Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"Malicious", "Abusive", & "Vile" Comments: How Female Writers are Treated Online - Updated

On Monday the National Catholic Reporter suspended comments on its website, and yesterday the editor, Dennis Coday, explained why:
We are not reacting to “irreverent comments.” The words I used to describe the comments were “malicious,” “abusive” and “vile.” An NCR contributor called me and asked me to read some of the comments over the phone to him, and I declined. That’s how vile they were.
To get an idea of what we are struggling with, read Amanda Hess’ piece at Pacific+Standard, “Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet,” and Conor Friedersdorf’s reaction to Hess on The Atlantic site, “When Misogynist Trolls Make Journalism Miserable for Women.” They may give you some idea of what we are struggling with.
NCR suspended comments because female writers received heinous comments that simply demanded a response.  How heinous?  Read the two articles Coday cites above.

Such comments appear to be the norm.  When I asked Kaya Oakes, a Catholic writer I recommend you read, whether she's received such comments, her response was startling:
There are times when - as a straight, white, male - I feel like I've had my head in the sand.

This is one of those times.

I grow tired of some of my fellow Catholics who refuse to acknowledge that the Catholic church falls short - very short - when it comes to women in the church.

For it appears that misogyny is alive and well in the Catholic church, in other churches, and in society at large.

And I don't really know what to do about it, apart from bringing attention to the problem.

Since writing this post, a few female writers tweeted me to tell me of their on-line experiences.  One mentioned that she regularly receives rape and death threats whenever she writes something, and that a Catholic woman blogger once suggested that she be dropped off in Pakistan without a burka so she could be raped and killed.

Moreover, abuse doesn't only occur on-line.  Another writer said that a male called the college she attends in order to get her address and phone number.  And another mentioned that her research discovered abuse of women administering parishes without priests.

I've had trolls and even a bit of hate-mail.  But nothing compared to this.  Nothing.

Update #2 - January 10
Jill Filipovic today published an article on Talking Points Memo on this theme, in which she describes when one of the misogynist trolls showed up at her office.  Terrifying and horrifying. 


  1. The timing coincides with two people pleading guilty in the horrific online abuse of Caroline Criado Perez. If this hasn't made it to the other side of the Atlantic...

  2. My goal for 2014 is not to read comboxes, much less participate in them. It's not one "side" or another, either. Some of the most vile comments I've ever seen are par for the course at some of the big rightwing political sites (Breitbart, TheBlaze, PJMedia, HotAir). Some female commenters are as vile as the men, and heaven knows the combox regulars at many sites enjoy a good pile-on. One comment begets another, and the level of ugliness ramps up pretty quickly.