The Horrific Online Assault on Feminism

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By Ian Sullivan

When I signed up to blog for the Women’s Center, I was given the option of submitting all of my pieces anonymously, so that only the editor and my colleagues would know that I was the one behind what was being written. I declined as I have always been one to believe that it’s important to stand behind personal opinions, and in fact want to be identified as the one who is doing the writing. But with that said, I understand the desire for anonymity, and am being furthermore convinced of its necessity at times when stories like the one recently written by Michelle Goldberg for the Washington Post surface.

As Goldberg points out so well in her article, there is an intriguing double standard today for those advocating for Feminism. Celebrities and pop stars such as Amy Poehler and Beyoncé are applauded and heralded for standing up for and urging women to be proud of who they are. Yet feminist bloggers, journalists, or anyone else wanting to speak their mind are now often being harassed and threatened for doing so. Frankly, this contradiction is disgusting to me, but more importantly, it is frightening to the integrity of American ideals.

The status quo established by a hypermasculine society is forcing some feminist writers to accept this tragic reality, and worse, abandon their equality-seeking missions altogether, or hide behind a veil of anonymity.

Perhaps many of these instances can be chalked up to the pathetically annoying behavior of internet trolls, but a line has been crossed. When feminists are being forced to curtail their discussion, it is no longer trolling. It is in fact threatening and assaulting behavior that needs to be dealt with accordingly.

A critical component of the feminist movement is women being able to find their voices to share their stories. The very moment a woman feels she can’t, or shouldn’t, out of fear, then the matter is no longer a differing of opinions, but an utter oppression. We all have opinions, and often, these opinions are unpopular. But nobody should be scared to speak their mind. It’s 2015; we should be way past this. When advocating for such a clearly polarizing issue such as women’s rights, there obviously is the assumed and inherent risk that there will be some backlash. But this backlash should end at healthy and productive arguments, not threats and harassment.

As Americans, we take pride in our first amendment rights and will so often defend them by any means necessary. And yet, these American women are being punished for exercising their freedoms of speech and challenging injustices. God forbid it will start coming to such atrocities, but we can draw parallels between this issue and issues regarding civil rights leaders and writers of the past. Martin Luther King Jr. died for his cause, Salman Rushdie’s life has been threatened multiple times, and there’s countless other examples. We can look back now at the civil rights movement and others concerning toleration and come to the general consensus that these people should not have been punished and reprimanded for what they had to say, and in fact, it was for the greater good. This feminist issue should be considered no different and these feminist writers should have every opportunity to say what they wish. It’s not only important, but it’s necessary for improving our society as well as maintaining what we cherish.

If you don’t identify as a feminist, fine. I don’t agree and I think you should strongly reconsider, but it’s just the fact of the matter that we all have our different viewpoints. But please refrain, and encourage others to also do so, from assaulting those who do and compromising a healthy and viable movement.

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