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Law’s Expressive Value in Combating Cyber Gender Harassment
The online harassment of women exemplifies twenty-first century behavior that profoundly harms women yet too often remains overlooked and even trivialized. This harassment includes rape threats, doctored photographs portraying women being strangled, postings of women’s home addresses alongside suggestions that they should be sexually assaulted and technological attacks that shut down blogs and websites. It impedes women’s full participation in online life, often driving them offline, and undermines their autonomy, identity, dignity, and well-being.
The public and law enforcement, meanwhile, routinely marginalize women’s experience, deeming it harmless teasing that women should expect, and tolerate, given the Internet’s Wild West norms of behavior. Recognizing cyber harassment for what it is — gender discrimination — is crucial to educate the public about its gendered harms, to ensure that women’s complaints are heard, to convince perpetrators to stop their bigoted online attacks, and ultimately to change online subcultures of misogyny to that of equality.