Like any blogger, lady or not, these women have learned commenters will be commenters -- can't really let the sexists get you down. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.