Breaking News: Being A Woman On The Internet Is Still Terrible

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
Here are some pleasant facts that we know to be true. One: SXSW cancelled (okay, and then rescheduled) discussions about online harassment. Two: There are entire organizations dedicated to ending street harassment. Three: To our knowledge, the biggest change at Twitter this week was the stars-to-hearts debacle — not the total outlawing of female users. Four: Women should feel unsafe and bullied every time they speak their mind on social media. Wait, that fourth one is absolutely not a fact. Why, then, is that exactly what happened to Nora McInerny Purmort?

In a status posted from her personal Facebook account, Purmort recounts a hideous real-life encounter that turned into an even more hideous online experience:
A few weeks ago I had an incredibly condescending and offensive experience wherein a very drunk man approached me to tell me I should smile... For those of you thinking, “wait, wait, Nora. A man can’t tell you to smile? Lighten up," no thanks... after that incredibly irritating exchange, I posted this on Twitter. And today — weeks later, mind you — some boy who trolls Twitter looking for feminists found it, and RT’d it with the sole purpose of getting his 15K followers to light me up. And, they did.
She goes on to describe the instant anxiety she felt while reading attack after attack (assumptions about her intelligence, her vanity, and flat-out threats of violence) from these anonymous Twitter trolls. For the curious, Purmort took a few screenshots of the responses and attached them to her post, which you can read in full here.

In an attempt to reclaim some shred of her privacy and safety, Purmort made her Twitter account private. At this point, she explains, her fear has been replaced with outrage:
I’m alive and I’m a person. I don’t like when assholes tell me to smile, I don’t like being told to be quiet and I don’t like having to turn the other cheek because strangers on the internet could doxx me or light me up all day long because they don’t like big mean feminists. The same way I don't like to be afraid of rape and violence, because only 3% of rapists are ever convicted, because misogyny is real.

Purmort's post reads like a battle cry — one that's getting louder by the moment. Nearly 2,500 Facebook users have already shared it, and the comments are rife with other women's experiences of harassment and abuse that are all too similar to Purmort's own.

One responder simply writes, "it's wrong women have to feel this way," and that sums it up pretty well. It's wrong that Purmort was told to smile. It's wrong that she was attacked for voicing her frustration. It's wrong that women are so freely silenced, especially online — one of the most permissive spaces people have at their disposal. It's wrong, and we certainly don't feel like smiling.

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