As happens every so often on edutwitter the subject of unsolicited messages has once come up. Quite rightfully the majority of respondents agree that they are aboharent and have no place in our little online edu world. However, as also happens when this discussion comes up a person was quick to mention that this also happens to men and the discussion should not be around women specifically.
It does. This is a fact. It is a conversation that should be had, but by adding it into every single conversation that takes place around the systematic sexual harassment of women it derails the conversation. Yes sexual harassment exists for all people however it is is overwhelmingly targetted towards women. It speaks of a larger culture in which women are routinely harrassed both online and in the physical world.
More than 80 percent of women worldwide experience some form of street harassment in their lifetime. 41 percent of women have been sent a dickpic in the UK.
When women receive one of these pictures/messages it becomes a small part of the overall harassment that they receive. This morning I tweeted:
This is just a small sample of the weekly DMs I am sent. And that is just within the virtual space. Physically I have been followed home, grabbed, groped, leered at, flashed and other things that I won’t go into today.
When colleagues online acknowledge that unsolicited pictures/messages women are being sent are repugnant it shows solidarity. It makes us feel seen. It shows that it is being taken seriously. When others jump in to make it a male issue it says to me that none of the above is acknowledged. It says you do not take the harassment of women seriously. Women are expected to nod and smile and say ‘yes this does on occasion happen to men’ and then the real discussion of targeted and systematic harassment, assault and objectification of women doesn’t have to be acknowledged. The discussion shifts from female oppression and assault back to the male sphere. It invalidates the female experience.
There is a place for these discussions but a thread that is specifically about the harassment of women is not it.