“Count it as another blow to the myth of a kinder, gentler Internet. Comedian Jen Kirkman (Chelsea Lately, Drunk History) has gone on Twitter hiatus until, as she puts it, “the men get loud” about the brutal online abuse of women. In a Tumblr post last night, Kirkman explained that whenever she’s the target of hatefilled, sexist rants (she shares a smattering of examples), she hears from her male fellow comedians who “DM me or text me or email me or talk to me about how they hate it too but they never speak up.” Private support is nice, but as she makes clear, it does absolutely nothing to challenge a culture that indulges and encourages cyber-misogyny. Kirkman is understandably frustrated by men who make comforting noises but claim that they “don’t know what to say” to sexist trolls. Men don’t need expertise in anti-sexist activism to stand up against woman-hating; plenty of male comedians openly campaigned for Obama, she notes, without having degrees in political science or public policy. Kirkman doesn’t need to spell out the obvious reason why men don’t speak out: too many “good guys” either don’t take sexist trolling seriously or they’re too afraid of becoming the targets of ridicule from those same bullies if they do step up openly. To help get the guys going, Kirkman started a Tumblr called MA’AM: Men Against Assholes & Misogyny that is open to contributions from all male allies, not just her fellow comics. Kirkman writes that she’s “asking for men who understand us to write from your hearts about your experiences with sexism in your life. How do you feel when the women in your life experience online harassing injustices that may seem small but sometimes seem like the loudest voices in our cultural dialogue?””
I write on science, nature, and culture for the New York Times, National Geographic Slate, Nature, and other publications; I've also written three books. More on all that is at daviddobbs.net. For blog posts tied closely tied to those interests, see my main working blog, NeuronCulture.