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Pornography, Rape and Sexual Assault

Sydney Morning Herald Reports Attacks on Women’s Space

Misogyny bares its teeth on internet

Anna Greer
August 21, 2007

A woman’s place isn’t in the kitchen these days but some malcontents are trying to make sure that it’s not on the web either. The internet is proving to be a hostile place for women.

Death threats, rape threats, verbal abuse, condescending and unwelcome comments about looks and intelligence are all par for the course for many female web users.

Last year a University of Maryland study found that web users with female pseudonyms are 25 times more likely to be harassed online than users with male or ambiguous pseudonyms. And, according to haltabuse.org, women make up 70 per cent of the victims of cyber harassment and stalking.

The internet is looking more and more like the Wild West than the decentralised utopia for which people might have hoped.

An internet war is being fought against the online feminist community by a hive of crackers and tech geeks who call themselves “Anonymous”.

Feminist forums have been hacked, passwords have been stolen, emails have been commandeered and used for whatever nefarious purpose the cyber miscreants wish. Websites such as Women’s Space and Gentle Spirit have been forced to shut down. One outspoken woman who blogged anonymously even had her photo put up on the net and a hunt was undertaken by members of “Anonymous” for her place of residence.

What many who engage in online “flamewars” – raids and attacks such as these – fail to see is that they’re messing with real people’s lives. The internet allows an incredible disconnect between reality and virtuality.

Everything seems to operate on the level of the abstract – it’s a game. The language used is militaristic, targets are dubbed “challengers” and the attacks are strategically planned. It’s literally revenge of the nihilist nerds.

This isn’t the first co-ordinated attack the group has launched and there doesn’t seem to be an ideological pattern to their actions. But it is no coincidence that it was so easy to mobilise Anonymous against women bloggers.

And it’s not surprising that those who joined the raids used methods such as vicious hate speech, threats of rape and murder and seeding comment threads with child porn in an attempt to silence women on the web.

Misogyny is quick to surface when there are no rules of social decorum to temper it. People have free rein to be bigoted and badly behaved without fear of real-world social ostracising.

I guess it’s not so different to the real world where humanism occasionally gets pushed aside in favour of mob justice and vigilantism.

To show how vile these messages can get, this is an example of a comment left on the blog Women’s Space: “I’d like to tie you down, take a knife, and slit your throat. I’d penetrate you over and over in all orifices, and create some of my own to stick myself in.” Shocking? Yes. Rare? Not on the internet.

The culprits can’t be traced because they often mask their IP addresses with an anonymiser, which hides their location and their computer information. Internet laws are notoriously fraught and even if you are able to find out who is responsible it’s difficult to prosecute.

Often there is little recourse – even thoughthe attacks are clearly illegal – other than to weather the storm.

The forums at my site were once attacked and flooded with offensive images and threads.

I don’t know where the culprits came from but it took me hours to restore the forums and get rid of the offensive material. I no longer have forums on the site. Thankfully it was mostly just an annoyance more than a serious threat.

Whether the attacks are for kicks, to get a rise out of feminists or for a more sinister purpose doesn’t matter. The outcome is the same: women’s voices are silenced and their mobility, visibility and participation on the net is reduced.

The online feminist community will recover, however, and these attacks have given food for thought to women with a presence on the net. A strong supportive community is needed to deal with this issue that just won’t go away.

If women and their websites come under attack for their views there needs to be as much support given by other web users to ensure they don’t feel so intimidated they stop participating. That the internet also serves to build community means that this will be easy enough to do.

Anna Greer is the editor of the online feminist magazine Wo-Magazine.com.

Link

Thanks, Ann Greer.  And thanks, Mary Sunshine, for the heads up.

Heart

Discussion

24 thoughts on “Sydney Morning Herald Reports Attacks on Women’s Space

  1. If women and their websites come under attack for their views there needs to be as much support given by other web users to ensure they don’t feel so intimidated they stop participating.

    It would be nice to get some of that, huh?

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | August 20, 2007, 10:07 pm
  2. Well, yeah – but 99% of the other web-users are anti-feminist, either actively or passively.

