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Rivers: Online, message to women is ‘Shut up!’

Caryl Rivers

Though many believe gender discrimination is a thing of the past, research shows women bear the brunt of harassment and discrimination online.

Prof. Caryl Rivers draws on the findings of her recent book, The New Soft War on Women to give context to recent instances of feminine voices silenced by the so-called “harmless male trolls spewing venom” on the Internet.

Rivers wrote for the Huffington Post:

Why the targeting of women who express opinions online? Because public speech is power, and the prohibitions against such speech by women are ancient.

The Bible (1Timothy 2:12) decrees: “…do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”

Strictures against women speaking in public go back to antiquity and continued throughout most of history. In 1837, a group of American Congregationalist ministers published a letter declaring that a woman who spoke publicly would “not only cease to bear fruit [i.e., become infertile], but fall in shame and dishonor in the dust.”

If women are powerful, they can’t be caring nurturant, self-sacrificing and submissive. And they have often been punished for stepping outside these gender role boundaries. You’d think these ancient strictures would have vanished by now, with fully half the workforce being female. Not so.

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