Sorting Online Abuse – Vicky Beeching

Go over to Vicky’s site to read her experiences of online (and offline) stalking and why she’s taking a stand.

Vicky Beeching

Many of us women have had to normalise online abuse. Obviously it goes to a totally different and criminal level when it’s rape or death threats; these should never be shrugged off. But general vile abuse is something many of us feminists just have to accept. Chatting with Caroline and with Laura from Everyday Sexism and Lucy Holmes from NoMorePage3 the amount of nastiness we all get sent is horrible. It just seems to go with the territory – but it shouldn’t have to.

Today when raising my voice for Lose The Lads Mags, as I have with the No More Page 3 Campaign, I decided I would start retweeting some of the abuse. It stemmed from me expressing some personally vulnerable stuff about the negative effects of seeing ‘soft porn’ magazines in newsagents and in general public places when I was younger.

The Twittersphere is often a nasty place. I fell in love with social media back when I lived in California and the social media revolution was first born on the West Coast. I quickly fell out of love with social media when the police had to move me out of my apartment overnight due to rape and death threats. These were sparked by me simply being a woman who put her head above the parapet on issues of gender equality.

Far from home, those nasty messages wrecked me. I’m a pretty tough cookie but when men started showing up in my neighbourhood asking for my address, telling me online exactly what they “planned to do to me” and began attending my public lectures as the addresses were public, I just broke. My manager and I had a file inches thick, full of names, threats and incidents, mainly sparked by social media.

The American authorities were pretty much useless as they said the threats didn’t fall under a geographical jurisdiction – and six years ago the policing of social media threats was far less developed than today. Trolling, abuse and sexual threats were a large part of the reason I moved back to the UK three years ago – I just felt too vulnerable in a foreign country by myself.

Caroline speaking out so bravely about her rape and death threats is a great example of this. For my Twitter followers, I hope the messages I RTd today have given you a glimpse into the lewdness and degrading nature of trolling. Yes they are offensive and I had complaints for promulgating that bad language online. Yet I feel awareness is more important in this case.

Please continue to support anyone you see receiving abuse on Twitter. If someone were being beaten on the pavement, you probably wouldn’t just walk on by. Especially if the abuse contains criminal threats of death or violence. Please add your voice to important campaigns like Lose The Lads Mags or No More Page 3 if you agree. If you don’t agree with these campaigns, then at least stand up for those who you see trolled online.

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  • gerv

    Before I start, insulting anyone in any medium is shameful, and I don’t support it. I’m also no fan of (or reader of) lads mags, and think the world would be a better place without them.

    Lose The Lads Mags is trying to get retailers to stop stocking lads by invoking the Equality Act. If the Equality Act can be bent out of shape enough to apply to the stock and merchandise presentation policies of a newsagent, I fear greatly what it could be made to do for the right of Christians to express, print and promulgate their various views on matters such as the nature of marriage and the role of women. It’s like the “the arguments for gay marriage also support polygamous marriage thing” – if you leave your arguments lying around, anyone else can walk up and use them, even people you don’t agree with. And you’ve conceded the principle.

    Christians should think very hard before supporting measures which result in a reduction of freedom of speech. This warning applies also to proposals to censor the Internet, like Cameron’s recent “magic porn off button”, which even before they try and build it, is already being lined up as a way to get rid of other sorts of content politicians don’t like.

    Alternative mechanisms which don’t have this problem include: don’t buy the mags, boycott the retailers, boycott the advertisers, complain to doctors who leave them in the waiting room, speak up when you see a friend purchase one, make purchasing them a shameful social act.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      Completely agree. Retailers should withdraw them from stock either because they simply don’t wish to sell them OR because of commercial pressure (boycotts etc). The Equality Act route is highly dangerous.

      • gerv

        Have you told Vicky? :-)

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