30 March, 2015

Someone Else's Headline

Happy Monday!

Today we are going to discuss a very relevant and important topic: cyber-bullying and harassment.

NCAA Madness

A couple weeks ago Ashley Judd set off a firestorm on Twitter by posting her opinion. For doing so she was met with threats against her life, her womanhood, and her safety.

For some reason, people think it is okay to tell a woman that you are going to rape her in a dark alley or beat her for because she stated her opinion. It is “okay” to write horrible, graphic intentions against another human being online for simply stating what they think.

And what was Judd posting about: an NCAA Conference basketball game.

Not world news, a controversial trail or new bill. She was not speaking out against sexism in an industry or taking a stand for women’s rights in India. Judd was simply reacting to a sporting event. And for that she got threats against her life.

Unfortunately Judd is not alone.

Lewinsky Speaks Out

Monica Lewinsky recently spoke at a TED conference about cyber-bullying and online harassment. She spoke about the culture of harassment and cruelty we let hide behind, “freedom of speech.” “We need to talk more about our responsibility to freedom of expression,” Lewinsky said. If you haven’t watched her talk, it is well worth the time.

Gamer Anita Sarkeesian has been speaking out against the sexism in the gaming industry and has received death threats for it. Things got so bad that Sarkeesian had to cancel a speaking engagement in Utah

Time to Take a Stand

Women every day are told they are going to be attacked in an ally, beaten into submission, have physical violence done to them because they have an opinion.

Online sexual harassment is disgusting and far too pervasive. And until now there is almost nothing that can be done against online bullying.

But as Judd said, “I knew it was a crime. It was time to call the police, and to say to the Twittersphere, no more.”

If someone said these things in a public place, or in a letter, there is recourse. But because it is done from a computer screen, victims are expected just to take it. It’s not right.

In her talk, Lewinsky mentions Tyler Clementi, who committed suicide after his time with another man went viral.

Rebecca Sedwick jumped from a building after bullies followed her online and told her to kill herself. 

"Public Humiliation as a Blood Sport" 

In her Ted Talk, Lewinsky said, “Public humiliation as a blood sport has to stop, and it's time for an intervention on the Internet and in our culture."

We have let our words becoming meaningless and we have let them become repercussion-less.

Men need to be held accountable for the threats of violence and death they make against women.

Teens need to be held accountable for bullying others online.

If you cannot say it in real life, you should not be able to say it online. 

The facade of the protection of the screen needs to end. 

Like the Wizard in Oz, it's time to expose those speaking nothing but hatred and evil to other human beings online.

This is something I am passionate about. I do not understand how we have allowed cruelty and threating behavior to become so pervasive. What is at the heart of this? Again, I turn to Lewinsky:

A marketplace has emerged where public humiliation is a commodity and shame is an industry. How is the money made? Clicks. The more shame, the more clicks. The more clicks, the more advertising dollars. We're in a dangerous cycle. The more we click on this kind of gossip, the more numb we get to the human lives behind it, and the more numb we get, the more we click. All the while, someone is making money off of the back of someone else's suffering. With every click, we make a choice. The more we saturate our culture with public shaming, the more accepted it is, the more we will see behavior like cyberbullying, trolling, some forms of hacking, and online harassment. Why? Because they all have humiliation at their cores. This behavior is a symptom of the culture we've created. Just think about it. (link)


A person bullied, threatened, abused online should have the protections of someone bullied, threatened, abused in real life. If you cannot make bodily threats in a public square, why can you make them online (arguably the largest public square ever)?

It’s time for action. It’s time for a shift in cultural acceptance of public shaming. This sensationalized love of other people’s suffering has to end.

As Lewinsky said: Just imagine walking a mile in someone else's headline.

What do you think can be done to stop cyber-bullying? Have you ever been a victim? 

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© Amanda Lunday