(Photo: Marja Flick-Buijs / rgbstock.com)
(Photo: Marja Flick-Buijs / rgbstock.com)

A woman logs into a online social community. She gets talked down to, insulted and threatened with rape and death by several male members. What did she do? She identified herself as female and expressed an opinion.

So why does it happen? No, “because it’s the internet” doesn’t count. The real answer is because the male population of the internet, from childhood to adulthood get their kicks and seem to get a free pass at demeaning women. The male geek population is not excluded. Numerous reports exists of women receiving sexual harassment and abuse at conventions with geek themes. This is not a problem of women. This is a problem of women and men – women as victims and men as perpetrators.

You might not think you’re involved. You might just be a nice guy and a bystander. But if you are not doing something to speak up, you’re passively letting the less enlightened get away with it. If you see a comment, a tweet, a video, anything online with a threat of violence against women, I’m going to encourage you to speak up against it.

The question is not why is there so much online abuse against women, online abuse is not an invisible ghost that exists by itself. It seems we always forget to mention the other participant in that equation. The question is why do men – yes we are the actual responsible gender for this one 99.99% – are so often compelled to hassle, threaten and get away with it scot-free. Some might be kids and teenagers going for the radical and the extreme. It’s even more important then root out the problem before it continues. It’s even more important to show them that the rest of the male population online of whichever community you actively participate on will not turn a blind eye nor tolerate such acts.

If you walk into a bank and say in a loud voice that you’re going to rob everyone there, you are not a bank robber – yet. You are however going to be handcuffed and taken away by police for questioning. If you are in a plane and yell that you have a bomb, you will be restrained and charged. At least you will not fly on that airline again. If you are kid and yell a threat of bodily harm at your teacher, your parents will be called. There should always be consequences to your actions.

There’s trash talk and then there’s a threat of violence. Calling someone names on an online gaming session might get a pass. Telling someone on their own blog or addressing them on twitter and promising to find out where they live to commit violence upon them is not fun and games. It’s actually incriminating behavior, meaning the person behind that statement is actually stating he’s going to commit a crime. If it happens within a community that has rules against it, then such rules should be enforced and they should no longer be allowed to be a part of such community. If there are no rules against it, then there should be.

That will do for now.