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Intro:

The internet can be a rough place but if you are a woman, it can be exceptionally crude. Women are being subjected to horifying levels of hate and prejudice in the online world becaues as Laurie Penny, a journalist and author of several books on misogyny stated: “The feminist revolution and the digital revolution have grown up together, and are both incomplete.” In this week’s debate we asked readers whether the internet is still a man’s world.

 

Kicker: Culture wars

Headline: The gaming world

In the gaming world, you have two environments — one of the game itself and the other of the media, chatrooms or forums related to games. In both of these environments, you need another personality — either a pseudonym or avatar. Now, in the gaming environment, the general focus is about taking the player on a power trip. How powerful can you make the player feel? How much of a hero complex are you creating? In games like Call of duty or Assassin’s Creed you are all by yourself, you have weapons and are about to save the world. So, in your mind, you are the best. And it is this tendency that is being built in players as they play the game, which they take from one environment to the other. This explains a lot of the violence and even self-assuredness online. They feel like they are the best and if you disagree with them, then you don’t deserve to have an opinion.

When it comes to cyber misogyny, female gamers also use avatars to hide the fact that they are women. Because if you do openly state that you are a woman, once you get out of the game, you get to hear a lot of comments and harassment takes place. So, you either have girls who stand up and openly state that they are women and they either get kicked out of forums or they get bullied. Or you have girls who play another game of not saying that they are females.

So, how do we fix it? Game companies have community managers to find solutions to the problem of toxic behaviour but the problem is that they are always policing and managing the second environment - the forums and the chatrooms. Companies rarely address the first environment — the whole power mythology that is created within games. Far Cry was a game that got very famous, especially Far Cry 3, but it also received a lot of criticism because it was basically showing a white protagonist who shows up on an island in what appears to be South East Asia. There, you have some poor local people and some bad local people and the hero helps the poor people by fighting the bad ones. So, there are overt sexist or racist overtones in many games.

The problem mainly is that

You can make good games with female protagonists where you don’t necessarily need to kill everyone but it is what the public is ‘used to’.

It would take time for gamers to adapt to something else and that doesn’t necessarily work in an environment like the gaming world, which has quick economic cycles. If you wait for gamers to adapt to your game, you’ll be taken over by another company.

Honestly, one of the most efficient solutions is to have less ‘white men’ developing those games. That is what is happening right now. The people who are developing the games wouldn’t know how a woman would feel or a non-white person would feel and you can’t really blame them.

It is actullay really hard to hire female developers, it is part of the broader effort to include girls in the technology field. So, if a girl wants to become a game designer don’t say, “No, don’t do that. Games are only for boys.” The solution could just be that simple. Let them do it so that they bring about the change. They are the best people possible to talk about women’s issues.

From Mr Pierre Depaz

Professor of interative media at New York University Abu Dhabi AD with a background in game designing/development and political science.

 

Kicker: Inside problem

Headline: Women attack each other more often than men

Misogyny is simply distasteful playground behavior in the online world. These days, it is more common for women to attack other women instead of men attacking them online. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed an increase in women tearing each other down instead of building each other up and supporting one another. Social media is simply a breeding ground for female misogynist trolls. The internet has given people a false sense of security, allowing them the power to hide behind an anonymous account and throw dirt on another woman’s name. People would never be so spiteful or rude in public, however the anonymity allows the abuse to proliferate.

I find that sometimes you cannot win against these trolls. Whether you respond or not, the trolls will still do everything in their power to make sure you have received their threats and bitter messages or comments. Since I’ve been in the public eye from a young age, I’ve developed a thick skin. I find the best way to handle the trolls is to simply use the block button. However, in my experience, many trolls see being ‘blocked’ as an accomplishment as you’ve retaliated. It won’t stop some from making another anonymous account to attack you.

Now more than ever, people go out of their way to portray a false image of their lives in order to make it look glamorous and exuberant on social media. I’ve been out on several occasions where girls have taken countless photos just so they can get the right shot that would be good enough for instagram. Most of the time, I feel that the hate and negativity online comes from girls who are in competition with each other. It becomes an obsessive game of trying to outdo one another.

From Ms Alizey Mirza

A fashion blogger based out of Dubai and London

 

Kicker: Stand up

Headline:

When there is a social space, it is assumed that it is male. Cyber space, since its origin, was defined by men and for men. When women use the same space, which is as much theirs as it is anybody’s, the male ego gets hurt. Patriarchy feels that borders have been crossed.

Trolling happens in groups mostly and it is a strategy patriarchy thinks intimidates women. This war is not waged to win. It is just to display power. Like all harassment, trolling is also about power.

After years of trying to figure out what the most effective way to deal with cyber bullying, harassment and trolling is, I have come to the realisation that there isn’t one. From the time I started blogging and social networking I have been hounded by misogynists online. I have been called names, mostly referring to my ‘character’. At this point I have figured out that being called such names is not all that bad. As to what to do when you are face these comments really is an enigma. We have a big array of problems starting from ‘mansplaining’. It is sometimes done in such sweet words that you’d get confused if it is a compliment that is being passed. In fact, it is a violent method of assertion, saying that this space is male, that this space is not for you. This, as we all know, is silly. Because when you are being called names or being trolled or harassed, the crux of the matter is that you are not ‘welcome’ here. We — patriarchy — don’t want you here. So, then the best retort to that is being there. Sometimes that suffices. Sometimes liking a troll comment can drive the troll crazy because it means that you exist in the same space as them and, more importantly, that you don’t care. To deal with harassment the most important thing, though painstaking, is to learn the language of the harasser. I have tried the other way — approaching the cyber cell but, trust me, at least in my country, it does not work.

From Ms Kunjila Mascillamani

I am a writer, filmmaker from Kerala, india.

 

Kicker: Comparison

Headline: Online trolling is just as bad as real-life harassment

If a woman is harassed online the impact it has on her mindset is just as bad as when it happens in real life. The reason being that the person receiving the comments does get hurt and it can have an impact on her mind, spirit, confidence and self-image.

When a person receives a comment, whether in person or online, the impact will almost be the same. These comments constantly run through the person’s mind and leave an imprint.

Even when a woman might try to ignore it, if the harassment is severe the psychological defence mechanisms will not come up. She will constantly think about it, so it doesn’t matter whether she receives the comments online or not. They are just as damaging.

Unfortunately, with online anonymity people do not hesitate to give bad or hurtful comments. Compared to real life interactions, online comments are harsher. They presume that they can comment to any extent because he or she does not feel that people will not accept them. There is a possibility of never being caught, so there are no limits, inhibitions or filters.

I think a person’s behaviour depends on the culture of the individual. Our behaviour differs from country to country and from person to person. It depends on what type of culture we come from and what kind of upbringing we have received. So, we cannot draw universal conclusions on online behaviour.

For example, in certain countries people feel that they can freely comment on any topic. Especially when it comes to women, you have to understand that some cultures have a male-dominated society, where they don’t hesitate to comment on women whereas in the case of men, they won’t ever make such comments.

However, when it comes to countries with liberal values and women empowerment, people do not behave badly online.

So, building society itself is important.

From Dr Padmaraju Varrey

Psychiatrist based in Abu Dhabi

 

Poll:

Does prejudice against women exist online?

Yes 74%

No 26%

 

Have Your Say: Do you think the internet is still a man’s world? What is the best way to monitor and solve the issue of cyber misogyny? Tell us at readers@gulfnews.com