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Trolls, haters and safety online

The issue of trolls and haters has been at the front of my mind lately.

Last week I had the pleasure of presenting at HOLLA :: Revolution and although I spoke primarily about haters within feminist movements, I had to at least call out the reality that trolls and haters are par for the course if you identify as a feminist in public space.

Around the same time, Maclean's featured an exposé of sorts on Men's Rights Activists (MRAs) in Canada.

And today is #TwitterSilence.

Then, of course, there's the far-too-lengthy discussions of Hugo Schwyzer's infamous exit from 'the internet'. I won't link to anything related to that, because haters and trolls live for clicks, re-tweets and sharing of their stories.

That's the heart of the issue, here.

Back in 2008, in my Blogspot days, I pondered the 'engage or ignore' approach when it comes to trolls. It's something I still struggle with, although I feel like I've landed on a quasi-permanent position. Namely, not to fall for their bait and waste hours of my life engaging with them, but at the same time, still exposing them for their ridiculousness, hilarity and/or scary tendencies.

Like all forms of violence, trolls and haters thrive on our silence. And that's the point. Haters can keep on hating, abusers can keep on abusing and misogyny can keep on rolling if we're unable to respond. Our silence enables them. And I refuse to enable these asshats.

As a womyn who lives her feminism in her public life, private life and online, I have learned that my feminism brings all the trolls to the yard.

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Report: Street harassment in Ottawa is prevalent and under reported

As site director of Hollaback! Ottawa, I've been busy over the past few months researching street harassment in Ottawa. We held an open forum in May and created a subsequent survey and the result is a report that was just released this morning.

What's interesting is that the stats are horrible and therefore in line with the national average. Namely, 97% of respondents experienced at least one incident of street harassment in the past year, 44% had experienced an incident on transit in the past year and 90% of us didn't report it.

You can access the full report here.

I'm really happy with it and truly honoured that so many people felt comfortable sharing their story with us. I'm hopeful that it will serve as a launching point for an overdue community-wide discussion on the issue. Fingers crossed!

Unmasking the truth

I am really, really pissed off about Bill C-309.

I wrote an Op/Ed piece in the Ottawa Citizen citing exactly why. Check it out.

Still not convinced that it's a bill that has nothing to do with hockey riots and everything to do with crushing civil liberties? Then read this piece by Marni Soupcoff or this piece by Dana Stuster.

If you still don't agree with me, then I have no idea what to tell you.

Consequences of rape culture

I believe very strongly in public education and prevention work, particularly in the context of sexual violence. What I've learned in my decade or so of doing this work is that most people are completely unaware of the reality of sexual violence. Yes, there are people who know that rape culture exists and are totally fine with the status quo, but I firmly believe that most people have no damn idea how bad things are.

It doesn't help that many of us who do this work speak about the issue from a strictly theoretical standpoint. Want to make things real for people? Make it tangible.

This became abundantly clear to me when I heard Lindy West's response to the various rape threats she received for speaking out about rape jokes. Lindy is all kinds of badass for enduring this crap. (MAJOR trigger warning for this link. Trolls did not hold back)

After watching Lindy go through the various rape threats she received, I decided to do my own exercise in 'keeping it real'.

I gave myself 5 minutes to write up as many examples as I could about the impact of rape culture on my life. It wasn't hard.

Think rape culture is some abstract concept with no relevance to womyn's lives? Think again, Buster.

Read more: Consequences of rape culture