One of my favorite bloggers, and one that I highly respect, is Kathy Sierra who writes the blog Creating Passionate Users. Instead of speaking at a tech conference today and doing what she does best, Kathy is at home holed up in fear because she has gotten death threats and has been harassed in some frightening ways. In her post today, “Death threats against bloggers are NOT "protected speech" (why I cancelled my ETech presentations),” Kathy shares with us her experience and one of the threatening pictures made of her. It is abhorrent.
Out of fear for her safety,
Kathy has cancelled all her speaking engagements, is staying locked in her
house, and is contemplating never blogging again. The police in the mean time
are looking into the matter.
The talk around the web is that
the treatment Kathy has received is disgusting, disturbing, and unacceptable. But,
more importantly it brings up the issue of the level of disturbing and sexually
harassing behavior against women escalating in the online world.
Now before I go on, not all
men online are assholes, degenerates, misogynists, or chauvinistic pigs. So,
let’s not lump all the guys in one barrel. Many in fact, are quite wonderful,
and understand that there is a serious problem at the forefront, and they are
trying to do something. Uber-blogger, Robert Scoble has even decided to go
silent for the rest of this week as a testament of support for Kathy. Next
week, he’s opening the topic up for discussion on how to fix this cultural
problem. The problems usually exist with only a few numbers relative to the
whole, but the frightening thing is that the level of violence and misogyny in
general is escalating.
why is that? I think there are multiple
factors involved. There’s not one thing to point a finger at, but many factors
that contribute. Since, we at Back in Skinny Jeans talk primarily about the media;
I will focus on that topic for now. Let’s take a look at the images that people
are inundated with in the media.
I created a collage here
that illustrates just some recent examples of what people see every day on how
women are portrayed in such mediums as industry magazines, gaming, video,
virtual worlds, and even fashion. There has been a disturbing growing trend in
fashion with “crime chic” with examples that include Dolce & Gabbana’s gang
rape looking fantasy ad, and America’s Next Top Model “crime scene” photo shoot. On the
cover of April’s Vanity Fair, there is a picture of Gandolfini of the Sopranos
clutching a naked looking woman like she’s some prey he’s captured.
(more after the jump)
In Second Life, the popular virtual world, one of the easiest ways to make money is through sex. From a trusted source, I heard a story of this guy who has one male and one female avatar in Second Life. He basically pimps out the female avatar to collect Lindens through sex so that his male avatar has money to do “fun” things. There are tons of sex clubs spread throughout Second Life, and someone even offered simulated rape for sale.
For the promotion of the
movie, Captivity, there were billboards plastered all over Los Angeles and New York featuring star Elisha Cuthbert with some grizzly
images and the captions "Abduction. Confinement. Torture.
Termination." People complained heavily and the billboards were pulled.
There is another outrage with the promotion of another movie called, “Wristcutters:
A Love Story” which suicide prevention groups are saying that its campaign is
glamorizing suicide. Some say that any controversy is good because people are
talking and the attention is coming. I say if you have to use violence to get attention, then you don't have a very good product in the first place, nor do you have much creativity or class.
I say if you have to use violence to get attention, then you don't have a very good product in the first place, nor do you have much creativity or class.
When you look at these media
pieces individually it’s upsetting but when you put them all together, the
message gets even clearer that it’s somehow okay to treat women like sexual
objects and to be vehement because we see the imagery everywhere, and sometimes
in so called respectable outlets. As a culture, it seems that we are becoming
more and more desensitized to the violence we see on TV, online, and in
publications, and so some of us are taking the violence simulations into real
life. We’re already seeing “Ripped from the headlines” episodes off Law &
Order where the defendants are saying they didn’t know the difference between
virtual and real.
Some of the justifications I’ve heard excusing the bad behavior online include:
- “I was just kidding. It’s no big deal.”
- “Everyone knows this is just a joke, and that it’s not real.”
- “Geez! Lighten up. You’re taking this stuff too seriously.”
- “Everyone else behaves this way.”
- “This is America and we have the right to say whatever we want.”
Opening up your blog to see comments that threaten death, pain, and suffering just because someone didn’t like what you had to say, is something seriously painful and distressing. Saying heinous things like this is not a joke, it’s not amusing, and yes, people take these things very seriously. Free speech does not entail threatening someone to the point where they feel they have to hide in their home out of safety for their lives.
For people like Kathy, she just wants to do what she does
best, and have joy. When your life is threatened, the joy quickly vanishes and
you wonder if it’s worth it. I hope Kathy stays with us in the blogosphere
because I would miss her contribution, but if she didn’t I would totally
Personally, I have enjoyed writing on Back in Skinny Jeans because my audience is primarily women, and people who want joy, support, and understanding. Even when people disagree here, the tone is always still respectful. I honestly cannot say that has been my experience in tech, and which is why I go back and forth. I love technology and do miss the events, the work, and the innovation, but it got to a point where the harrassing parts outweighed the good parts. The technology industry is losing many good people (women and men) for some of the same reasons, and it's time to really look at how we can make the online world feel safer and more inviting.