Women Journalists And Online Harassment

This subsection is a case-study of women journalists, and how they are disproportionally targeted by online harassment and vitriol compared to their male counterparts, whether they are active in the feminist movement or not, and whether they identify as feminists or not. This case study also discusses the impact that online vitriol has on women in media and public facing careers, in addition to online harassment more generally. It also discusses, that while there have been many negative impacts of the online world on women and feminist activists, media can empower women worldwide. Feminism, as used in this exhibit, is the belief and movement toward social, political, and economic equality regardless of sex and/or gender identity. 

Women journalists who are active in the feminist movement are not the only people who are targeted. Oftentimes, extremists just target anyone they perceive to be a woman, particularly those with marginalized identities. This online vitriol, cybersexism, and violence, motivated by misogyny, affects everyone, not just those who are active in the feminist movement.  It is a form of backlash, which is a term coined by Susan Faludi,[1] and it targets women because they are women, regardless of if they identify as feminist or not. This could be due to the feminist goal of having women achieve goals and succeed in powerful, high profile, or public facing positions. It could also be because of rampant misogyny. 

This case study illustrates the Janus-Faced nature of social media and the internet more generally. On one side, it has allowed women to better communicate with other activists to advance towards the goal of equality and community awareness with the tap of a screen, click of a button, etc. It gives isolated feminists a better sense of community and solidarity regardless of distance. On the other side, social media and its profit-driven algorithms have excluded women of color and women with marginalized identities. Social media, and the internet more generally, have also opened the proverbial floodgates of online vitriol and harassment, which can also translate to real-life threats of violence, sexual and otherwise, particularly by women who are journalists. This exhibit is a way to provide insight into how the internet and social media have impacted women in journalism specifically, but also women generally.  

1-Susan Faludi, Blame It on Feminism, (New York: Doubleday, 1991) xviii. 

Prev Next