There is a great deal of debate as to what constitutes inappropriate aggression within various professional fields in America. The sad fact remains that women continue to be in the majority when on the receiving end of violent rhetoric even from behind the safety of a computer screen. Even beyond the common usage of gendered language, women within the journalistic world are often the target of extreme threatening language.
The expectation remains upon the recipient to laugh it off, ignore it, not take it seriously. But is this a realistic option when the language within the issued threats is perceived as ‘normal’ and expected? Where should the responsibility lie? What steps can be taken to reduce this kind of exchange?
1. Accountability within the existing entity: Some online platforms make an effort to block inappropriate content within the comments section. Enacting a set standard of community guidelines creates the expectations of civil discourse. This cuts the threat off at the pass, so to speak.
2. Defining bullying: Even within the culture which normalizes putting greenhorns through their courses, there remains some debate as to what is bullying. Does receiving a mean email or comment constitute bullying? After all, it is nothing more than pixels on the screen. The definition of the term remains unclear depending on the people involved and the context. A media standard would go a long way towards pointing out unacceptable behavior, rather than someone merely being on the receiving end of a difference of opinion.
3. Laws catching up with reality: When headlines began to emerge about the effects of cyberbullying, there was not much information in regards to what charges could be pressed based on the existing laws. Studies show that women are in the majority for receiving not only a higher amount of harassment but also more disturbing wording and threatening language than men. Laws are slowly changing, but many of them currently in effect are traumatic to the victim and difficult to enforce.
The advent of the digital age has brought with it many positive changes, but sadly it has also created a culture of anonymity. Hiding behind a keyboard not only emboldens abusers to say things they might not otherwise and exposes online professionals to more vulnerability than in previous eras. Culture has shifted to more people working from home and online. Now we just need to catch up with keeping aggressors accountable for their actions to reduce and eliminate abusive online behavior altogether.