Blogging While Female
CHICAGO--This morning, Garance Franke-Ruta, who blogs at TAPPED and on her eponymous blog, The Garance, conducted a panel called "Blogging While Female," which featured Jessica Valente of Feministing, Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon and Gina Cooper of The Daily Kos. Each of the women addressed the experience they've had with online "trolls" and stalkers, usually men who use the comments sections of blogs to attack women writers, usually in sexualized ways.
Following an appearance she made on the Web-based TV program, Blogging Heads, Franke-Ruta received, she said, some 57 comments on her blog concerning whether or not she should have worn a barrette in her hair.
On a far more ominous note, Valente talked about how her Flckr page (a free service that will host your personal photo gallery on the Web) was used by trolls who downloaded photos of her and used them to alter pornographic images, replacing the face of the porn model with Valente's own. She made the point that the difference between online abuse such as this harassment in physical space is that these images will live on, as will keyword phrases that link her name with sexually demeaning terms as they appeared in comments on her blog posts.
Marcotte, who had a brief and controversial stint as the blogger of the John Edwards presidential campaign, spoke of how one man, who took exception to her inclusion on Pandagon, an "A-list," multi-voice blog, published her home address on the Web, and called her boss to try to get her fired.
What one calls oneself online often has some bearing on the sort of comments or e-mails one receives. Cooper explained that she has two e-mail addresses through which she takes correspondence on the Kos Web site. One contains her first name -- a decidedly feminine moniker -- and the other does not. She receives far more vicious and sexually threatening messages through the one that features her first name (Gina).
During the Q&A session, Shireen Mitchell of Digital Sisters, Inc., told us that most states have cyberstalking statutes, but they're either not enforced, or are too specific to address the full range of harassment and taunting that women bloggers often endure. Also, she said, a line about cyberstalking has been added to a new version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
--Adele M. Stan