Caroline Criado-Perez, a woman who determinedly campaigned to get women back onto bank notes, is now the centre of a fight to ensure Twitter trolls are criminalised, after receiving graphic sexual abuse through the networking site. However, behind this case there seems to be a more deep- rooted problem, which is the continuing sexualisation of women.
Twitter has now pushed a lot of sexual bullying into the cyber world. Gone are the days when builders whistling at you on the street and harassment at work were the main arenas for treating normal women as sexual objects. Trolling has now entered our homes, reminding us that society will no longer let us have opinions or intelligence without connecting them to sex. From celebrity personalities to feminists, it seems a woman cannot communicate public thoughts or opinions without being ridiculed or humiliated in a sexual way.
How is it that a society that has supposedly moved so far in terms of women's rights still conforms to such an archaic view point of women as sexual objects? Whether you are a politician, model or die-hard suffragette it seems in some people's eyes we are all subject to consistent sexualisation.
Trolls will attack any number of personal aspects of a woman through the media of social networking, now making it an extremely frequent form of harassment for those in the public eye. Men, however, are more likely to receive abuse that relates to their work or ideals, whilst women face comments on their appearance or in the case of Criado-Perez a more serious threat of rape. Whilst it should be punishable to attack anyone, regardless of gender, with online abuse, it is clear that women still remain subject to a sexualised agenda. This means that they are treated as sexual objects, without opinions. The case of Cirado-Perez particularly highlights, not only the ineffectiveness of the law when dealing with Internet trolls, who hide behind their avatars; it has also been instrumental in showing that women are often still seen purely in a sexual way.
Women on twitter are belligerently chastised for appearance, weight and everything else that makes them into objects rather than intelligent human beings. One Twitter user in fact post 'the rape tweet' told Ms Criado-Perez that she should have got her hair done before appearing on Sky News, which just about sums up the idea from a large percentage of the population that women cannot afford to just be smart, they have to also be preened within an inch of their lives whilst doing it.
While good grooming is not necessarily an indication of the immediate sexualisation of particular women, it does seem to be essential to a lot of people before we will listen to what they have to say. Women themselves are contributing to this, with hundreds a day taking to criticising others for their choice of outfit, when in actual fact they simply disagree with a point being made. So how do we begin to change the views of a whole society fuelled not just by men but by women treating other women as something to be gawked at purely on the basis of sexual attractiveness? Even the boycott of social media triggered by the Criado-Perez case, does not help to solve the root issue.
With the number of strong women in the media today, we should stop for a second to listen to what they have to say, rather than focusing on what their hair, make-up or clothes look like while they are saying it.