Science and feminism: the holy grail for nasty comments?

Just recently, Popular Science shut off their comments in a move they report here. An interesting post came up on Scientific American about this, with a pretty hilarious graphic to start it off (including a great line: “I can science!”). It seems that comments on posts about, especially, climate change and evolution are rewarded by especially vitriolic, nasty, and (worse yet) boring comments.

So, here, apparently is yet one more thing science and feminism has in common, because feminist blogs and posts are subject to the same treatment. Sort of, anyway, because I’m not sure that commentators on science-related posts threaten their authors with horrendously sexualized and gendered physical violence, including rape, though it’s certainly possible. For example, Feminist Frequency’s blogger Anita Sarkeesian received emails with images of her being raped by video game characters… in response to her work trying to create video games that were less misogynistic. Obviously, this would be a serious contender for “Ironic, version II” if Alanis Morisette ever writes a follow-up. Um, or maybe not, because I guess examples of harassment, rape, and sexism are kind of downers (except, apparently, to all the wonderful people in the world who find them hilarious and perfectly appropriate to threaten).

Not surprisingly, there has been a huge pushback by feminist-identified and allied folks against the online harassment of women, feminist bloggers, and public figures, precisely because the harassment has been so serious, disgusting, and – perhaps most concerningly – normative. It seemed sort of ho-hum, like “oh, there’s a woman in public who is being harassed. And? I think there’s a song on the radio!” In fact, there is a law that specifically addresses comments on feminist articles/posts/writings:

I think the anti-evolution and anti-climate change comments are largely intended to shut down debate on, well, evolution and climate change. I think the anti-women/anti-feminist comments are aimed at shutting down women (and feminism). It’s hard enough to put yourself out there, but when you get really disturbing threats for doing so? Well, that’s hard and brave and really really important because – from what I’ve heard – bullies are scared themselves by shows of strength. And feminists in the public sphere are shows of strength by dint of just existing.

So, let’s sum up: people post nasty comments to science posts. And, people post nasty/disgusting/make-you-scared comments to feminist posts. Let’s see where that leaves us here at Gap Junction Science… Um. So, well, anyway, let’s not. And anyway, evolution! climate change! feminism!

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