Social media is a fascinating, wonderful and powerful thing; but it is also a breeding ground for stupidity. You only have to breathe the words 'feminism' or 'women's empowerment' or just 'women' for a certain breed of humans to come sprinting out of the woodworks, hurling abuses and cracking nasty 'jokes'. People -- often nameless, faceless and always spineless -- sitting behind their computer screens and hurling abuses.
And let's be honest, more often than not, these barbs can be hurtful and horrifying. Sometimes, they make you want to leave the place to the vultures, just so you can get some peace of mind. While it's perfectly acceptable to do that if you have to, here are some tips to help you deal with sexist trolls.
1) "Ooh, look, catfight!"
You're having a fiery difference of opinion with another woman online. It doesn't matter whether you're debating Lady Gaga's sartorial choices or the civil war in Syria, there will be at least one, or, more realistically, half a dozen sexist dingbats who will start alluding to catfights and mud-wrestling. Don't give them what they want by making an argument personal or dirty. Women are exposed to so much abuse just for having an online presence, don't make it worse for another woman by opening up the doors to abuse during a disagreement. Make your point, listen to what the other person is saying and let the trolls go back under their pathetic little rocks, disappointed.
Don't give them what they want by making an argument personal or dirty.
2) Keep your nose clean
As difficult as it sometimes is, resist the urge to let out a stream of expletives when people are being sexist beyond belief. Abuse begets abuse, and even if they're going to use language that belongs to the gutter regardless of how you choose to speak, you never fall to their level of depravity.
3) Pity is practical
Some people exist purely to lower the online world's collective IQ. There literally exist trolls who specifically search for feminism-related hashtags on social media simply so they can go and spread their hatefulness. There is no way to win against a person who spends 16 hours a day on the computer, looking for women to harass. Sometimes, ignoring them really is the only way to get them to go away. Summon some pity for their sorry existence, and block, report, repeat.
4) Stay, don't leave
Celebrity and popularity are like magnets for trolls. If you're even a teeny tiny bit famous, you'll probably face a staggering amount of sexism and nastiness for absolutely no reason. Don't let that drive you away from social media or keep you from saying your piece. After a while, you'll realise that most trolls are too dumb to come up with anything smarter than "You're fat and ugly" when they disagree with you. It is equal parts amusing and pathetic.
The merest hint of legal trouble will make them grovel at your feet for forgiveness.
5) Call the cops
There is a time to ignore and a time to make them wet their pants in fear. Most online bullies are glorified cowards in real life. The relative anonymity of the Internet gives them the courage to say vile things without the fear of law. While you can't possibly go after everyone who abuses you online, if you feel threatened by the violence in a person's comments, make sure you register a complaint with the cyber crime cell. More often than not, the merest hint of legal trouble will make them grovel at your feet for forgiveness.
6) Friends don't get a free pass
Dumbledore is always right. "It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends." It's not okay to give your friends a free pass when they're being gross, but get offended when others do. Sexist jokes, gaslighting and belittling women is not okay, even if it's "nice" people doing it. Neither is it okay when other women are doing it. Shut it down, no matter who starts it.
7) Sexism VS sexism
Suggest a correction
The answer to discrimination against women is not male-bashing or discriminating against men. When we waste time trying to counter sexism with sexism, we are only limiting the conversation to a meaningless war of the genders.