On raising a girl strong enough to be called a dumb woman

cyber bullying

It was a bit of a difficult weekend for me. I had fun and it wasn’t something on my mind the whole time, but there was some drama at work. The joy of my work being on the internet is that the whole world can see it. Over on lazygamer.net, I wrote a review of NBA 2K16. It’s a really great game when you get to experience the cool basketball action, but it’s also primarily locked behind online servers, so if the severs are down, the gameplay experience is seriously less than optimal. I wrote about the good and the bad in my review, the way I have for countless games, but the response I got was filled with quite a lot of vitriol. I’m used to this, and have come to expect it, but it affected me in a new way this time.

I often joke with the guys at work about being the only woman, about how my opinions are automatically seen as less valid because I have a vagina. The reality is that when people agree with me, they generally don’t even notice my gender. When they disagree, the easiest thing to do is blame the fact that I’m just an idiot woman who shouldn’t be writing game reviews. We laugh at the comments like that, and often joke about feeding off the hate. But now I’m bringing a little girl into the world, and even if she is the smartest person alive, she will be criticized for what she thinks because she’s a woman.

As much as I wish I could change the world, I know that modernization is only going so fast. I haven’t often experienced sexism in the workplace, and gender roles are gradually shifting, but in the backwater world of the internet, gender-based harassment is still alive and well and is a sign that those thoughts and feelings haven’t really changed. As much as I want to protect Harley from the world, I know that there will come a time when she’ll be called a stupid woman, idiotic girl, or dumb bitch. So, if I can’t change the world, I can only try to raise her in a way that makes those words bounce off of her as much as possible.

I like to think that I’m pretty confident. I know my strengths, I stand up for myself and I am proud of who I am. But, like all humans (and particularly women), I will second guess myself and experience my fair share of imposter syndrome. After being called a dumb bitch who should go back to the kitchen in the comments of my NBA 2K16 review (that specific comment was deleted by moderators), I wondered if maybe they were right. The moment of worry, guilt and fear didn’t last for too long and then I moved on, but it is still so unpleasant and unnecessary. I went back to look at my editor’s review of the installment of the game from the year before. No insults against his gender or race, nothing personal in the comments whatsoever. And I know the internet isn’t fair, and I don’t expect it to be so, but I just worry about my little girl and what kinds of names she will be called when she dares to express herself with confidence and poise.

Bullying and cyber bullying will happen no matter what, so it’s my job as her mother to put it all in perspective, to explain to her why people are mean sometimes and that just because people say horrible things doesn’t mean that they’re true. I want her to know that when people are threatened they will lash out, and that if they’re threatened by a woman it’s even harder for them to cope with. She needs to hold onto her opinions, to trust in her own intelligence and… and hopefully teaching her these things will help me remember them, too.

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  • kb

    That’s a legitimate fear that I worry about too. And the fact that you’re worried and aware already has your daughter one step ahead in preparation. There are weak people who hide behind usernames, and bullies who would call her names to her face – but raising a confident daughter is one of the things you can contribute to, and control in a way. You just focus on that.

  • Don’t stress too much. The new generation of kids growing up now are all for getting rid of this kind of thing. I reckon by the time she goes to school much stricter online policies will be in place where cyber bullying will be punishable by law. Especially following the recently released UN report.

    I just hope that it grows in popularity for all gender and color based online abuse. Against both men and woman. Cyber bullying should be stopped in its entirety. Not just for one portion of society. I honestly hope that in a few years time it won’t be a thing of trying to stop cyber bullying of just woman but stopping cyber bullying of all forms.

    • Wayne

      Hey Llew I seriously don’t hope you are referring to that abomination that used citations to articles calling games Nintendo style killers, linking games to satanism and stating that video games is turning young boys into “killer zombies”. And if you think that because it is from the UN it is actually credible you will find that of the 120 citations only 44% are actually viable although not necessary credible, 20% are self citations to their own work and the remainder not actually to anything at all (including 2 blank and one showing to the users hard drive.)

      So no let us hope that that document gets shred and never sees the light of day.

      Now what should happen is that cyber bulling needs to be taken seriously but at the end of the day arseholes exist and we have to interact with them. We have to learn to stand up for ourselves and to learn that if someone treats you like that it is because of the fact that they are an idiot not because of who you are. And that of course is much easier said than done.

  • RinceThis

    Yeah. I think I wrote the one the year before and no comments on gender. Though I think there were a few ginger ones, which everyone seems to think it totally acceptable 😛

  • We have quite the task,indeed. We will raise them strong,to help bring the change that this world so needs.

  • Faz

    With a strong mother like you Harley is already at a major advantage. Do yourself a favour and read Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg. Alot of what you have said here is addressed in her book. Sorry you had a negative experience but glad you saw the positive lesson within it ☺