The fact that women are taught to just block a troll or harasser online as a way to deal with him is highly problematic, because it is reinforcing the idea that it’s a woman’s responsibility to protect herself from harm rather than the harasser’s responsibility to not harass.
I’ve been doing the online dating thing for a little over a year now, and it’s the first time I’ve been doing it as a staunchly, outspoken, won’t-take-any-bullshit feminist. That’s how I discovered the curious system of “revenge flagging,” which is when guys don’t take rejection gracefully or can’t deal with a bruised ego — they flag the woman’s profile as revenge. Getting enough of these flags results in the profile being temporarily disabled while the profile is investigated.
I’ve been revenge flagged nearly a dozen times now, and it started happening when I told guys that I would report them if they didn’t stop messaging me/stop making lewd comments/stop using derogatory slurs. Apparently, most guys don’t like being told what to do by a woman, and not only do they blatantly ignore my requests, but they report me.
The fact that women are taught to just block a troll or harasser online as a way to deal with him is highly problematic, because it is reinforcing the idea that it’s a woman’s responsibility to protect herself from harm rather than the harasser’s responsibility to not harass. So I started calling my harassers on their bullshit, and now I inevitably have a weekly cry for being called a slew of derogatory names for simply refusing to take anyone’s bullshit. Therefore, I decided to start reporting people who didn’t treat me with common decency, and even though I do get revenge flagged still, I think it’s important for the cause of feminism for three main reasons:
1. Nothing a woman does means she is “asking” for abuse. Just because I state casual sex as something I’m looking for doesn’t mean that I deserve to have guys message me with inappropriate messages about how they want to fuck me. Just because I have a photo of myself wearing little aside from rainbow thigh-high socks and a Guns N’ Roses T-shirt doesn’t mean that I am asking for inappropriate comments about my looks (the online equivalent of catcalling, in my opinion). Just because I tell a guy that I am not interested — be it because we disagree on certain politics (about which I am very passionate), that they are military folk (I’m anti-military) or because I tell them I find the things they write to me make me uncomfortable — doesn’t mean I deserve to be called a cunt, bitch, aggressive, or a tease.
2. Ignoring harassers is a selfish and unhelpful solution. I was taught in elementary school that if someone does something I don’t like, I should express my feelings in a non-confrontational way using “I” messages. Recently, I realized that this is still excellent advice on dealing with situations, and I use this method when dealing with harassers. I always tell these men that their words hurt my feelings, and sometimes I am rewarded with a genuine apology and admission of ignorance. Other times I’ve been laughed at, and still other times I’ve gotten replies in the vein of “Good! I’m glad!” But the bottom line is that I cannot expect men — who are just as brainwashed and negatively affected by the patriarchy — to suddenly be in tune to how their words can be seen as sexist or misogynistic. I feel it’s my duty to first tell them how their words made me feel because they’re not psychic. How else would they know?
3. There is power in numbers. The amount of women who reveal their stories of online harassment is overwhelming. If every single one of these women confronted their harassers either by telling them bluntly how they felt and/or reporting the harassers (instead of just blocking them), I really believe it would more quickly bring to light the very real issue of online harassment of women. If all women — regardless of whether or not they had been harassed — spoke out and called out harassers when they see them without fear of being targeted themselves, I believe the overwhelming power of womanhood would begin to lessen the amount of harassment we face. We would be able to more confidently reveal our online presence knowing that we had a whole army of women willing to come to our defense. We need to remember that we should be standing up for ourselves as well as each other in order to make being a woman awesome for everyone online.