The Atlantic recently published a piece on women’s voices in social media and how those voices tend, moreso than men’s voices, to incur harassment. Lafrance’s “When Will the Internet Be Safe for Women?” cited a Pew research study conducted in 2014 that concluded that while both men and women face negative backlash when they use the internet professionally or personally, the worst of the harassment is targeted at women– particularly when it comes to stalking and sexual harassment.
Yet, many women are asked to simply log off if they can’t handle the trolls.
The trend is, I’m afraid, a reflection of archaic cultural values that still dominate our society more generally. And while that’s disturbing all by itself, I can’t help but apply this issue to the classroom– particularly as we give students more authentic platforms (i.e. blogging, social media, etc…) with which to be heard. Are we carefully considering the consequences of asking our female students to contribute to social media platforms or post videos on YouTube or add their voices to a particular hashtag on Twitter without giving them a full picture of what is likely to happen as a result?
Along with conversations about privacy and big data, I think we have to engage our students in conversations around online harassment and then let them decide how much (or if) they are willing to add their voices to public platforms.