After the South Carolina primary, I made an offhand remark on Twitter about Trump’s legions of anti-Semitic fans. It wasn’t my first time commenting on this; I’ve even written about the phenomenon in these pages. But the response was unlike anything I’ve seen before on Twitter. I was called a “slimy Jewess” and told that I “deserve the oven.” Not only was the anti-Semitic deluge scary and graphic, it got personal. Trump fans began to “dox” me — a term for adversaries’ attempt to ferret out private or identifying information online with malicious intent. My conversion to Judaism was used as a weapon against me, and I received death threats in my private Facebook mailbox, prompting me to file a police report.
When women make strong comments or venture into political waters they face threats. Harassment of female journalists online seems to be growing at an alarming rate; and it dovetails with new research about women and speech.
The Pew Research Center, which has been following online activity since 2000, found in 2014 that threats are directed far more at women than men. And in 2006, researchers from the University of Maryland created bogus online accounts and then sent them into chat rooms. Accounts with feminine usernames incurred an average of 100 sexually explicit or threatening messages a day. Masculine names received 3.7.
Many women are simply going quiet, after being told that these threats are just from stupid trolls who are harmless. But women fear that someday, one of these trolls will climb out from under his bridge and actually make good on his threat.
For many women, watching Trump interrupt Clinton 51 times was unnerving but familiar.
Tweeted Chicago-based writer Britt Julious: “Thoughts & prayers to every woman watching the #debates & getting painful flashbacks to dudes talking over them at work, school, home, etc.”
“The sad thing,” said Christina Emery, an author from Swansea, Illinois, “is that I’m so used to men interrupting women — especially when they want to change the subject — that I didn’t pay much attention to Trump’s behavior. . .
“Many women watching Trump’s treatment of Clinton feel a sickening sense of familiarity with patronizing behavior directed at them during every work day,” said Dr. Janet Scarborough Civitelli, a vocational psychologist in Austin, Texas. “Women become exhausted by the experience that no matter how much they accomplish or how hard they work, a man with a fraction of their knowledge and achievements stands ready to critique them.”
Part of the emotional exhaustion, both before and since the election, has been tied to that certainty that no matter how hard a woman works, there will be attempts to undermine and silence her, not just by men, but by women who have believed the lie that power and authority belong only to men.
That our voices will stay strong.