    99% of all women now would far rather be called bitches, sluts or hos than feminists.

    Extreme?

    Well, that’s what I get from my awareness that 99% of all females are of the “I’m a feminist BUT …” or “I’m not a feminist BUT …” or just plain old “I’m not a feminist” persuasion. And I’m not even counting all the women who say “I’m a FEMINIST !!! ” and then proceed to cheer wildly in favour of rape, porn, sadomasochism, etc.etc.

    Mary

    Posted by Mary Sunshine | August 20, 2007, 11:24 pm
  3. Finally. News that’s real. Thanks Anna.

    Here’s a link to the magazine she edits: Wo-Magazine.com

    wo-magazine(DOT)com/website/Issuetwo/dworkin.html

    Posted by Sis | August 21, 2007, 12:41 am
  4. I don’t think it’s going to be too much longer before these things are at least mentioned in the MSM. The law really needs to catch up and put stalkers, hackers, and harassers who threaten violence behind bars–even the minors. They need to learn young. And maybe they need to get raped themselves a few times in prison before threatening it against women ever again. ISPs need to be the first to cooperate by permanently terminating the service of these criminals when caught attacking, as well as those who post hate sites (maybe one day “hate sites” will include porn. At least that’s already starting somewhat in the UK).

    It’s unbelievable where sexism is on the web. The worst misogyny plagues feminists of course, but I am even turned off from using more general forums that would attract a supposedly high cognitive class of users. They just decorate their sexism in classier terms and dress it up with science to back their agendas of hate. Then those idiots see the absence of women, feel comfortable in their privilege of having intellectual space cordoned off, and somehow simultaneously use that to reinforce the idea that women don’t partake in intellectual pursuits in their free time because “they simply aren’t interested in or capable of” [insert topic here: science, philosophy, programming, politics, math, and what have you].

    Posted by K.A. | August 21, 2007, 6:00 am
  5. Wow, an Australian newspaper actually publishes something that makes me proud.😀

    Posted by Beppie | August 21, 2007, 9:07 am
  6. K.A.,

    Yes.

    I see this as a direct result of the pornification of every aspect of North American (and now global) culture during the last two decades.

    Also, the pornification of all female children *from birth* has immensely served to destroy the status of women.

    Women who still have privileged jobs remain silent on all of this, and in big ways play into it, to maintain the “equal” status that they still have. That status was made possible by the 70’s generation of feminists, who vociferously and sometimes violently opposed pornography.

    But: that was before the advent of the internet, whose growth has been concurrent with the immense growth of corporations, nationally and globally. All corporations make active and aggressive use of the pornographication of females to promote their products and services.

    This momentum is not about to be reversed by a few protests.

    Mary

    Posted by Mary Sunshine | August 21, 2007, 12:53 pm
  7. Yeah, this article gets right to the heart of my fears with anonymous. Too many women are being silenced. I like that women’s spaces actually exist. Truth be told, I don’t feel comfortable commenting in most feminist threads because there is too much tolerance of trolls and shaming. I’ve seen so many great bloggers be ultimately silenced by these sorts of threats. I really value the feminist community on the net (even the sights where I’m uncomfortable commenting🙂 ). Without the internet and the women I’ve encountered I’d still think that pornography is about free speech. I also wouldn’t be going back to school to major in womens studies. In reality, it seems the internet is just another way for men to assert their dominance, and here I though it could be a good way for people who don’t normally have a voice to be heard.

    Posted by Rebecca | August 21, 2007, 2:07 pm
  8. Why doesn’t homeland security care about THESE terrorists?
    Oh yeah, feminists don’t have oil.

    Posted by Trudi | August 21, 2007, 3:46 pm
  9. This was in the Brisbane Times this morning, too.

    http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/news/opinion/misogyny-bares-its-teeth-on-internet/2007/08/20/1187462171087.html

    Hey, women. 🙂

    Trudi, As We Are is looking *great*!

