Penny drops in the feminist Antiroom
Are misogynistic threats silencing women’s voices on the internet?
The question was among the topics discussed at this Tuesday’s live recording of the Antiroom podcast in Dublin’s Workman’s Club, as British journalist Laurie Penny joined a feminist panel comprising blogger Suzy Byrne, Abortion Rights Campaign member and editor of the Ticket Anthea McTeirnan, and host Anna Carey.
And the answer was yes.
Penny (aka @PennyRed) said she was reluctantly shying away from reading comments below-the-line on sites such as the Guardian’s Comment is Free, for which she writes. “It makes me sad, because I actually enjoy engaging with people”.
The New Statesman writer has been the recipient of rape and death threats on sites including the now closed down Don’t Start Me Off, which was the same site responsible for making threats of sexual violence against classicist Mary Beard after she appeared on the BBC’s Question Time.
Prof Beard recently wrote that the “vile” abuse she had received, which included the superimposition of her face on images of female genitalia, “would put many women off appearing in public”. The Antiroom panel echoed this view. “It’s about silencing,” said McTeirnan.
Although men are also subjected to online trolling, the abuse directed at women is more likely to concentrate on their appearance, Penny noted.
“Men get told they’re wrong, women get told they’re ugly.”
The journalist has sought to have violent threats made against her in the comments section of the Guido Fawkes blog deleted, to little avail.
“Sites like that will delete race hate speech. Anti-Semitic comments will be deleted and some Islamophobia. But they won’t delete misogyny,” she told Teleprinter after the event.
Some media companies are gaining a better understanding of their responsibility to protect their employees and contributors from abuse, however.
“It’s not a fixed media landscape, that’s the thing. It’s changing all the time, and smart editors know that... There’s also a realisation now that people who comment aren’t representative of the vast majority of readers.”
Penny was visiting Dublin to research a feature on Irish abortion laws for the magazine Vice – Ireland’s lack of reproductive rights for women and disagreements within feminism were also debated on the podcast.
About 90 people attended the event, which was organised by Antiroom co-founders Carey and Sinéad Gleeson, who run the blog-turned-podcasting venture to counteract an underserving of the feminist audience in the Irish news media.