Saturday, June 23, 2007

Hey, wait...That's me?

A new topic has sprung up on the Run, Baby, Run e-mail list serve. Here is the rundown of the issue.

Hi all,

I just have to write about this here to express my frustration - I think this goes a long way in discussing why women find it difficult to just LIVE OUR LIVES let alone actually get into the spotlight.

One of my best friends currently attends law school, and a few months ago, she found that a group of anonymous individuals had posted picture of her w/o her knowledge on an incriminating website.

Meanwhile, based on the photos, individuals made lewd, racist, and scary comments about her in another web site/forum called She had absolutely nothing to do with this web site, its founders, the chat room or the commenters. You can read more about the site (from another victim) here:

This was scary to me as she had to fight for many weeks (during an intense semester of law school!) to get these pictures, removed, and get these random men to stop Googling her and personally harassing her. Her real name, law school, year, and other personal information were revealed. What's equally scary is that the men who participated in these discussions were law students at top 10 law schools in the country. Honestly, if this is the best that America has to offer, I am mortified.

Thankfully - Anthony Ciolli, one of the Penn Law students who ran AutoAdmit, had his offer rescinded from the firm where he was to work as a result of his involvement with the site.

My fear: As more younger people and women run for office, do we risk having pictures or other information of ourselves from Friendster, MySpace and Flickr stolen and used for malicious purposes? Do women — particularly feminist women — who choose to provide visual images risk both sexualized objectification and ugly ridicule? Is every single woman with an online photo account a target for public flaming? Do we have to be prepared to fight for our individuality, privacy, and the respect of our own personal identifies? Why can't these men see that their actions are really, truly emotional draining ... I mean, why do people waste their time?

For example, here's a disturbing comment from one of the AutoAdmit posters:

As someone who runs a blog and has thousands of flickr pictures online, Jill must know it's inevitable that people will recognize her, especially within a community as small as a law school. She has introduced an informational asymmetry to her life. Many people she doesn't know will have impressions of her based on her online persona. If she wishes to avoid this, she can solve the problem by curtailing her web presence and hoping people have short memories.

So wait - women are the majority of users who get harassed on the Internet. These women are purposefully targeted by men. So it's women who should have to curtail participation in social networking and information sites, and essentially exclude ourselves from civic participation so we don't get harassed?

Excuse me?

As a commenter said, this is what society looks like when women are told that we (and only we) can prevent rape/assault/harassment and abuse by how we conduct our lives, and it is wrong. I think this is a large piece of what prevents women from getting into various sector of professional life - from academia to politics. There's this notion of 'If you can't take it, leave." To me, it's not even about "taking it" - it's about a fundamental respect that seems lacking in civil discourse.
I don't exactly have a resolution or final thought of this e-mail, but I suppose the message is ... highly personal, highly sexualized harassment is a threat to our safety and well-being. Posting your picture or a blog post on the Internet does not make it okay for someone to sexualize you.

Seriously, I've had these conversations with guys before and I feel like a frustrated, sad broken record. It's kind of shocking to hear about how this is "free speech" yada, yada. To the guys out there - when your friends, co-workers or colleagues say something hateful, misogynistic, or sexist is being said, please stop being part of the (silent) problem and start being part of the solution - please call them out and tell them it's not okay. Stop trying to be cool or ironic or playful or whatever. It's seriously not okay.

By the way, the contest web site was eventually shut down, but many of the discussions with my friend's personal information still exist in cyberspace.

Feel free to discuss (in a respectful way, of course.)


  1. things really haven't changed much as to things like this. just the technology, which makes it more dangerous.

    the underlying attitudes are still there, but to a lesser degree from the 60's.

    it isn't right and it isn't fair but life isn't fair and we just have to keep moving along. sometimes it's in big strides, sometimes baby steps.

    it's frustrating, but changing people's attitudes especially long held attitudes pased down in families and communties and even some religions is a slow process.

    we can pass laws but it's much harder to change minds.

    what, to me, is really telling is the fact that some men, these ones certainly, resort to the only thing they feel they can. sex.
    they go right to it. they aren't providing anything to say she isn't a bright qualified woman. they aren't saying she's a hidden felon, no, they go right for the power, the brute male yet junior high school bully tactic.
    they harass and try to ruin reputations, but in the end, they expose themselves as childish, insecure, cruel children.
    i wouldn't hire a child and i hope people will think twice about hiring these "children" but there a places where these guys will find employment because there are companies out there, i am sure, that are headed by people just like them.
    women just have to keep on keeping on.
    it's worth it.
    i've seen great chanmges in just my lifetime and i'm 55.

  2. "To the guys out there - when your friends, co-workers or colleagues say something hateful, misogynistic, or sexist is being said, please stop being part of the (silent) problem and start being part of the solution - please call them out and tell them it's not okay. Stop trying to be cool or ironic or playful or whatever. It's seriously not okay."

    The same advice is true for women with regard to comments that are racist, exploitive, or demeaning. If we don't work more aggressively for actual civility in our social discourse, we are also part of the problem.

    I usually put up a picture of one of my pet's for my online profiles. Not only do I think they are beautiful, but I'm uncomfortable putting my image out there and a lot of that stems from all this crap about beauty and such.

    But we cannot capitulate.

  3. Sue,

    Your idea about including a forum on internet harrassment/crime against women is a good one.

    It would be helpful to hear from local experts who're knowlegeable about the laws & recourse women could take if they're threatened, harrassed, maligned online. Unfortunately, I know of no such experts.

    Does this type of behavior stem from men's insecurities about their changing role? Until very recently most women had to depend on men to survive. Females were extremely limited in other options.

    Currently, with each passing day, women "need" men less and less. We're supporting ourselves, we're rising thru the ranks, etc. There are more women in law school than men. If I remember correctly there'll soon be more women than men in medical school. I regret that the political world is lagging in this, but hope that, as more women enter high paying jobs, they'll begin to pull out their checkbooks to support female candidates - but that's a whole other topic...

  4. i don't think it's a new behavior, just a new way of going about it.
    a faster way that reaches more people. but sexual smears, the damaging of a woman's reputation,trying to negate her or her accomplishments or just plain old fashoined revenge for being as good as or better than, well...

    no, i don't think it's new. i think the numbers of men that are standing up against the good old boy, ho, ho mentality is new.

    there seem to me, to be far more self assured younger men(than me) that are enlightened to the truth.

    if that were not the case, women your age wouldn't even be asking that question. you would just take it as a given that this is the way it is. men have all the say so.

    times are changing but no one, can stop being vigilant.

    everyone should try for a civil end to problems. a true understanding of each other or at least, a willingness to try.

    my little soapbox moment.

    ( i bow)

  5. Check out Naomi Wolf's Op Ed in today's P-G, the topic dovetails well with our discussion, G