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | August 21, 2007, 4:03 pm
  10. It is good that they are writing about it. At the same time it bothers me that “Anonymous” gets any kind of publicity about a stunt that involves nothing more than downloading programs they didnt’ even write and clicking buttons. oohh spooky anonymous. I was reading their sites and one of their members had to ask for -instructions- on how to use one of the programs they downloaded. If there was any reason why no one is cracking down on Anonymous is because it’s just too damn easy and no one wants to get a bunch of 14 yo’s w/parental issues in trouble over it.

    Heart I don’t know if you got my e mail but recently they tried, unsuccessfully, to force down women’s space. Up until then they have been posting addresses of your neighbors and asking their members to call your neighbors pretending to be law enforcement telling them that you are a sex offender.

    Posted by Kiuku | August 21, 2007, 4:38 pm
  11. Yay for these newspapers! Wouldn’t I love to see a mainstream U.S. newspaper take up this story.

    Posted by Branjor | August 21, 2007, 4:47 pm
  12. Hey, Kiuku, you know they did force Women’s Space down, right? My website and the boards associated with them were forced off the internet. They also took out my old Gentle Spirit site. That’s a big deal because that is a commercial site. I contracted with advertisers to keep their advertising there forever, basically. These guys’ actions have been consistently illegal and criminal, but now they are moving into the realm of disrupting business, interfering with business, and that’s where they can get in big trouble in our capitalist society, which counts loss mostly if it is monetary.

    I sued the Religious Right once and I won big.

    That’s all I have to say for now.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | August 21, 2007, 5:04 pm
  13. I am absolutely appalled and disgusted at the criminal attacks by this group of presumably men. I realize that there is little you can do, other than block all anonymous comments, but, laws or no internet laws, they are commenting crimes by posting threats.

    Posted by Brian | August 21, 2007, 9:04 pm
  14. A lot of my friends have asked me to start a real blog (right now I have a puny little one on MySpace) but shit like this is, unfortunately, exactly why I don’t. I’m taking an A+ computer class right now, and it’s really sad to see how the guys in the class, including the instructor, don’t seem at all interested in cracking down on harassment and threats on the Internet. I’m beginning to fucking hate computer guys with all my heart; I used to feel bad for them and the reputation they have as being smelly dorks who can’t get laid, but increasingly I’m realizing that they richly deserve it. My A+ class is quickly dividing along male vs. female lines because of how the guys in the class treat us. At our last hands-on workshop, some fucker actually snatched a riser card out of my hand right as I was about to put back into its place. And at the one before that, I had unpackaged a wireless card and was about to install it in the case, but when I turned my back for a second, some guy in the class, who’d already installed two wireless cards, snatched mine out of the anti-static bag and started installing it. (We were each supposed to do one, to make sure everybody got a chance to learn to install components. And this fucker got to install three, while several women in the class got to install none.)

    I do know that this isn’t just about computer guys, since you don’t have to be good with a computer to know how to post a comment and try stalking somebody, but computer guys are also the ones who could be doing something about this, but nine times out of ten, instead of doing something, they join in on the woman-hating bullshit. And while one side of me thinks, “fine, you’re all losers who will never get laid anyhow,” I also realize that you don’t have to be capable of getting laid to be capable of silencing, stalking and murdering women. Hell, part of me wants to go out and start that blog because of what they’ve done here and at other sites. If they stalk me and kill me, well, point proven.

    Posted by mekhit | August 21, 2007, 9:49 pm
  15. Yes Heart, I know. They tried to force it down again two nights ago. They failed.

    Posted by Kiuku | August 21, 2007, 10:31 pm
  16. Wow Mehkit. Can’t say I am surprised. Is there any way you can bring it up with the instructors, or address the class?

    Posted by Kiuku | August 21, 2007, 11:04 pm
  17. KA,
    My outrage meter topped out when you said: They need to learn young. And maybe they need to get raped themselves a few times in prison before threatening it against women ever again.

