On the Internet, Nobody Knows You're a Werewolf

| Mon Apr. 2, 2007 2:41 AM EDT

Women writers are subjected to so many more ad hominems than male writers that the Editor in Chief at Salon.com call them "ad feminems." Joan Walsh weighs in on what difference having a female byline makes.

"When Salon automated its letters, ideas that had only seen our in boxes at Salon were suddenly turning up on the site. And I couldn't deny the pattern: Women came in for the cruelest and most graphic criticism and taunting," Walsh writes. "Is there really any doubt that women writing on the Web are subject to more abuse than men, simply because they're women? ...I say this as a mouthy woman who has tried for a long time to pretend otherwise: that Web misogyny isn't especially rampant -- but even if it is, it has no effect on me, or any other strong, sane woman doing her job."

As much as pretending otherwise may help brush it off, like the old "sticks and stones" rhyme, Walsh points out how verbal attacks corrode a writer's confidence, security, and credibility.

Too often hate speech is framed and dismissed as free speech. For starters, the First Amendment doesn't protect death threats and libel. Also, the First Amendment doesn't call for us to honor haters any more than the Second Amendment calls for us to admire our neighbor's collection of assault rifles.

What's disturbing is that it's not just peripheral geeks like RageBoy who turn into werewolves behind their PCs. It's grade schoolers in Novato, Calif., who drove an epileptic girl into home-schooling. It's even Yale Law students.