You Asked For It

You Asked For It

You Asked For It:

The Justification of Harassment in the Age of Social Media

“I’m convinced that @EmilyWTHR is a man,” the tweet read. News reporter Emily Longnecker shared this screenshot on her Facebook page, along with a snippet of the many other insults she receives regularly from strangers, including a woman who wrote her to tell her she hated her hair, and an email that stated she looked “bloated” on TV.

While most of the responses to this post were overwhelmingly supportive of Emily, the occasional comment sprinkled throughout painted a different picture: “grow some balls or get over it,” “if she’s going to be in the media she needs to toughen up.”

It would be easy to dismiss Random Acts of Unkindness (RAU) against celebrities – after all, they placed themselves in the public spotlight, do they not expect some criticism from “fans”? But what happens when it’s not just celebrities – when it happens to your mom posting a photo of herself working out at LA Fitness, or your sister setting a new deadlift record, or your cousin finishing her first 5k race, proudly showing off her medal?

A pervasive theme that exists in the age of social media is that if a person places a photo or video of themselves online, even on their own personal page, the collective internet now has the freedom to blurt out whatever thoughts come into their minds. When did this become okay?

And, if we fight back against these cruel and often misogynistic and sexist comments, we are told to toughen up,”stop being so sensitive,” or that we should even be appreciative of the unwanted and unneeded critiques of our bodies or the activities we are doing.

Words hurt. The “snowflake” insult that is very often used when a person is defending themselves from attack is meant to cheapen one’s feelings and make them believe the problem is with them, not the person doing the insulting. Emotions and feelings are not some womanly character flaw, and the rates of suicide, depression and self-harm increase in the presence of cyber-bullying.** Pretending that “these are just words, ignore them” – or even worse, that a person “asked for it” by having an online presence, only fuels this problem.

Why not “ignore the haters?” It may be true that “feeding the trolls” satisfies their sick need for negative attention, but what does no response at all say to the people out there facing online bullies every day? Reading an Instagram post with over 100 nasty comments left for athlete Stefanie Cohen (@steficohen), a popular elite powerlifter with a PhD, and seeing zero response combating this nastiness says “this is okay, and this is how women deserve to be treated.”

No response is not always the best response.

Posting a progress photo of your biceps does not give someone the right to say “too big! Looking like a man.” Posting a video of your deadlift does not give someone the right to say “that’s too much weight for a girl, those are men’s weights.” Posting a photo of your weight loss does not give someone the right to tell you “you looked better before.” Free speech is free, but not without consequence. A swift response that “hey, that’s an ugly thing to say to her, and it’s not okay” allows others to see that these comments will no longer be accepted or tolerated on social media.

YLLAM began a clear campaign of fighting back against these comments on Dr. Cohen’s page, and in the last four months there has been a noticeable decline in the level of harassment on she receives on each new post. While it may seem insurmountable, people ARE watching and listening. - Jessica

“I want to thank YLLAM for giving me the confidence to know I can stand up for myself and I’m not alone in this battle.” – Julie 






Jessica Fithen

You’re right! Next time I see a nasty comment I’m gonna call the person out. Thanks for the reminder!

Jessica Fithen

I love this. People who leave negative comments about women, or anyone in that matter, degrading them for literally makeing their physical self better are looking to portray their own self doubts on other people.

Jessica Fithen

Thank you for exposing this behavior and individuals. The truth is, that these sexist and outdated ideas and opinions that these men/women have on women in sports are only being revealed – not planted. This garbage was already there in their mind and heart and they truly believe that saying this on social media is ok.

I’m glad you’re going the extra mile and exposing this type of harassment. The progress may seem slow but IT’S GOING! You’re giving courage to lots of women to stop these comments and confront them as well as cleaning up social media from hateful shit. Thank you! DON’T EVER STOP! 👏🏽

Jessica Fithen

Thank you for giving us a Forum and a community to feel like we are not alone in hearing or reading these comments. I have had several men tell me that they don’t like YLLAM because they think that it is making something out of nothing. These are the same men that like disgusting comments like the one here or simply hide from calling people out. Women are not innocent either. I have had nasty comments from men and women alike. We have to do better.

Jessica Fithen

These things in the dark corners of social media need the people like us to shine the light on them: expose the roaches as they run to hide behind their ugliness behind a keyboard and screen.

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