Dr. Nancy Wayne

Scientist, Educator & Speaker

“the women of this world are constantly fighting against a hatred that men do not see”

Not my typical blog.

I want to draw your attention to an important article published on December 8, 2016 on Vox.com by Emily Crocket, titled “A husband and wife each published an article. It became a case study in harassment.

Here is the article in its entirety:

Online harassment is a universal problem, but it definitely falls harder on some people than others. In a recent Guardian study of abusive comments on its own articles, eight of its top 10 most abused writers were women, and two were men of color.

Almost everyone experiences some online abuse, but not everyone experiences the same level or intensity of it. For some, online harassment is a nuisance that’s easily shrugged off. For others, it’s not so easy.

That’s why it’s important to step into someone else’s shoes every now and then, like Washington Post pop music critic Chris Richards did. When Richards and his wife each had articles published on the same page of the Post, what happened next was almost a perfect A/B test proving how disproportionate harassment works:

Chris _ _ Richards  [tweets]

  1. My wife and I both work at the Washington Post. Today we had stories that ran on the same page. Not uncommon, but always cool. 1:29 PM – 7 Dec 2016
  1. All too common and always uncool: Our respective inboxes began to fill with emails from racist readers making ugly complaints. 1:30 PM – 7 Dec 2016
  1. (Before I go further, my wife and I are both white, her story today was about a young girl in a Syrian war zone, mine was about Beyonce) 1:30 PM – 7 Dec 2016
  1. So… plenty of these emails were already waiting on our phones before we even got out of bed. But here’s the difference: 1:31 PM – 7 Dec 2016
  1. Many of the readers emailing my wife called her vulgar names — words I will not re-type here. How many readers called me names? 1:32 PM – 7 Dec 2016
  1. None. Zero. In fact, I can’t remember a reader calling me a name in my entire career. Ever. Yet, my wife experiences it regularly. 1:32 PM – 7 Dec 2016
  2. That makes my blood boil, it makes my heart sink, but ultimately… 1:33 PM – 7 Dec 2016
  1. It’s become my regular reminder that the women of this world are constantly fighting against a hatred that men do not see. 1:34 PM – 7 Dec 2016
  2. And for what it’s worth, I wanted to make it visible here. Peace. 1:34 PM – 7 Dec 2016

It’s easy for some to be skeptical that online harassment is that big a deal, or that it’s worse for people who aren’t white men. It’s easy to say something like, “It’s not because you’re a woman, it’s because they disagree with you,” or, “Whatever, it’s the internet, people are going to be jerks.”

And yes, people disagree and are jerks. But they also tend to be much bigger, nastier jerks to women, people of color, and folks in other marginalized groups.

Women and people of color can shrug off harassment too, of course, and often do. But they also tend to face more, and more vicious, attacks, including attacks that are specifically targeted at their gender or their race. All of that can wear down even those with the thickest skin, and its long-term harms can sneak up on you over time.

This is especially true of journalists and commentators with public platforms who write about controversial topics. And as Amanda Taub pointed out for Vox, this means online harassment can have real harms on journalism if it makes women and people of color reluctant to cover controversial issues.


  1. A husband and wife each published an article. It became a case study in harassment. By Emily Crocket, Vox.com.
  1. The dark side of Guardian comments. By Becky Gardiner, Mahana Mansfield, Ian Anderson, Josh Holder, Daan Louter, Monica Ulmanu, The Guardian.
  1. Insults and rape threats. Writers shouldn’t have to deal with this By Jessica Valenti, The Guardian.
  1. What exactly is a microaggression? By Jenee Desmond-Harris, Vox.com.
  1. The Guardian study’s hidden lesson: trolls reinforce white male dominance in journalism. By Amanda Taub, Vox.com.

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This entry was posted on December 9, 2016 by .

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