Mary Beard is a cambridge academic who appeared last week on Question Time on the BBC. For any who watch QT and at the same time follow the hashtag #BBCQT will know there’s a pretty steady stream of abusive and nasty comments about the panellists and what they are saying. Sadly Twitter search is throttled so the tweets on the link are probably mostly after the event stuff.
Some of the comments that followed her were stronger than usual. Mary Beard is not a woman to take lightly, well educated, professional, intelligent and strong, she’s stood up to this abuse and her stand might just start to make a difference in the level of understanding of this issue.
Speaking a few days later on Woman’s hour Mary Beard said :
“There was an awful lot about my vagina, it’s size and it’s shape and it’s smell and what might be inserted into it.”
“You have to have the same rules as you have face to face” she went on to say “In a way it’s time to reclaim some of the normal manners and social interaction for online as well as face to face to face communication.”
Asked why she’s made a stand she added:
“Look, I’m 58 and I have a thick skin and in a certain way it isn’t about me. Because I can take this in a chin a bit it’s OK for me to say ‘stop’… …There are a lot of women received this kind of abuse that are crushed by it.”
On one site she had a picture of her face superimposed on female genitalia. That site has now been closed down, mainly because its owner Richard White (For clarity there is no connection between this Richard White and the BlackStar of the same name) felt he could no longer moderate the site. (source >), but not before he accused Beard and her colleagues of trolling his site, is the biter bit?.
She’s saying that her answer is to respond to offensive tweets and she’s received a lot of apologies when she has done that. She acknowledges that it takes courage to ask people to withdraw it and courage from them, if they do, to say sorry.
She’s not advocating more legal regulation but she does want people to treat each other decently online, and she’s recognised that anonymity is part of the problem. On sites where anonymity is harder there is much less of this sort of abuse (in my experience) so I think she has a point. That’s very hard to police, but that shouldn’t stop website owners trying.
WIll Mary Beard change the world online and stop this kind of thing overnight, probably not, but perhaps this is a start.
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via William Buist’s blog at Ecademy http://bit.ly/XExijR