Cyberbullying, we have all heard of it and most of us have even experienced it in some way or another. There is no doubt, that being deliberately harassed in hostile manners on the Internet can have fatal consequences for the victims. And fatal consequences were exactly what the 15-year-old Amanda Todd suffered. After various sorts of cyberbullying, Amanda Todd was broken down to her cores and on October 10 2012 she committed suicide. Amanda Todd became world famous for a YouTube video, where she exposed all of the different kinds of online harassment that she had been through. More or less the same thing happened to Anita Sarkeesian. Anita launched an online fundraising campaign, to create awareness of how female characters are portrayed as sexual stereotypes in videogames. Unfortunately, Anita did not only launch a campaign, but also the beginning of a time with harsh online harassment against herself, from people who disagreed with her project. Anita is now a major voice when it comes to stopping the harassment of women on the Internet, which she proved in a speech at the TEDxWomen event in 2012.
It is indisputable that Anita Sarkeesian has been through many negatively affected emotions when she was harassed on the Internet, and she is not afraid to let the audience know how it was like. She is of course using pathos to awaken the audience’s feelings, in order for her to get them on her side. Already in the beginning of the speech, she reaches for the audience’s emotions:
“All of my social media were flooded with treats of rape, violence, sexual assaults, death – And you’ll notice that these treats and comments were all specifically targeting me gender.”1
As the quotation shows, the words that she has chosen are very powerful. Words like rape, violence and death are all words that have an immediate shock effect on the audience, which is truly in her favor. Another way that she communicates is with the use of humor. Multiple times throughout her speech she uses humorous words and phrases, which optimizes the relationship between her and the receivers. In addition to the way that she engages the audience in her speech, Anita Sarkeesian also masters explicit speech techniques that help her persuade the audience. One example is a rhetorical question:
“The idea being that if you were interested in the project, you could donate, and if you weren’t interested, you could choose not to donate. It’s pretty straight forward, right? I mean what could possibly go wrong? Yeah.”2
In other words, she is fully aware of that the audience knows that something will go wrong with the project; she just asks the question in order to benefit from the audience’s participation. It is small little tricks or techniques like these that help her persuade the audience. As I pointed out earlier, Anita practices pathos in her speech. This is withal not the only form of appeal that she practices. Anita also attempts to make herself a more trustworthy person and she does that by making herself appear as a strong character: “Do you wanna know what happened to my fundraiser after all that? Well first, the cyber mob failed to silence me, as is evidence of me being here today.”3 So even though cyber mobs tried to silence her, she remained strong and rose above the influence. And that definitely makes her a person to believe. But how is the issue of online harassment actually looked upon?
Well, in Singapore located in Asia online harassment is looked upon with the same disgust as in America. They have likewise experienced suicidal female victims, and they are therefore ready to pass new laws against harassment on the Internet:
“Victims of harassment suffer from insufficient protection and face an unclear path when seeking recourse, especially when harassment occurs or spills over to daily life. Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Law, Mr K. Shanmugam, has indicated that new laws on harassment will be tabled next year.”4
Hence this quotation, it is safe to say that online harassment is not just some local coincidence, but actually a global problem. Otherwise it is no secret to anybody, that the Internet is the fastest way to spread and share ideas, so if online harassment is not yet a problem on a worldwide scale, then it is only a matter time before it is. On the other hand, there is always another side of the case, and online harassment is no exception. Just as easy as it is to receive emails with harassing matter or even Facebook messages and tweets, just as easy is it to delete it again. Some do for that reason, and other arguments as well, share the belief that online harassment is overrated and not an actual problem like physical bullying:
“Cyber bullying is overrated, there, I said it. It is not a popular viewpoint to hold, but this is how I feel about cyber bullying issues (…) Emails can easily be filtered, forum insults can be reported and text messages can be filtered, blocked or used to trace back to the sender. Outside of the tracing part which can be left to the parent to handle, a child can be taught how to do the rest easily.”5
Although the quotation from above is just from an online blogger and not another expert in this particular field, it is still a suitable example of how online harassment is looked upon differently. Without saying that either stance is right or wrong, Anita Sarkeesian is a living proof of online harassment of women, which is enough reason for this topic to be discussed and perhaps dealt with.
Anita Sarkeesian may be a decent speaker with good persuasive techniques, but that does not change the fact that her story is true. Luckily, she had the courage and strength to overcome the online harassment that she was put through, but many girls like Amanda Todd don’t have the same fortitude. However, it is also true that emails and other online communications systems are very easy to handle, thus it is possible with the right technical knowhow to secure oneself from online harassment and even cyber mobs. Despite the different views on this topic, online harassment is an ongoing thing and it definitely deserves attention.