(Image: Andrew Courts 2012)
“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” — Oscar Wilde, Intentions
Online participatory culture has unlocked prosumers rights to freedom of expression and online anonymity. However, it has also engendered a new level of identity-based discrimination. Platforms such as Reddit have recently seen a rise in debate surrounding this issue, and more specifically, gender-based trolling and sexism on the site.
On Reddit it is suggested men account for nearly three-quarters of users, a site known for its less-than female-friendly content. Reddit abides to principles of free speech and open platform, and best of all, they can do this anonymously – no real names or email addresses required. However, as The New York Times writer David Carr recently indicated, the anonymity of Reddit “has the odd effect of prompting users to be very intimate and remarkably candid.” Female Redditor, Zopilotemachine, seems to agree with Carr, suggesting “online anonymity makes assholes more vocal.”
For the past few weeks, co-founder of Reddit, Alexis Ohanian, has been expressing his concerns for the online sexism being expressed on the platform. Ohanian has voiced his disappointment in his fellow tech community’s attitudes towards women, proposing “Aren’t we better than this?” Ohanian refers to the people that seem purely comfortable and self-righteous in calling a woman a bitch/cunt/slag on platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, or Reddit.
Notorious Redditor, Violentacrez, was recently unveiled by Gawker’s Adrian Chen, who wrote a piece revealing the identity of Violentacrez, now known as Michael Brutsch. Violentacrez, had launched and moderated some of Reddit’s more controversial community-generated subreddits, including one called “Chokeabitch” and one called “Creepshots”, on which photos taken of women in public are posted, but without their knowledge or consent, and shared based on stimulation of that non-consent. In response to this type of trolling and abuse received from Reddit’s 66% of male users, some females, such as Redditor, SomeGuyWithABoner, have opted to morph into “one of the guys” in order to cease being “berated and belittled for any opinion held.”. In my opinion, we should be ashamed that females have to hide their gender online in order to protect themselves from being abused and belittled while enjoying a FREE AND OPEN space.
Anonymous Redditors on the site may argue that these degrading comments and subreddits are users exercising their freedom of speech, however that doesn’t mean they are free from the consequences of their speech!
I was going to end on the old childhood saying ‘that there is a time and a place for everything’, however in the case of sexism and the degradation of women, there isn’t, nor will there be, a time or a place.