I have been following an Instagram account called @assholesonline for quite some time. The owner of the account Linnea Claesson, a Swedish handball player, frequently uploads screenshots of the various online harassments she has had to endure from men since the age of ten. She also includes her own responses to the harassers – most often full of wit and humor. For example, one person found it smart to repeatedly threaten with rape, murder and an unending flood with pictures of his penis. Linnea responded with sending it all to the person’s mother – something he really did not enjoy.
It is funny while I’m scrolling through the different pictures, but most of all it is frightening. It’s an everlasting number of men, who somehow have the notion that they have the right to harass women online. What perplexes me is where do you find these people? Who raised them? Why do they think they have the right to act as they do? Most of them are Swedish – ranging from boys to old men. How is it that when you live in one of the most equal countries in the world you act this way? I wish I could ask one of them, but I strongly doubt they would volunteer for an interview.
All my female friends have expressed that they sometime during their life experienced harassment from men, be it online or in real life. An acquaintance of mine recently shared her story about being raped twice, once in Sweden while drugged and once abroad at knifepoint. My younger sister told me that some boys had driven past her on mopeds while shouting “whore”. She is twelve years old.
A Polish politician recently claimed that “Women must earn less than men, because they are weaker, they are smaller, they are less intelligent”. Russia’s parliament voted 380 in favor and 3 against to decriminalize domestic violence. The President of the United States have bragged about sexual assault. Boko Haram is teaching their child soldiers to rape women under gunpoint. Marital rape is not illegal in China. Western men travel to poor countries to buy sex from young girls (and boys). A 13-year old girl commits suicide because a 45-year old man (who at the time was trainer for a girl’s soccer team) extorted her to take off her clothes online. He was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison. Three men participated in raping a woman in Uppsala while live-streaming it on Facebook.
I know most of the above are old news and that the list could be made a lightyear longer. But with the International Women’s day in hindsight it is very important to highlight and to never forget.
A recurring trend I’ve seen during this special day is the sentence: “Congratulations to all women”. How naive must someone be even to think that? Congratulations to what? Lower wages? Rape statistics? Sexual harassment? Discrimination? Religious oppression? Catcalls? It would be more suitable to say: “Congratulations to all men”, since we are the only reason we even need the day in the first place. Unfortunately, the debate is quickly forgotten after the 8th of March. Hence why it is important to keep it alive – one day out of 365 is not enough.
Looking back at the @assholesonline account it clearly does not matter that we live in one of the most equal countries in the world. We still have a whole bunch of rotten eggs in our basket, a gender wage gap that isn’t closing fast enough and unequal opportunities between men and women. Being number one does not mean you should slow down – you should fasten your pace so the ones behind do the same.
Instead of shouting: “Not all men” (it’s not like you’re going to eat candy out of a bag where half of the candies are poisoned) we must show, without doubt, where we stand in this matter. Stop stigmatizing the victim and start stigmatizing the perpetrator: whether it is rape, online harassment, wage discrimination or any other unacceptable behavior. As easy as it may sound – don’t be an idiot.
To all the women who are standing up for themselves – keep doing your thing.
Confucius once said: “To see the right and not to do it is cowardice”.