Prior to reading Chief Elk-Young Bear and Kane, as a woman, I had an understanding of the harassment we face based on our gender. The types of harassment women face depends on whether or not it’s online or offline. There are people who feel more confident verbally and/or sexually harassing a woman when they can cower behind a device, but then there are those who progress to either verbally and/or sexually harass a woman in person. Women will be catcalled, demeaned, solicited, bullied, stalked and much more. Women are constantly made to feel unsafe by men. To my understanding, it’s a complex power dynamic where men feel they are entitled to women as if they’re still property. That patriarchal mindset still appears to be prevalent as men feel they have a hold on women and other minority groups.
This harassment of women, both cis or trans, and non-binary people is an issue because it’s an epidemic that only seems to be getting worse. While there’s not one specific cause for this type of behavior, it’s troubling in our society because any group who isn’t a man has to live with the burden of feeling unsafe alone. They have to worry about rejecting a man, out of fear of being killed. They have to worry about consent, which even when they say no, men still see as an opportunity for a yes. Our society loves to put all the blame on the victim, from how much they were drinking, leading them on, to what they were wearing, and more.
The internet contributes to facilitating harassment because it’s easier than ever to find out information about people and spread it like wildfire without consequence. For example, after a breakup, a man can post nude photos of his ex-girlfriend as revenge on pornography websites, slander her reputation online, and thus opening her up to continued, unwarranted harassment. This is not limited to relationships, however, and more often than not, will happen to unsuspecting victims.
There are Twitter accounts dedicated to posting and exposing the offensive, horrific, and cruel comments men will message to women. A popular example of this is an account @SheRatesDogs, where users submit encounters they’ve had with men over dating apps, acquaintances, exes, and more.
The purpose of this account and others are to shed light on the varying toxic ways that men treat women online when their advances are rejected, or not received the way they wanted them to be. In the replies of these tweets, other women will often vocalize their own relatable experiences to these encounters, which further shows how common this issue is in our society. The entitlement that men feel to women’s time and to form a relationship with them, as well as the ability to treat them however they want without consequence is a prime example of the idea of toxic masculinity.
It’s important that accounts like these bring this behavior to the attention of others, but I wonder how successful it is in preventing any future behavior. However, this reading taught me how unhelpful most organizations are in helping victims and preventing future harassment from taking place.
In terms of Twitter, I understand where there could be an issue of free speech, but also with the idea of monitoring that. While it may not be a challenge to spot examples of abuse, they seem to struggle with taking action. And of course, that doesn’t prevent the same users from creating new profiles under alternative pseudonyms, but then the issue continues to be that Twitter should be more active in preventing harassment in the first place.
Although it didn’t surprise me, I was disturbed to learn how counterproductive the police department can be when it comes to the victims of these forms of harassment. I was especially distraught when I found out how unsafe it can be even after talking to law enforcement. Despite society being so quick to encourage the idea of telling law enforcement about their trauma, it ends up almost always going nowhere, which is an issue in itself.
Our justice system shouldn’t be so rigged against those who have been victims of a crime. They experience so much pain, which the article even refers to as a part of the recovery process.
“Victims often need new cell phones, phone numbers, and complete changes to their communication and security infrastructure which carries both a high, immediate cost and requires longer-term financial investments. Additionally, victims often need money to obtain things for their well-being and healing, such as medical care, therapy and medications to address physical and/or emotional trauma.”
The most pressing issue I find with this is that we need to work toward finding a way to repair this broken system. I don’t have a solution to offer or a hypothetical suggestion to make, but it seems like a great place to start would be still working to make organizations take victims of harassment seriously. There can be grave consequences, so allowing them to watch idle as bystanders to this behavior is unacceptable.