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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4 Responses

  1. Stacey Ritz says:

    I like “The Kitten Setting” solution for dealing with obnoxious trolls, myself:

    People seem to really seriously misunderstand what “free speech” means. It does NOT give you the right to say whatever you want wherever you want. If I delete your comment from MY blog, I’m not interfering with your freedom of speech — you can go and get your own damn blog.

  2. Sari van Anders says:

    I like this kitten setting – more for me than for the trolls! It might make dealing with them more fun… definitely, one thing that made me almost *not* want to do this site was the thought of trolls. And then I thought: well, then that’s one reason I *should* do this site.

    And yes to your comments about free speech! I also find it frustrating when people seem to think free speech means saying whatever they want with no responses back or no consequences. Like free speech somehow = soapbox and earplugs.

  3. Stacey Ritz says:

    Oh, please use the Kitten Setting if you get any trolls on this site!!

  4. Meredith-Chivers says:

    reposted from FB – my reaction to Pop Sci:

    Right on Pop Sci! I learned the hard way to never, ever, read the commentary after any media coverage of my research. The idiocy of the opinionated ignorant was infuriating (e.g., why is this dumb bitch doing this research? Everyone KNOWS that women don’t get turned on by porn…blah blah…). Also, the ad hominem attacks went beyond empty criticism of the research. I recall a group of people messaging back and forth in really ugly misogynist terms about my appearance. So…good riddance. May more follow suit.

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