For those of you who were in a coma all of last week, the internet recently took up arms against one Melissa Bachman, a professional hunter from the USA who came to South Africa recently. The reason for this outpouring of rage and stupidity? This photo:
Now, I’m not going to be discussing the ethics of Bachman’s actions. That’s already been debated ad nauseam and besides, that’s not why I created this blog. Instead, I’d like to focus on the nature of the… *ahem* “criticism” that was levelled at her following the publication of that unfortunate image.
The following is just a sample of the things said about Bachman on Twitter. Take a deep breath before you read the next few lines. Ready? Okay, here we go:
“I hope that c**nt gets vaginal herpes and dies”
“A disgusting disgrace to the human race.”
“If I come across her I’ll rip off her f**king face”
Wow. Just… wow. I think a part of my soul actually died just writing that.
Once you’re done losing your faith in humanity, take a closer look at those comments. Do you notice anything (I mean besides the disgusting hatred for all that is good and pure)?
Notice that none of the comments actually mention the fact that Bachman killed a lion. Seriously, not one. Instead, they jump straight in to not only insulting her, but openly threatening her with violence.
This isn’t something that’s unique to just Bachman. In 2009, a woman by the name of Anita Sarkeesian posted a series of videos on her video blog Feminist Frequency about the treatment of women in video games.
The response was, like in Bachman’s case, disturbingly violent. The comment section on her YouTube account was flooded with hateful comments, degrading comments and even death threats, images of Sarkeesian being subject to violent and degrading actions flooded social media sites, and – in what will surely go down in history as one of the lowest points of us as a species – a flash game was posted on Newgrounds where players could assault Sarkeesian’s face.
So, between Bachman and Sarkeesian, what is the one thing they have in common? Answer: they’re women.
Thanks to a combination of anonymity and large audience, the internet acts as a giant microphone pointed at the rest of the world. This is why people who still subscribe to Dark-Age ideas about women, race and sexuality are able to say the kinds of things that, if said in public, would land them in jail.
The internet has the opportunity to be something wonderful, a technology that can unite others on a never-before-seen scale. At the same time, it can be a tool to further enforce negative stereotypes and further repressive ideologies. It’s up to all of us to make sure we use it in a way that benefits us all.
Happy International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
A wonderful opinion piece from Daily Maverick which also looks at the disgusting and sexist responses to Bachman’s photograph
Also, check out Anita Sarkeesian’s video blog Feminist Frequency when you get the chance. There’s a link in the page “Blogs I follow”.