A Cyberharassment Bibliography

Happy International Women’s Day! One pressing issue that affects millions of women every day is online harassment and abuse. The Internet is, at best, an unpleasant place for women, and this is a serious problem. Most of us don’t have a choice about using the Internet. We need it to function professionally — to send emails, conduct research, publicize our ideas, and make professional connections. Signing off the Internet simply isn’t an option.

In the past several months, we’ve seen a surge of articles about the harms of online harassment and the fact that online harassment disproportionately affects women, as well as some other groups. I’m collecting these recent articles here — as well as a few particularly useful older sources that deal with the same topic — in the hope that this post can serve as a resource for anyone studying online harassment and abuse. Moreover, I hope that these narratives of cyberharassment will put to rest the argument that online harassment is not a serious problem, as well as the claim that the problem does not disproportionately affect women. Reasonable people can disagree about how to solve the problem. I don’t think that reasonable people can disagree that the problem exists.

Here’s a list of recommended reading, annotated with quotations from the sources, with two caveats at the bottom. I envision this list as an ongoing project; please feel free to send me helpful additions:

Sarah Alcid, The Latest War on Women: Online Harassment (Oct. 23, 2013) (“[T]he truth is that the Internet is very much a public space – with all of the same sexism, racism, homophobia, and transphobia of our streets, but often, much worse.”)

Soraya Chemaly, The Digital Safety Gap and the Online Harassment of Women (Jan. 28, 2013) (“We’re suppose to pretend that these digital incivilities are gender-neutral  and unrelated to other behaviors meant to keep women silent. They are not.”)

Soraya Chemaly, When It Comes to Harassment and Stalking, the Virtual IS Real (Jan. 15, 2014) (“No girl or woman has the luxury of assuming there is a disconnect between the virtual and the ‘real.’ Especially given statistics about sexual assault and intimate partner violence.This concept of safe distance and space as protection is a thoroughly male norm.”)

Danielle Citron, The Changing Attitudes Toward Cyber Gender Harassment: Anonymous as a Guide? (Apr. 27, 2014) (“[T]he next question is whether self-help efforts . . . are the answer. Not by my lights: naming and shaming can become a one-way ratchet to degradation. It can spiral out of control with cyber mobs on both sides and no ability to control the damage. . . . Nonetheless the message that KY Anonymous and others are sending is valuable. Hopefully more and more people are listening.”)

Tracy Clark-Florey, Doxxing Internet Babes: “She Wanted It” (Feb. 22, 2014) (“Doxxing is the Internet’s ultimate form of slut-shaming – and . . . it doesn’t just happen to women who have taken a naked photo of themselves. All it requires is being a woman on the Internet.”)

Bree Davies, It Happened to Me: I Was Friends With an Internet Troll (Jan. 31, 2014) (“This is the picture of an Internet troll in real life: an unhappy, substance-abusing, violent, unemployed liar with no friends. I know this isn’t the story of every Internet troll, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the story of many of them.”)

Jill Filipovic, Let’s Be Real: Online Harassment Isn’t Virtual for Women (Jan. 10, 2014) (“Imagine going to work and every few days having people in the hallway walk up to you and say things like, ‘Die, you dumb cunt’ and ‘you deserve to be raped’ and, if you’re a woman of color, adding in the n-word and other racial slurs for good measure. Consider how that would impact your performance and your sense of safety.”)

Conor Friedersdorf, When Misogynist Trolls Make Journalism Miserable for Women (Jan. 7, 2014) (“How many talented women dropped out of the blogosphere rather than deal with hateful Internet feedback?”)

Trista Hendren, EOM Speaks on Social Networks: The Good, The Bad and The Horrifying (Jan 17, 2014) (interview with representatives of UK-based organization End Online Misogyny)

Amanda Hess, Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet (Jan. 6, 2014) (“[N]o matter how hard we attempt to ignore it, this type of gendered harassment — and the sheer volume of it — has severe implications for women’s status on the Internet. Threats of rape, death, and stalking can overpower our emotional bandwidth, take up our time, and cost us money.”)

Sarah Kendzior, Why Cyber-Bullying Endures (Oct. 18, 2012) (“[T]he internet becomes everything to a person who is cyber-stalked and harassed. The internet renders their humiliations permanent, available for viewing by others whether that individual deigns to revisit them or not. There is no relief from the incessant patrolling of the digital self.”)

Sonia Lawrence, Wired Harassment Part 2 (Jan. 12, 2014) (“It feels, sometimes, impossible to be as wary as we are apparently meant to be while having an actual life.”)

Helen Lewis, Dear The Internet, This Is Why You Can’t Have Anything Nice (June 12, 2012) (“I think it’s important that you see the kind of stuff you can get called for the crime of Being A Woman On The Internet.”)

Helen Lewis, This is What Online Harassment Looks Like (July 6, 2012) (“This isn’t just a few rude words, and it isn’t OK.”)

Chris Mooney, Internet Trolls Really Are Horrible People (Feb 14, 2014)

Ellen Nakashima, Harsh Words Die Hard on Web (Mar. 7, 2007)

NPR: Fed Up With Harassment, Author Reveals her Cyberstalker (Feb. 23, 2014)

Claire Potter, Why Social Media Use Is Now A Professional Issue (Dec. 26, 2013) (“[W]hat feels so good about unmediated speech, and the fantasy that our voices are truly being heard?”)

Joshunda Sanders, Up to Here With Trolls? Tips for Navigating Online Drama (April 2, 2014) (“The Internet is now an essential part of academic life, but anyone who has ever spent hours arguing with anonymous commenters or days managing positive or negative responses to his or her work knows cyberspace isn’t without serious drawbacks. Just like in real life, there’s always more than enough online drama to go around.”

Jessica Valenti, Fuck the High Road: The Upside of Sinking to Their Level (June 3, 2013) (“[T]he high road [ignoring trolls] is overrated. It requires silence in the face of violent misogyny, and a turn-the-other cheek mentality that society has long demanded of women.”)

Rebecca Watson, Why I Don’t Just Go to the Cops (Oct. 10, 2013) (“As a woman who has opinions online, I get rape and death threats on a fairly regular basis, mixed in amongst the barrage of gendered slurs and comments about how fat I am.”)

Lindy West, Don’t Ignore the Trolls, Feed Them Until They Explode (July 31, 2013) (“I’m sick of being told that I’m navigating my own abuse wrong.)

Phyllis Wise, Moving Past Digital Hate (Jan. 30, 2014) (“What was most disturbing was witnessing social media drive a discussion quickly into the abyss of hateful comments and even threats of violence. I shudder to think what might happen if that type of vitriol were directed at a vulnerable member of our student body or university community.”)

Finally, here are links to the four-part series I wrote about my own experiences with sexist cyberharassment: one, two (with a short addendum), three, and four.

* * *

Two caveats: First, I’m not including academic publications on this list. A lot of really excellent work has addressed online harassment — I recommend Cyber Civil Rights, by Danielle Citron, as a starting point — but compiling an academic bibliography is a separate project. Second, the phenomenon of non-consensual pornography, also known as revenge porn, has recently received a great deal of attention in the media. While revenge porn is certainly one of the most severe forms of online abuse, it likewise deserves separate attention. For information about non-consensual pornography, the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative and End Revenge Porn are good starting points, and End Revenge Porn has compiled some media resources here.