Last month, freelance journalist Amanda Hess, in a lengthy feature in Pacific Standard, declared that women are not welcome on the Internet. After describing her own frightening experience of online stalking, Hess lists other ugly incidents and cites statistics and studies arguing that women on the Internet—journalists, bloggers, and general users—are routinely terrorized solely because of their sex. New York Times conservative columnist Ross Douthat called the article "a candidate for the most troubling magazine essay of 2014."
Troubling, indeed. But is it true?
There is no doubt that many women, prominent and obscure, have experienced severe online harassment that can spill over into "real life," writes Cathy Young. Hess's stalker, who repeatedly threatened her with rape and murder, went from emails to phone calls and voice mail messages. Whether such harassment is a female-specific problem and so pervasive as to actually deter women's online participation, is far less clear.