Gender inequality is a very prominent issue in society today; this inequality is especially evident on the internet. A few weeks ago, we discussed the discrepancy in male contributors vs. female contributors on Wikipedia. While self-consciousness was given as the primary reason for this gender gap, are there other significant reasons for this disparity?
A study by Pew Research Center regarding the prominence and severity of online harassment show that online harassment could also be a reason for the gender gap that exists on the internet. The study showed that women were much more prone to serious forms of online harassment, as evident in the infographic.
In broad trends, the data show that men are more likely to experience name-calling and embarrassment, while young women are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and stalking.
The harassment that women receive on the internet is very serious and intimidating. As the infographic shows, men are more likely to be called names or be embarrassed by a troll. On the other hand, women receive legitimate threats, such as rape or other physical threats, through the internet. Is this harassment a cause of the gender gap that occurs on the internet?
Because of the severity and regularity of the harassment that women receive, it is perfectly understandable for women to be cautious and hesitant to post on the internet. This is especially understandable if the harassment they receive is threatening in a physical or sexual way. Soraya Chemaly from the Huffington Post compares harassment on the internet to harassment in real life.
Having an opinion, as Laurie Penny put it, is the “short skirt of the Internet.” And, like harassment, women are supposed to quietly adapt.
This abundance of harassment towards women is causing women to lose their voice on the internet. If women are forced to quietly adapt to these serious forms of harassment, the gender gap becomes more evident. It is similar to the self-conscious idea in regards to Wikipedia authors. Only this time, women are more fearful of terrible and potentially harmful threats and harassment. While I don’t think harassment is the cause of this gender gap in every media on the internet, it is certainly the most serious. What do you think? Do you think these threatening forms of harassment keep women from posting? Does it cause a gender gap?