“Scary monsters are like Hula Hoops. They come in and out of fashion”-John Malkovich
Monsters are not really something we think about in daily life but it is fair to say that virtual trolling monster has become a harsh reality with the dawn of the new millennium. In line with the developments in feminism and the journey towards equality, opposition has grown hugely. Criticism of women was previously limited to tabloid newspapers and glossy magazines scrutinizing everything about women from their career choices to their bodies. We only have to take the recent ruthless criticism of Kim Kardashian’s weight gain-WHILST PREGNANT. Positively with the millennia advances in technology have made women suddenly more able to utilise accessible platforms to display their thoughts. Whilst overwhelmingly celebrated throughout society, the more visible opinions of influential women have led a small proportion, mostly men, quaking in their boots, desperate to silence the women fighting for equality. Named the faceless keyboard warriors, the ‘trolls’ as they have become commonly known, have prompted great debate.
Whilst trolling is not a new phenomenon, the regularity of it is. It hit the headlines of late, after the response of feminist writer Caroline Criado-Perez, whose three month campaign to see Jane Austen on the new £10 note was finally successful. The Bank of England conceded that it was of crucial importance that the faces on our money should reflect the faces in our society.Cue celebrations and dreams of ‘future banknotes featuring Mary Seacole and Rosalind Franklin’ swimming around in the minds of many in Britain. Things have taken a rather sinister with highly questionable individuals descending into the ‘twittersphere’ to vent violent abuse at Criado- Perez. Just two of the tweets read “this Perez one just needs a good smashing up the arse and she’ll be fine”, and “Everyone jump on the rape train > @CCriadoPerez is conductor”.
Even retyping these quotes makes me feel quite sick to my stomach. It worries me how many people feel that it is ok not only to disrespect women publicly but to threaten their safety, using physical sexual power over others as a threat. Whilst it could be said the most sensible solution would be to ignoring it , why should women or anybody for that matter have to accept it?The tweets threatening rape and violence did not even stop there, moving on to publishing her address on the micro-blogging site. This surely goes way beyond freedom of expression! What shocks me most about the case is that it wasn’t just one person but that so many were directing vitriol at women more generally throughout society. MP Stella Creasey was threatened, and columnist Grace Dent even received threats regarding a bomb that had allegedly been planted outside her home.
Legal action has been taken with two men in their twenties having subsequently been arrested for harassment. Scotland Yard has launched an inquiry and Tony Wang the general manager of Twitter UK is issuing personal apologies to the women affected. The actions are of both necessary and positive but it is essential that the real focus should be placed on how to prevent the problem in the future. Change.org have consequently spearheaded the petition for a report abuse button on twitter, stating that the current method of reporting abuse is ineffective and too time consuming. At the time of writing the number of signatures on the petition stood at 120,000.
Feminist writer Caitlin Moran (author of the excellent and thought provoking ‘How to be a woman’) has also subsequently called for a boycott of twitter on the 5th of August. Whilst solutions are pondered, we can all show our support by boycotting twitter on ‘trolliday’. As Owen Jones, writing recently in The Independent commented, “Trolls don’t run the internet; neither do abusive men who issue rape threats to get women to shut up. We are the majority. And if we stand firm, and shout back as one, we will win. I hope you’ll join me in shouting back.”