Two UNT Professors Coedit Essay Collection About Misogyny

TW: This story talks about sexual and verbal harassment against women.

Following the events of the past year, including the fall of many men in Hollywood and the explosion of the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns, people are seeing many brave women combating misogyny and harassment.

In this uproar of women coming forward, media arts professor Jacqueline Ryan Vickery and journalism professor Tracy Everbach (both of the University of North Texas) edited a collection of academic essays titled Mediating Misogyny: Gender, Technology, and Harassment that published just last month. Over the course of twenty chapters, the mistreatment of women through sexual and verbal harassment in real life and on the Internet is explored.

The description of the book reads, "Mediating Misogyny is a collection of original academic essays that foregrounds the intersection of gender, technology, and media. Framed and informed by feminist theory, the book offers empirical research and nuanced theoretical analysis about the gender-based harassment women experience both online and offline. The contributors of this volume provide information on the ways feminist activists are using digital tools to combat harassment, raise awareness, and organize for social and political change across the globe. Lastly, the book provides practical resources and tips to help students, educators, institutions, and researchers stop online harassment.”

Vickery approached Everbach in 2016 to work together on the project, which led to a book proposal, getting feedback from scholars willing to write chapters, and getting a publisher by 2017. By February 13, 2018, the book was published and for sale.

From Donald J. Trump running in the 2016 presidential election through his current presidency, several women have come forward about the way President Trump has acted with them. Articles like, “Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved with Women in Private,” and “After Weinstein: 71 Men Accused of Sexual Misconduct and Their Fall from Power,” have been published in light of this.

In the Trump-era, Everbach said she believes Trump is indeed a factor of why sexual harassment is getting recognized now more than ever. She said Trump pretty much ran on a platform of misogyny, making the climate increasingly worse. Everbach said Trump has been known to say negative things about women, rated women on a scale from one to ten, made comments about grabbing women by the p---y, and barged into rooms while teen beauty queens were changing clothes, among other things.

Everbach said the women’s march, which was held the same day as President Trump’s inauguration, sparked what would lead the #MeToo movement to go viral. The movement began in 2006 by Tarana Burke, but only as recent as October 2017 got more attention.

“I think it empowered a lot of women to be able to come forward, and say this happened to me and to actually have people believe them when they said it,” Everbach said. “So it has kind of been a change of events which has led us to where we are now, which is great but I think that we need to start doing something about it. I think we need to start preventing these things from happening.”

Everbach said social media has been a big contributor to harassment against women. Everbach believes the comments section is a "cesspool" and needs to be addressed by many social media sites.

“I think that everyone is not doing enough on the issue because it causes a lot of emotional harm to people and it could cause physical harm if someone followed through with the threats,” Everbach said. “Having to work constant messages of 'I hate you,' 'you’re horrible,' 'your work is terrible,' insults, swear words, and threats, that takes a toll on someone having to put up with that.”

The book captures the Dallas Women’s March in a photograph, and Vickery and Everbach also include a photograph from the 1913 Women’s Suffrage March in Washington D.C.  The book touches on harassment in a variety of settings from jobs to personal harassment, and even harassment involved with gaming. It does not just open up the problem of harassment and leave you hanging either, which Everbach feels sometimes the media does. This book, she pointed out, has resources from guides, advocacy, self-care and legal resources for both the United States and the United Kingdom.

“There is a chapter on an organization called Troll Busters, which is an organization that helps women who have been harassed and is like a support group for them to get them through difficult situations,” Everbach said. “There’s a chapter about women who go to comic-cons who are treated as lesser. There’s a chapter on the 2016 election, and the online, and not online harassment of Hillary Clinton, from both Trump supporters and Bernie [Sanders] supporters.”

Everbach said another topic touched upon is the comments received by Jessica Mendoza, who became the first female commentator for a Major League Baseball game with ESPN in June 2016.

“It’s really bad,” Everbach said. “She was getting all sorts of messages like ‘get off the air bitch' and 'you have no business being here.’ This is a woman who won an Olympic gold medal in softball so it is not like she doesn’t know the game."

Everbach said there are a lot of women who get harassed for just being a woman in male-dominated areas. It can be even worse for women of color, she said.

“They end up getting really horrible [reactions],” Everbach said. “Rape threats, death threats, all of that happened in the gamergate scandal. [Women received messages like] 'I am going to kill your kid.' Some of these women have had to call the FBI. That’s how bad it is.”

The book discusses the harassment of comedian, actress, and SNL cast member Leslie Jones who starred in the 2016 Ghostbusters. The movie was already receiving flack for being rebooted with an all-women cast, and Jones was also being harassed for being black. The incidents got to a point where Jones left Twitter for a while because of the horrendous comments she received.

Everbach said some of the people she interviewed for the book formed meaningful support groups.

Outside of the book, these are issues Everbach cares about personally and conversations she tries to incorporate into her journalism classes. She thinks it is important for people to be taught about harassment in the classroom without having to take a particular course on the topic. Everbach said UNT is fortunate to have a survivor advocate, who she sends students to if they need help. The Mayborn School of Journalism just created a brochure with the Equal Opportunity Office about sexual harassment in the workplace.

Everbach said there is a lot of confusion as to what sexual harassment is exactly. Going further, Everbach believes people need to teach themselves what consent really is. Everbach advises people take a look at a YouTube video called Tea Consent, which she said she uses in her classes. There is also an alternate video without swearing for younger audiences. Everbach said that she finds the video really resonates with students.

“I think a lot of cases of sexual abuse come from a lack of understanding of consent,” Everbach said. “Where one partner thinks it is okay and another partner does not think it is okay and it ends up being a disaster where someone ends up getting assaulted, raped or whatever.”

Everbach thinks along with the Tea Consent video, we need to get the employers of different fields paying attention to employees who may be harassed, get social media platforms protecting users, and all around get people to create a culture where we call out misogyny and harassment when we see or experience it and believe and support those experiencing it.

With the book, Everbach said she and Vickery hope to raise awareness, get educators on board, teach people about the topic, and possibly change people’s behaviors.

You can purchase Mediating Misogyny: Gender, Technology, and Harassment from Palgrave now.

Header image by Christopher Rodgers