Douthat calls that "a candidate for the most troubling magazine essay of 2014." In a world of scandals and suffering, women not feeling welcome on the internet is supposed to be the most troubling thing? But we troubled our asses off over the lack of women-welcoming on the internet a decade ago.
[Amanda] Hess takes a reality many people may be only dimly aware of — that female writers come in for an extraordinary amount of abuse online — and fleshes it out with detail, data and personal experience. The anecdotes, her own and others, range from the offensive to the terrifying, but there’s also a thudding, soul-crushing sameness to them: graphic threats of sexual violence, rape and murder, intertwining and repeating.Douthat goes on about "how online forums should police abuse" and how "the Internet itself" is a "magnifer" of hate, etc. etc.
It's all been said before, but I think I was consistent back in the old days expressing the view that threats and stalking can be serious, whether they arrive by phone or by internet, and when they are, call the police. That's what I've had to do a couple times. But distinguish what we call in First Amendment law a true threat from other kinds of verbal aggression.
There's so much fighting over politics and ideology and whatever on the internet that it's absurd to hold back until you feel welcomed. The people who are already there have territorial feelings and would love to make you feel you can't enter. If you say you're holding back until people stop being so mean, you'll never get in.
In case you don't remember the old discussion that got discussed out, here's the classic "Women and Blogging" post by Kevin Drum that got everyone talking back in March 2005. I see that piece links to something I wrote, here, which linked to something Maureen Dowd wrote in a piece called "Dish It Out, Ladies." That was back before Ross Douthat was her office mate.
ADDED: A funny thing about that old post of mine is the way it ends with me talking about how I "definitely turned off my comments long ago and after a very short experience with them, because I was not going to tolerate people talking to me like that on my own blog." That got me to a post I'd been looking for last summer, when I had to turn off comments for a while (because I had an otherwise uncontrollable harassment problem). In that post, I itemized "things people who were not being reasonable were saying about me":
1. I claim to be a moderate, but I'm only posing as a moderate for some nefarious reason.About a year later, I turned the comments back on because of something — no kidding! — Judge Posner said. I had a tougher skin by then and had woken up from the fantasy that people would be nice or somewhat nice to me. What I learned in that year, 2005 to 2006, is something I wish I'd learned when I was young. Don't wait to be welcomed. Get in there and compete. They'll hurt you if they think they can, so don't let them see that it hurts. You can feel it, but don't stop. Go forward.
2. I think I'm so great because I'm a moderate, and I keep showing off by doing this whole "I'm a reasonable person" routine — which is obviously a manipulative trick.
3. I am outrageously right wing, and this is especially bad because my parents served in the military during or just after WWII.
4. I'm showing off by writing about legal matters, and I think I'm so great because I know more than other people about such things, and I'm taking unfair advantage by resorting to the use of this knowledge.
5. It's bad of me to indulge in humor if I'm writing anything that tinges on the Iraq war.
6. I shouldn't express outrage about art unless I first express outrage about things that are more outrageous — chiefly the war.
7. I shouldn't be writing about whatever I'm writing about because I should be expressing outrage about the war.
8. I don't know anything about country music because I heard Shania Twain and thought it was Melissa Etheridge.
A corollary: If someone commits a crime against you, call the cops!
These insights make sense together. Criminals are never going to care about a culture of civility. They will victimize you. The culture of civility could only possibly persuade people who like the idea of cultivating civility, and there will always be some writers who are going to be scathing, and there should be, so don't wait, be tough, and choose the writing style you want and go. If your thing is niceness, do it, but don't expect the whole internet to shift to niceness for you.