Who needs stoning when there’s Twitter?

Did you see the disgusting Tweets when Olympic medal winning gymnast Beth Tweedle took part in a Q and A?

colmc71 coco bald @SkySportsNews #Sportswomen On a scale of 1/10 how pig ugly would you class yourself?


Maxstormer Max Stormer Beth Tweddle, why did you turn down the role of Lord Voldermort? #sportswomen


Trolling went on for two hours straight. The Telegraph reports:


And that’s not taking into account such comments as: “Do you think pregnancy is a poor injury excuse and women should be able to run it off?” and “are all sportswomen lesbians?”

Perhaps Sky should have pulled the gym mat out from under the whole thing at that stage.

Because what followed was almost two hours of trolling: a torrent of vile insults and misogyny. Tweddle was only able to answer a handful of questions and even those were deliberately misconstrued.

<noframe>Twitter: Finlay Gillon –  At what point in your life did you know that Gymnastics was going to be a major part of it ?


Twitter responded to this comment by calling this World Champion sportswoman a “slut” and “bitch”. She was asked whether she wanted “cock” or “anal”. Someone even posted a picture of Jimmy Savile.


Did you get the part about how Tweedle is an Olympic medalist? Instead of being recognized as a hero– as male medalists are– she is publicly shamed and reduced to a sex object. This kind of reaction happens so often to women in public, that I’ve come to believe it’s like a modern day stoning. In the USA, we don’t use the Taliban to silence women, but the media serves to keep women quiet, hidden, and isolated. Come out, and we’ll get you.

This week, 19 yr old tennis player, Eugenie Bouchard, became the first Canadian woman to advance to the semi-finals of the Australian Open in nearly thirty years. In her post game interview, what was she asked? Who would she would date.

Female politicians also get reduced to sexist cliches by the media. After the brutal attacks on Wendy Davis, gubernatorial candidate in Texas, a republican came out to defend her. The Huffington Post reports:

Conservatives are attacking Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) for misrepresenting her background, in particular the hardships she faced as a young single mother. But one Texas Republican is defending Davis’ record, saying the gubernatorial candidate wouldn’t be subject to the same criticism if she were male.


On Sunday, a Dallas Morning News article pointed out some discrepancies in the stories Davis has told — including when she was divorced from her first husband, how long she lived in a trailer and how she paid for law school. In response, conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh have labeled her a “genuine head case” and claimed she had a “sugar daddy.”


Some pundits have even suggested that Davis was a negligent parent for leaving her children with her second husband while she attended Harvard Law School in the early 1990s.


Becky Haskins, a Republican who served with Wendy Davis on the Fort Worth City Council, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Tuesday that Davis was a hard worker who did what she needed to do for her daughters.

“If this involved a man running for office, none of this would ever come up,” Haskins told the Star-Telegram. “It’s so sad. Every time I ran, somebody said I needed to be home with my kids. Nobody ever talks about men being responsible parents.”


Moving on to actresses, when she was body panned by a camera at the SAG Awards, Cate Blanchett crouched down and said, “Do you do this to the guys?”

PolyMic reports:

Blanchett’s reaction shows yet another subtle moment of sexism that even the most successful women have to deal with.


And that’s exactly it, because this treatment happens to public women. When men get more power and success, they are admired. But when women achieve go public with their ambition and accomplishments, the media warns us we are likely to be humiliated. With the risks so great and the rewards so low, how many women are going to try to put their visions out into the world? I guess that’s the point., right?

But here’s some good news. In response to Wheedle’s treatment, Telegraph reports:


What’s been refreshing, in the wake of this latest incident, is the way Tweddle’s treatment has been reported. Far from encouraging women to engage in ‘Twitter silences’ or boycotts, we’re speaking up and doing as Criado-Perez suggested after her experiences last summer: shouting back at trolls.


Sky released this statement:


We’re committed to supporting women’s sport and Beth’s Q&A was a chance for fans to engage with one of Britain’s most successful sports stars,” it said. “We’re appalled that some people chose to abuse her. This experience highlights some of the unacceptable and offensive attitudes that can be encountered by women in the public eye.

New Statesman did an article about it, and Everyday Sexism also responded.

Keep shouting back at the trolls. Don’t be a passive bystander. Really, the worst thing we can do is stay silent. Often harassment reaches the next level. Amanda Hess recently posted “Why women aren’t welcome on the internet” about her abuse, arguing internet stalking is a civil rights issue.

“Ignore the barrage of violent threats and harassing messages that confront you online every day.” That’s what women are told. But these relentless messages are an assault on women’s careers, their psychological bandwidth, and their freedom to live online. We have been thinking about Internet harassment all wrong.”


Hess makes the point that the virtual world is the real world when women are threatened. It’s a great post and you should read it if you haven’t.

Update: Sara comments on Reel Girl:

Isn’t responding to the trolls what they want? I mean, that’s why they call it “feeding the trolls.”  I think the media needs to be held responsible for sensoring inappropriate comments.  These “public” forums are really not – they are private spaces under the control of media organizations, and they do have the power to delete this garbage.  Our first amendment rights only guarentee we can’t be thrown in jail for speaking our minds, but in this case I really wish companies like twitter would hire people to detoxify the cesspool.


Yes, agreed. Sorry if I was not clear. I mean responding that this treatment is not acceptable i.e. Sky’s statement, the New Statesman post, Becky Haskins defending Davis’s record, Cate Blanchett not suffering in quietly etc. Refusing to be shamed or humiliated into silence. Shouting back at the trolls, to me, means keep speaking your truth. Also, I added a link to Amanda Hess’s post on internet abuse. It’s a great post. Take a look if you haven’t seen it. She argues internet abuse is a civil rights issue, which I agree with, though a lot of the sexism women experience doesn’t fall into these kinds of threats, but shaming.

