The article I chose to read was called “Ashley Judd Speaks Out About Twitter Abuse and Rape,” detailing Ashley Judd’s experience of gender harassment (the inappropriate calling attention to women or men’s bodies, sexuality, etc. to enforce traditional gender roles or in response to violation of those roles) and sexual objectification (being made into a thing of another’s sexual use) on twitter (Aulette, Wittner 526, 533). After tweeting some “controversial” commentary about a basketball game she was in attendance of, Judd received a multitude of negative, objectifying responses that clearly meant to frighten and threaten her. Many of the responses came from males who detailed a variety of explicitly sexual acts she was deserving of, trivializing the seriousness of rape. She was appalled by the reaction her seemingly innocent comment evoked and went forward with saying as much only to receive responses from various individuals downsizing the seriousness of the misogynistic (the hatred of women) commentary and hyper-sexualization (the act of extremely accentuating one’s sexuality) she was on the receiving end of (Aulette, Wittner 529, 528 ). Judd went forth and released an op-ed (http://mic.com/articles/113226/forget-your-team-your-online-violence-toward-girls-and-women-is-what-can-kiss-my-ass – if you’re interested in reading the whole story for yourself) where she spoke about her past experiences with rape, incest and sexual molestation and how her online abuse was not an isolated incident unique to just her, but a social norm that many girls and women fall victim to.
Though the threatening tweets made by the individuals in the twitter-sphere in this specific instance were directly targeting Ashley Judd, they are not at all uncommon or the result of an isolated act of anger but rather, a combination of male patriarchy (societal dominance of male power over women) with gender essentialism (the idea that there are innate differences between men and women and that they are universal and do not vary with context), double standards (a rule or principle that is unfairly applies in different ways to different people or groups) and misogyny (Aulette, Wittner 526, 524). There are many instances where men make aggressive comments during sporting events and go unpunished, simple because they are male and sports fit into the hegemonic view (representations of men and women in stereotyped ways), establishing a double standard between men and women and the way they can enjoy certain things without breaking the mould (Aulette, Wittner 527). Ashley Judd rejected emphasized femininities (dominant images of the supposedly ideal women) through her tweet and that threatened many of the males that had responded in a violent means (Aulette, Wittner 525). This incident is not just an instance of one particular woman being mistreated for a few words said online, it is an instance that stems from the ongoing issue of gender inequality and the spheres that men and women are specifically assigned to when they are assigned their genders at birth. Ashley Judd is an example of just another individual who has been targeting for rejecting aspects associated with the gender binaries (the idea that factors such as sex, sexuality of gender can be categorized into two exclusive opposites) (Aulette, Wittner 522). She had strayed away from subject matter that was socially acceptable to dabble in as a woman and therefore suffered the consequences; being threatened and harassed in a way that emphasized her place as a woman among men, the submissive among dominants. Judd was also blamed for bringing the entire thing upon herself and deserving of the uproarious reaction to her tweet, similar to the means in which victim blame generally takes place when a woman is raped.
This case reminded me of the online abuse that Anita Sarkeesian had been the victim of when she launched a campaign to fight the sexism in video games back in 2012. She had expressed her concerns with gender tropes in video games, emphasizing the issues with the common concept of the “damsel in distress” character-type that was entirely too apparent in the video gaming universe. Many were outraged at her attempts to create change and eradicate the harmful mediums in gaming that they took to personally attacking her through a multitude of social media outlets. She was threatened in the same way that Judd was, a victim of hypersexualization, gender harassment and sexual objectification. People went as far as to create comics featuring her drawn in a similar form to popular female video game characters being raped and one individual even created a computer game that allowed downloaders to beat her brutally and repeatedly. Again, this was an example of a female being subjected to such an overriding and highly publicized type of dehumanization due to her attempts in changing something that is generally deemed as a male interest and fighting the emphasized femininities present in the gaming world. She left her designated space as a woman and treaded into territory that is, in many instances, reserved for males and suffered accordingly.
Overall, these are not just instances of women being attacked by a predominantly angry, male audience, they are common occurrences that bring to light the imbalance of power between genders and the entitlement our primarily male, patriarchal society awards boys and men where concerning what they deem to be theirs. The lengths that are gone to in order to instill and reiterate the gender ideologies (widespread beliefs about what men and women are like and should be like) present in the modern day are clearly expressed on a regular basis, not just through these single events (Aulette, Wittner 526). Dated values are existent in the way women are viewed on a daily basis, stripping them of their autonomy and basic rights while simultaneously succeeding in bringing us back to the stone age where the cavemen grunted to communicate, cavewomen were dragged by their hair to ensure compliance and mammoths were still a thing.
“Ashley Judd Speaks Out About Twitter Abuse and Rape.” Time. Time, n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.
Aulette, Judy R., and Judith Wittner. “Glossary.” Gendered Worlds. Third ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2015. Print.
Christ, Carol P. “Patriarchy as a System of Male Dominance Created at the Intersection of the the Control of Women, Private Property, and War, Part 1.” WordPress. N.p., 18 Feb. 2013. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.
O’leary, Amy. “In Virtual Play, Sex Harassment Is All Too Real.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 01 Aug. 2012. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.
Sarkeesian, Anita. “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.” Kickstarter. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2015.