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The internet is an amazing place to share thoughts and ideas and create a unique dialogue between writers and their readers. I am grateful for criticisms, new information, and the expansion of a conversation though the format of online comments. What I don’t appreciate are hateful, obtrusive, and obnoxious comments. What scares me the most are comments containing threats and violence. This is a reality that writers face in their field, and while it varies and there is a spectrum, online harassment is most likely to happen to women, and least likely to happen to white men. While this may not come as a surprise, there’s now cold hard truth supporting this claim.

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The Guardian recently released data that researched 70 million comments on their site, revealing that the writers who experienced the most amount of degradation were women and black men. Specifically, out of the top 10 writers who got the most online abuse, four were white women, four were non-white women and two were black men. Out of those, two of the women and one of the men were gay; additionally, one woman was Muslim and one was Jewish. Surprise, surprise: The 10 writers who received the least online harassment were all men. 

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Finding that “some subjects attracted more abusive or disruptive comments than others...Articles about feminism attracted very high levels of blocked comments. And so did rape.” What does this mean for a feminist publication like BUST, where the majority of our writers are women?

Screenshot 2016 04 25 at 12.45.28 PMImage from The Guardian

I’ve been lucky enough to never feel personally threatened, but I’ve definitely felt shade being thrown my direction, that my articles are dumb and that I’m a bad writer #reallybust. It stings a little, but you let it roll off your shoulders. But, as the data recently released suggests, sometimes repeated verbal assault isn’t so easy to brush off.Guardian writer Steven Thrasher is quoted, saying, “Even if I tell myself that somebody calling me a nigger or a faggot doesn't mean anything, it has a toll on me: it has an emotional effect, it takes a physical toll. And over time it builds up.”

These assaults are not doing anything to help improve journalism or contribute to society. Who is this type of rhetoric serving? The commenter, who for whatever reason, gets a sense of validation by sending negativity out into the world. At the most extreme, threats of violence serve as an expression of dominance and power. And they serve to belittle and dehumanize the writer, making them feel unsafe.

We’ve heard, “Jesus Christ Bust Magazine, are you high? Unfollowed..” to “Biggest piece of shit article and photos I've seen to date,” and it ranges and continues. There seems to be some sort of a veil of separation between these vile comments and their perception of the writers as a human beings. I refuse to believe we live in a world full of complete ignorance and intolerance, so I can only conclude that the people sending out hate into the world are deeply troubled individuals. What do we do to improve the online community we wish to foster here at BUST?

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I write this as a form of encouragement for readers to interact with BUST and other publications in a respectful manner. If you don’t like something you read, open up a dialogue, but do not attack the character or integrity of the individual. If you don’t agree with something, let’s talk about it! No one deserves to be silenced. No one deserves to feel degraded or unsafe. We all deserve to be heard and to respectfully disagree and help each other learn and grow. As feminists, we should remain united even when we are divided. That means calling people in, not calling them out or just plain calling them names.

Images from Etsy/HextrovertFlickr

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