Texas women still recovering from Bush #StandWithTXWomen

I wrote about the desperate situation for women in Texas for the SF Chronicle 13 years ago when George W. Bush was running for President. Check out the political history of the state under Bush, the ramifications of his policies, and what we’re up against now. Thank you, Wendy Davis for maybe, finally, starting to turn this situation around.

Ask a pro-choice person to explain casting a vote for a pro-life candidate, and the proud response is likely to be: “I don’t support candidates based on just one issue. I care about education, health care, and the economy too.”

Even political savvy supporters of Green Party candidate Ralph Nader aren’t that concerned with the threat to a woman’s right to choose, claiming its one issue among many.

But choice has never been a single issue. Reproductive rights don’t exist in isolation. They have everything to do with women’s economic and political power, women’s access to education and health care, women’s status in society and women’s abilities to take care of themselves and their children.

Birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger once said, “If a woman doesn’t have the right to control her own body, she has no rights.” Choice is a political barometer, indicative of how politicians feel not only about the basic rights of women, but about the role of women in society, abut sex education, health care, welfare, poverty, the economy and the role the government should play in an individual’s life.

A position on choice indicates whether your representative will fight to get your kids vaccinated and to make contraception affordable.

Years ago, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass, said that pro-lifers believe “life begins at conception and ends at birth,” meaning pro-life politicians are adamant about protecting the fetus but don’t care much about protecting the child once its born

His notion was rekindled recently when Prof Jean Schroedel of Claremont College came out with a survey examining the relationship between state abortion laws and spending on children. Her research revealed that the states that most severely limit abortion are the same ones that spend the least on foster care, parents who adopt special needs children, and poor women with dependent children. States with strict abortion laws consistently accorded lower political, economic and social status to women. For example, Louisianna had some of the tougest abortion laws and spent $602 per child. Hawaii had some of the most liberal laws and spent $4,648 per child.

Schroedel also discovered that states with restricted abortion laws consistently accorded lower political, economic and social status to women.

Her findings support the work of Nafis Sadik, executive director of the United Nations World Population Fund. Sadik has been instrumental in turning the debate over how to limit population growth into a campaign for women’s rights.

She is widely credited with bringing attention to the correlation between over population and the status of women. When women are educated, when they achieve economic independence, when they have access to good health care, when they are valued in society for their intellect and their accomplishments, they have fewer babies.

Unfortunately, pro-life politicians still don’t seem concerned with improving the status of women. One classic example is presidential candidate George W. Bush. Look at his record as governor of Texas.

Texas women had a higher than average chance of living in poverty. The state minimum wage, earned by those in the female-dominated service and domestic workers industries was $3.35 per hour, totaling $6,700 annually for full time employment.

The percentage of women and children without health insurance is the second highest in the country.

Texas ranks 42nd in per capita welfare spending.

Bush made it more difficult for women to obtain abortions in times of crisis, but offered no preventative policy initiatives to reduce unintended pregnancy, no expansion of family planning or funding services, no comprehensive sexuality education program and no insurance coverage for contraceptives.

Texas had the second highest rate of teen pregnancy in the nation.

And the Texas system doesn’t promote sexual health. Texas law requires that sex education courses teach abstinence, but it does not require teaching contraception or HIV/ STD prevention.

Compare that to France where mandatory sexuality education begins when students are 13. Parents are prohibited from withdrawing their teenagers from this program. France’s teenage birthrate is approximately 6 times lower than the rate in the US; its teen abortion rate more than 2x lower, and overall AIDS rate, more than 3x lower.

Conservatives like to say, “The government that governs best, governs least.” What happened to this party? Now, they sound so much more like big government believers.

Many Americans wonder how they came to intrude so much into our private lives, legislating personal choices like whom we should sleep with or pray to.

The reason is because if politicians aren’t going to help to provide access to health care, contraception, STD prevention, access to child care and sex education, and economic autonomy there is nowhere to go but blame pregnancies on loose morals and loose women.

If Republicans acknowledge that women have reproductive rights, they’ll have to acknowledge that women have other rights as well. For Texas, that would mean reasonable funding for family planning and welfare, a higher minimum wage, insurance to cover contraceptives, real sex education and access to heath care.

Pro choice isn’t one issue and it isn’t one choice. Pro-choice means women have the choice to graduate from college, the choice to borrow money to start a business, the choice to get a good job with a fair wage, the choice not live in poverty and keep their kids out of poverty. Choice means that women get to be autonomous citizens, just like men do- with the power to determine their own destinies.

Pro-life candidate George Bush understands better than anyone that choice isn’t just one issue. Before heading to the ballot box in November, Americans need to realize pro-life is really only pro-birth.

The Republicans’ concern for mother and child is severed with the cutting of the umbilical cord.

What can you do now, in July, 2013?

Demand public hearings across Texas

On Independence Day in 2013, Texas women are still fighting for their rights!

Politicians in Austin are blocking Texans from speaking out against harmful legislation that would deny Texas women the right to make their own private medical decisions, and essentially end access to safe and legal abortion in the state.

Last night, during a hearing before the State Affairs Committee, the chairman cut off testimony at midnight, denying more than a thousand Texans who had signed up to testify the opportunity to speak out. This isn’t the fair democratic process that we value in Texas.

Texas legislators must stop playing politics with women’s health. Speak up now — urge legislators to schedule public hearings across the state to support the fair democratic process that Texans value.


Please visit Stand With Texas Women to sign your name to this letter going out to decision makers in Texas.