“Trolling” has become an increasingly reported method of attacking writers and users online who clearly identify as female, or who speak from feminist points of views. They range from unrelenting comments that belittle the opinions of the writer, to name calling, to specific threats of violence – often sexualised and almost always gendered.
There are many types and ways of trolling, but generally, they work to disrupt threads of conversation by provoking someone into long, pointless debates, or into an emotional response.
In cases of trolling and harassment that women and girls face on the internet, they also work towards shutting out and silencing feminist discourse and the voices of women and girls. This is especially evident when the blogger or writer is speaking about an area that is often seen as the domain of men - whether this is in the area of comic books, science and technology, entertainment or religion. Women human rights defenders have reported that harassment is the most common threat they face online.
Often, the strategy of sexist trolling and misogynistic harassment works. It can be incredibly frightening to continue writing in a space that has been taken over by hundreds of comments by unknown persons who threaten rape and attack the writer’s ideas, gender and sexuality. Or who thinks its funny to post violent, degrading, edited images of the writer in various positions of sexual submission or gendered violence.
This is especially if the writer is a relatively new user of the internet, and who has not yet built the community or skills to be able to feel that she can defend herself and her space from such attacks. Even when the blogger is highly skilled with a strong community of supporters, it can still be terrifying when the trolls and harassers post specifically violent threats that are accompanied by personal details found online.
Sexist trolling and misogynistic harassment is a threat to women’s fundamental human rights to freely and fully express themselves. It creates a hostile and violent online environment that attacks the safety and dignity of women and girls.

Take action

  • Write about your experience of targeted harassment and trolling.
  • Make it visible, and compel recognition that these are not just isolated incidences, but a gendered online communication culture that needs a collective response.
  • Document the experience to build knowledge on how gendered harassment and trolling works, and how to deal with them.
  • Share your strategies.
  • When your fellow feminist writers, bloggers and tweeps are trolled or harassed, show them your support.
  • Post your stories on the Take Back the Tech! map, or share us a link to your post in a comment or by email. Or tweet us @takebackthetech (#takebackthetech #16stories)
Reject the culture of sexual harassment and sexist trolling online. Take Back the Tech!