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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

dammit, so this happens even to New York Times journalists

Just by dint of their gender. Amy Wallace in “Life as a Female Journalist: Hot or Not?” at the Times:

In 2009, I wrote a cover story for Wired magazine about the anti-vaccine movement and profiled Paul Offit, a leading proponent of vaccines for children. Dr. Offit is a man. I am a woman. That was sufficient grounds for things to get ugly.

In online comments and over email, I was called a prostitute and the C-word. J. B. Handley, a critic of childhood vaccination and the founder of the autism group Generation Rescue, affiliated with the actress Jenny McCarthy, sent me an essay titled, “Paul Offit Rapes (intellectually) Amy Wallace and Wired Magazine.” In it, he implied that my subject had slipped me a date-rape drug. Later, an anti-vaccine website Photoshopped my head onto the body of a woman in a strapless dress who sat next to Dr. Offit at a festive dinner table. The main course? A human baby.

[More depressing examples here of female journalists subjected to gendered abuse as a result of their writing.]

This kind of vitriol is not designed to hold reporters accountable for the fairness and accuracy of their work. Instead, it seeks to intimidate and, ultimately, to silence female journalists who write about controversial topics. As often as not, even if they’ve won two Pulitzers, as [Amy] Harmon has, these women find their bodies — not their intellects — under attack.

…Ms. Harmon told me [that] colleagues of both genders commiserated. Many had received their own hate mail in the past: death threats, for example, or anti-Semitic missives. But for the men, at least, their bodies weren’t part of the conversation.

I count myself lucky that while have received plenty of gendered abuse in response to my writing, none of it (so far) has made me actual fear for my safety (as has happened to many women journalists online). Maybe I’m not being aggressive enough…

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  • RogerBW

    I think it’s not just anonymity that makes this happen: it’s the fact that everyone on the net can find out about something that makes them unhappy, and tell their friends, some of whom are the sort of people one would move city to avoid. Maybe a very small proportion, but there are a lot of people on the net.

  • Danielm80

    So basically the whole world is the gang at Cheers?

  • Being unhappy about something isn’t the problem, nor is expressing that unhappiness. It’s the very specific way that female journalists get treated that is the problem.

  • RogerBW

    Don’t know, never seen it.

    But this sort of thing is consistent with just a very few people being unsocialisable morons. That’s one of the hopes that keeps me going, anyway.

  • RogerBW

    Indeed; what I’m trying to get at is that the sort of people who think rape threats are funny may still be a small proportion of the people out there, if it’s the case that they’re disproportionately likely to react to things compared with normal people.

  • Tonio Kruger

    There were rape jokes on Cheers?

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