When the verdict was announced last week, some of Elliottâ€™s supporters were claiming the crux of the case was defending freedom of speech, that Elliott was being punished merely for disagreeing with women. Whatâ€™s lacking in this argument is that thereâ€™s a difference between disagreeing with someone and disagreeing on a loop, using veiled threats that target a specific group. A differing opinion is one thing; a sexist remark, or a racial slur, or a warning masked as a different opinion is harassment, and itâ€™s fucking terrifying.
â€” Scaachi Koul – â€œThereâ€™s No Such Thing As Digital-Only Tormentâ€
Thereâ€™s two things that people continue to get wrong about online harassment. The first is that it is does not exist in a vacuum. Whatever outdated advice, along the lines of â€œdonâ€™t feed the trollsâ€ people trot out fails to acknowledge the scale of most online harassment. A rape threat, or a â€œkill urself bitchâ€ on Twitter today can turn into a SWATting tomorrow.
The second is that this is yet another symptom of the ongoing gendered harassment that womenâ€”as well as minorities and LGBTQ individualsâ€”risk by simply existing in a public space. It doesnâ€™t matter whether that space is physical or digital. The very act of existing as a woman, as a person of color, as a queer person, or simply not conforming to the â€œstandardsâ€ of gender makes a person an open target for abuse in a way that cisgendered white men rarely are.