    Rape is not a teaching tool. How the bloody hell can anyone go around wishing on others the very thing that we are trying to stop. STOP, full STOP. More dominance and submission training will not put a stop to dominance and submission expectations. WTF

    Posted by thebewilderness | August 22, 2007, 5:31 am
  18. I’ve been attacked many times, and it’s not as though I do anything wrong. Before I used to only write public posts about things I was pretty sure would not offend anyone.

    Now I just write what is on my mind. I have several sites and I still have to block IP addresses, anonymous websites, and other things to keep the hate-spam down.

    I’ve had everything online taken from me this year. All of my email addresses, all of my sites–everything. I figured that there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it and cut my loses: I changed my passwords, got new addresses, new credit card numbers, the whole deal.

    But I know it will just happen again. It’s always the same people. The same men. Chasing me, almost, online. If they can’t get breast shots of women, I don’t think they care about anything else.

    Posted by Lady | August 22, 2007, 12:26 pm
  19. Edited by me, Heart.

    Posted by Mary Jane | August 22, 2007, 10:39 pm
  20. Mary Jane,

    Are you anonymous, or supporting them here?

    If so:

    Some people are too lazy to care. Some people are not. In fact, you, or anonymous, are attacking people who clearly are not too lazy to care and in fact, have put a lot of work into something they care a lot about.

    Please save the “we represent our freedoms”. The fact of the matter is you attack people because you like to do it, and you just decide to find targets that are appealing. Make no mistake, you attack for the “lulz”, you attack because you -enjoy- it. Somewhere during the attacks you find some “righteous” cause to justify it but it would be better for all of us if you were honest with yourself.

    No one has a “right” to put anyone down who is not doing anything illegal just because they do not agree with them. The correct path, in this case, if you really had a justified cause, would be to go through appropriate legal channels. You don’t see them shutting anyone down. You don’t have the right to do it yourself.

    I, however, have every right to shut you down, on my own time, if I so choose. Sometimes you have to realize though that kind of thing just perpetuates a cycle of violence. Atleast I am honest enough to realize I would be shutting you down mostly for pure entertainment.

    Posted by Kiuku | August 23, 2007, 4:44 pm
  21. Put simply for you, Mary Jane:

    Your freedoms and rights end when they infringe on mine or someone else’s.

    Is this too difficult a concept for you to get and understand?

    Maybe you ought to stop using big words you don’t understand? Because you’re not talking about freedom. What you cotton to are power-driven double standards and fascism wrapped up in Orwellian double-speak.

    Posted by Luckynkl | August 24, 2007, 2:21 pm
  22. This the very first coverage I’ve seen in the mainstream media.
    I was beginning to think we were all living in someone else’s nightmare.

    Posted by Star Dragon | August 24, 2007, 4:55 pm
  23. I just posted this to Our Bodies Our Blog.

    ___________

    “Perhaps reading here will have resonance for you. Your spam was perhaps not accidental. Over 10 women owned and run feminist blogs have been targeted and cracked; shut-down and shut-up, because they are women bloggers, blogging about radical feminism.

    Here’s a story from the Sydney Morning Herald on hacking cracking and spamming women’s and feminist blogs and websites.

    So-called feminist blogs owned by men did not get their sites hacked and cracked, or sent hundreds of posts like this:

    Here is an example of what the women received, in it’s hundreds, in their spam cues:

    __

    A. Friend | ie@gmail.com | IP: 66.90.103.37
    {…} this is horrible. {deteled, edited for this post}

    __

    I also sent information about the hacking and cracking incidents to the major editors of Our Bodies Ourselves. No response yet. but I’m sure they’ll be as horrified and concerned about this attempt to silence their sisters voices as we are.

    Posted by base | August 24, 2007, 6:06 pm
  24. They don’t care about rape and they use it as terrorism threat precisely because it’s not a male issue–except when they’re in prison. Let them identify as victim instead of victimizer. These are not precious children that need coddling; they are abusive, oppressive criminals. They should be in prison for that fact alone, not for the specific purpose of being raped. But the latter point would be a blessed irony, is what I meant. I didn’t mean to offend; I’m sorry.

    Posted by K.A. | August 27, 2007, 10:44 pm

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