THE BLOG

It's Tough Being a Feminist on Twitter

11/05/2014 22:45 BST | Updated 11/07/2014 10:59 BST

Over the weekend Caroline Criado-Perez has taken to Twitter in response to discovering an unannounced change in how abuse is reported on the social media site.

Sadly the campaigner was targeted again by misogynistic trolls and took to the usual route of escalating abuse for Twitter to investigate. Only as she did, she realised that the previous method of creating an auto-link to the abusive tweet (therefore preventing the reporter having to constantly view the message) has been removed.

Now, sadly, I've learnt nothing new from this as I have already suffered at the hands of this change in Twitter functionality. It was on Tuesday 22 April and the big news story that morning was Josie Cunningham.

As we know, Josie Cunningham was subject to a lot of abuse for her comments that she was considering having a termination for the sake of her career. I got involved and in response to my support of Josie Cunningham's right to choose, a man I did not know sent me a YouTube of an aborted foetus allegedly still alive.

Even three weeks later I still have to take a pause when I write that.

What a world we live in.

Let's rewind a bit here. To be honest, I still don't really know who Josie Cunningham is (I don't read the Daily Mail or gossip magazines) and prior to this story I'd never heard of her. Nevertheless I was gobsmacked and appalled at the amount of hateful judgment I read on Twitter that was aimed in her direction - even from people who claimed to be feminists.

I can't even be bothered to get into the politics of this - I don't have the patience. A woman's body, a woman's choice - it really is that simple. Pro-choice doesn't come with strings attached. Instead please can I refer you to two far better written pieces on this such as this one on The Guardian and this (perfectly put) blog from Louise Pennington.

These though hadn't been written on the Tuesday morning when I decided to stand up and be counted. I hate seeing women being bullied and shamed, I hate it. The Rant Mistress had just written a blog on this, a damn excellent piece, which got retweeted into my timeline.

I tweeted out my own link to this blog saying "I completely agree with this blog on Josie Cunningham. Her body, her choice #prochoice"

And the response I got? Violent, vicious misogyny.

Reporting it has been hell. When Twitter says it takes graphic abuse like this seriously, they're lying. It's incredibly difficult to report abuse like that, nor does Twitter give a damn about how traumatic it is to do.

As Caroline Criado-Perez has also found, there's no Report Abuse functionality or button such as Block or Report Spam. Instead you have to fill out an online form but in the form you have to attach the URL of the offending image. Which means you can't initially block the sender, allowing them to keep sending you abuse.

And unfortunately the URL Twitter wants included on the form is one embedded in the image, not the one in the search bar.

Which meant I had to open up this god-awful image again and again to find the right URL to send to Twitter. I desperately held my shaking left hand over the bloodied red image as I tried again and again to get the full URL copy and pasted using just my right thumb and forefinger. It's a five minutes of my life I never, ever, ever want to relive again.

The thing with online abuse like this - so graphic, so violent - is, well, it's hard to explain unless you've experienced it. You think you're ready for it, that you know it's part of the territory. But it still shocks you. I always thought violent misogynistic trolling was reserved for famous or important people leading campaigns, not inconsequential bloggers like me.

These guys get off on the violence, I know that. To them, it's like they've actually punched me in the face, kicked me in the stomach. You can't show it, you know you can't. But you do stumble, you do need support.

Yet the silence from Twitter has been deafening. I reported my abuser to Twitter on 23 April. I'm still waiting for a response.

Abuse is a silencing technique. Using violent imagery is abuse. Feminism loses the day we let the abuse and the hurt silence us. But it's not easy and it's frightening the extent to which Twitter refuses to recognise abuse as something they need to take action on.

And to the man who sent me this abuse, you haven't changed my politics and you never will.