Sunday, October 30, 2016

Haters: Harassment, Abuse, and Violence Online by Bailey Poland

I was joking around with one of my friends last week that my list of nonfiction books on Goodreads could just as easily double as the core reading list for a women's study class. We had a good laugh over it, but feminism is something I feel quite strongly about, and I think reading about women in history in particular is quite important because we are frequently told the stories of history from one viewpoint - the viewpoint of white men.

HATERS is an interesting little book that takes another anthropological segment typically written about from the viewpoint of white men: the interwebs. Specifically, harassment and stalking on the interwebs as experienced by women. I applied for this advance reader copy on a whim because internet stalking is something I have some experience with (sadly) and because I wanted to gain a new perspective on a very troubling and problematic issue that can be brutal for some women, to the point where it threatens their very livelihood. Why is this such a big problem, and what can be done about it? How does it affect women who aren't privileged?

HATERS is divided into segments, and Poland talks about the various facets of internet harassment: why it happens, who does the harassing, what the victims look like, why it's problematic, and why it continues to persist. I suspect that this was written for an academic publication (ah, yes, I just checked - the University of Nebraska Press) and it shows. The writing is very dry and deliberately politically correct with everything spelled out in very precise and inoffensive terms. I understand why this was done, but it makes for some very clunky writing and convoluted sentences. This is a subject I'm interested in and have some knowledge about, but I still had to toil through the first couple chapters.

The best parts of the book were the portions that had concrete examples of harassment with real women's stories. Poland even includes some of her own personal experiences with harassment online and how she went about trying to diffuse it (with only mixed success). This was more in line with what I expected when I requested my ARC from Netgalley, and I think these personal stories will do a lot to engage readers with the issue at hand, and cause them to understand why it's such a problem.

HATERS is more of a textbook than a pleasure read, but the writing is accessible enough that I think people who aren't enrolled in a women's studies class (wink) will still be able to appreciate the take-home messages of the book. I also think that this is an important book to read for women who maintain active presences on social media venues because it's a good warning of what you're potentially going up against, as well as comforting proof that, regardless of your experiences with harassment and the degree to which you've experienced it, you're not alone.

This is the point at which I direct you to my favorite Buzzfeed video of all time: What It's Like To Be A Woman Online.

2.5 to 3 out of 5 stars.

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