Can women safely exist in our society?


Kylie McGovern, Editor

Header image: Philly Voice

A few weeks ago I began to ponder the different newsworthy things I had heard about in recent days both at La Salle and the greater area of Philadelphia. What came to mind made me sick: the news about a woman who was raped while riding on a SEPTA Market-Frankford train at the 69th Street Terminal in Upper Darby. There is immense controversy about whether there were bystanders who took cell phone videos without calling the police or physically intervening but, frankly, my greater concern is the fact that a woman cannot ride public transportation without fear of literally being sexually assaulted. 

I know that I, among other La Salle students, use SEPTA frequently. This injustice that occurred to this woman shakes me to my core. I am frankly disgusted that we live in a world where women cannot even travel on or use resources like SEPTA without being endangered. I fear for my female classmates, my friends, my sisters, my aunts, my mother and my grandmothers who all use SEPTA. I am disgusted that females cannot even exist without being hurt.

This issue is bigger than just SEPTA. The world does not protect its women. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “most cases of femicide are committed by partners or ex-partners, and involve ongoing abuse in the home, threats or intimidation, sexual violence or situations where women have less power or fewer resources than their partner.” Furthermore, in a survey reported by the BBC, a third of respondents thought it was acceptable for men to hit their partners. These facts further emphasize the vulnerability women face today based on their gender.

A woman should not have to fear taking the train home from work. A woman should not have to fear walking home at night. A woman should not have to fear being talked down to by her coworkers or classmates. A woman should not have to fear seeing her perpetrators walk away unscathed. Women should not fear living, but they do — I walk across 20th street alone fearing being catcalled out of someone’s window and as they drive away laughing, I feel uncomfortable and ashamed.

Now I have to fear taking the train. I am terrified for the women around me and myself. Simply terrified. I am afraid for every woman I either know or do not know. I hope and I pray that this disgusting act of femicide, among the other situations myself and the women I know face every day, will one day disappear.

Horrors of online harassment


James LeVan, Staff

On Friday, Feb. 5, the Washington Post’s “Made by History” section published a piece by Dr. Jamie Goodall (a historian at the U.S Army Center of Military History and expert on the history of piracy) about the Super Bowl and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The main topic of her piece was the problem of romanticization of outlaw figures who, in their heyday, were not revered and heroic as we portray. She did not write about how Tampa should change its name; she did not condemn the city (though given what I saw of the stadium crowding, I might). She merely wished to point out that sometimes the figures we romanticized were not regarded as romantic heroes in their time and that we should remember that. The topic of this article is the threats of violence directed at Dr. Goodall since her op-ed was published and the issue of threats and violence directed at professional women who share their opinion, even an expert opinion.

Dr. Goodall’s piece went viral in the days since its publication. The headline has been tweeted about and retweeted on social media, most notably by former President Trump’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and a vlogger named Matt Walsh who in his bio calls himself a “theocratic fascist, tyrant and beekeeper” (why anyone would admit that about themselves, I do not know). Even the Daily Mail wrote a piece on her and took the time to go through her Instagram and find photos of her wearing a facemask with Jolly Rogers and one professional pic of her where you can see her tattoo of a female pirate, using these as examples that she is a hypocrite. The reactions have ranged from calling her a hypocrite, to attacks towards her former colleagues at Stevenson University, to threats of rape and other forms of violence against her. She has not left social media but she has blocked many of these online trolls and has locked down her account, showing a tremendous amount of strength and courage while being mobbed by a group of people who get upset by a piece saying that not everyone in the past was a romantic swashbuckling hero.

Dr. Goodall’s case is not a one-time phenomenon. Sadly, it is part of a pattern of women who in various industries become the target of online harassment and threats of sexual violence simply because they wrote or said something in their field.. This whole situation brings up memories of both gamergate and comicsgate and how internet figures make it their mission to attack women.

Gamergate was an online harassment campaign directed at women involved in the video game industry. Zoe Quinn, an independent video game developer who created a video about dealing with depression, was targeted with threats of violence and exposing of personal information. In 2014, she did an interview for The Guardian where she said she was afraid to go home and was living on her friends’ couches because of threats against her person. She and several other women connected to video games were bombarded with attacks from anonymous online individuals. These threats included attacks on their professional careers to gruesome images of dead animals sent to their inbox. Comicsgate was a similar harassment campaign but was targeted at professionals in the comics industry, arguing that diversity in writing rooms and the creation of characters who were either female or people of color were ruining the industry. Members of comics forums even created a blacklist of comics creators they argued were destroying the industry (many on the list were women, people of color and LGBT creators). Much like with gamergate, they used online harassment to target women in the industry. An example of this would be the case of Heather Antos and the milkshake photo.

In 2017, Heather Antos was an editor at Marvel Comics and had posted a photo of herself and some of her female colleagues going out for milkshakes after the work week. The spectacularly apolitical photo was quickly bombarded with online trolls connected to comicsgate attacking Antos and her colleagues and arguing that they were the reason the comic book industry was seeing a decline in sales.

These online harassment mobs are a byproduct of a culture war that has been brewing in the United States for decades. The people attacking these women do not really care about history, comics or video games. Rather, they desire to silence individuals and control these industries that they have no real connection to. It is more about making women and people of color in these industries more submissive to their wills and thus unable to speak or voice an opinion. We can see this in all these cases. The desire is not about the financial health of these fields or the quality of content being created. It is about dominating and making the victims of these harassment campaigns submissive. If this all sounds incredibly rapey, that is because it is. Let us speak plainly on this.

In my professional, academic and personal life I have had the opportunity to work with and know numerous women who are quite brilliant and frankly I have no qualms admitting that I am mediocre compared to a lot of them. They all have brilliant knowledge on subjects and opinions but are often silenced or forced to hide their views.. If they don’t, the troll army will come after them and spend weeks threatening their wellbeing. I could honestly write 20 pages on the issues women face in the workplace and online. However, I am not sure I am the right person to write that piece. Instead, all I will say is that in society we must be more alert to these kinds of hate campaigns and realize that they are a threat to the rights and safety of our colleagues, friends, family and fellow human beings. The absence of those voices at the table because of a bunch of angry bloggers would be nothing short of a tragedy for these industries but also for society as a whole and will result in a stifled unenlightened mess.