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Hate in the Time of Social Media – How Harassment has Escalated Towards Female Journalists

Kelley’s story…

I first received hate mail at the age of 20. While working for the CU Independent, CU’s student newspaper, as a beat reporter for the men’s hockey team, I ran across a message in my inbox. At first, I thought it was fan mail. In the back of my mind, I was thinking, “Hey! I did it. I am officially a journalist.” But as my eyes began to scan the words, my heart dropped. The sender accused me of writing false information because of my gender. 

“What would you know about hockey? You are a woman.” 

Those words, so lifeless yet so powerful, came from a person hidden behind a screen. That email was one of many I received while sports reporting. 

It Happens to Most of Us

For most women, misogyny is a fact of life. It probably isn’t too surprising that women in journalism are facing online harassment and hate mail during the rise of social media. That too is a result of misogyny. In a society that tries to prioritize “facts over feelings”, the experiences of women tend to be swept under the rug. This is why it is important for women to speak up about their discrimination and emphasize the weight of the problem. We need to be heard. This is poisoning real people. 

And some may argue that a discussion on which journalists have negative experiences may be useless – who cares? Isn’t it part of the job? While we shouldn’t dismiss the horrible experiences women face, the threat goes beyond emotional stress. Daphne Caruana Galizia, a Maltese journalist with a prominent online presence, was violently murdered when a bomb was planted in her car. What seems like trolling can snowball into violence that threatens journalists and their families.

These threats aren’t isolated incidents. They aren’t coincidences. The fact that 67% of women in a 600 person survey face gender-based harassment, while 10% experience it on a daily basis, speaks volumes. Another survey, conducted by The Guardian, found that four out of five journalists who have experienced harassment in general were women. If we want to step up instead of downplaying what happens too often, we need to take action. 


YouTube application on laptop
Photo by NordWood Themes from Unsplash

The YouTube video “#MoreThanMean – Women in Sports ‘Face’ Harassment” is a prime example of the harassment female sports journalists face in the age of social media. In this video, female sports journalists Sarah Spain and Julia DiCaro sit and listen to real men read comments posted about them on social media. 

If you want to watch the video, please be aware of the trigger warning as there are intense themes. From threats to slut-shaming, these women receive harassment each and every day, but continue to pursue their careers through it all. 

In the age of social media, users can hide behind their computers. It is so much easier to send comments you wouldn’t otherwise say out loud. This video proves how uncomfortable the comments are when said to the person’s face. Yet, so many can use the internet to stay anonymous, taking the easy way out of an uncomfortable situation. 

Maya’s story…

I am a journalist for a student magazine which you are reading right now. It’s not exactly professional and some of my articles, such as “Songs in Ariana’s Grande’s New Album ‘Positions’ Ranked”, aren’t serious. However, I also write on topics about eating disorders, societal problems, and domestic violence. These are hard topics to write about, but my job as a journalist is to start these hard conversations. 

I always put 200% in my articles and I still get passive-aggressive comments about my journalism. I’ve been asked countless times why I don’t quit writing because it’s OBVIOUSLY trash and that Her Campus is a joke due to its feminine nature. Sure, we publish lighthearted material, but we also publish heavy topics. A journalist who writes about personal narratives would be praised if they’re a man. Being a woman, I am limited in what I can say. If I say something people don’t agree with, I am harassed. This is aggression and should not be tolerated. 


person scrolling on twitter on phone
Photo by Marten Bjork from Unsplash

How to Use Social Media to Share Opinions Appropriately

Opinions matter. Especially in journalism. When a journalist publishes an article that contains false information, the public should be allowed to comment. If an article is inspirational, the public should be allowed to comment. But, if a journalist is a woman, that shouldn’t be a good reason to send harassing comments. 

Use social media to spread positivity and productivity advice. Here are a few ways you can share your opinions appropriately:

  1. Make sure your comment is relevant to the article, not the person.

  2. Don’t use derogatory language.

  3. Read the entire piece before commenting.

  4. Put yourself in their shoes.

  5. Make sure the comment is productive. Will this comment help them improve as a writer?

  6. Get a second opinion. Ask a friend or a family member if they agree with your comment before sending it out. 

  7. Use social media to spread positivity. Is there a particular article you liked? Share it! 

  8. Last, and most importantly, would you say the comment to their face? If the answer is no, do NOT share the comment on social media. 

 

We, as women, shouldn’t be afraid to do what we love because of the harassment we receive online. It is time to stop hiding behind your computer and putting people down. Let’s stand up together to end harassment towards female journalists.

Kelley is the Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus CU Boulder. She is currently a senior majoring in journalism and minoring in sports media. In her free time, she likes to workout at her local CrossFit gym, hang out at coffee shops, and explore the mountains.
Maya Douglas

CU Boulder '22

Maya is a junior studying computer science and philosophy. If she's not listening to her favorite music while walking through campus, she's probably developing video games with her friends.
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