We have to end the war on women in cyberspace


— I don’t know whether you have been following this, but there is a very disturbing trend that has been underway. Women in cyberspace are under attack. These attacks are very much focused on programmers and video game designers. These attacks are nothing short of vicious.

Yet, the attacks have expanded. Just recently Leslie Jones, a co-star in the reboot of the film “Ghostbusters,” came under such a vicious online assault that she took a breather from Twitter while Twitter management decided to purge some of her worst attackers. What Leslie Jones experienced, i.e., vicious online assaults, is something that an increasing number of women who work in cyberspace and technology careers have been living through for years. Subterranean assaults carried out in the dark of night making life miserable for their targets have become a current feature of our times. This has expanded so much so that it has even become part of popular culture, such as a plotline of one of the “Law & Order” franchises.

What is motivating these attacks? These attacks are acts of misogyny, pure and simple and are being carried out— quite blatantly— by men who believe there are certain fields that should be the exclusive territory of men. As a result, they want to carry out what can only be described as the “gender cleansing” of different fields, with technology being one of them. Yet, as is the case with Leslie Jones, these cyber assaults are not limited to women who work in technology.

In the late 1990s, I noticed something which I coined “The Wizard of Oz Phenomenon.” In essence this took the form of people developing one personality when they were behind a keyboard and another in real life. I encountered people who were rude, arrogant and intolerant over the Internet, yet when you would meet them in person, they would be nothing short of a cuddly teddy bear.

I believe “The Wizard of Oz Phenomenon” has expanded and has become the means by which some very mean-spirited, arrogant men have decided to conduct a war against women. Hiding behind the “curtain” of the Internet, they harass women to the point that some have decided to abandon their field of interest entirely, simply because they have concluded that the harassment is not worth it.

So, here is my proposal. There are some good hackers out there. I think that there is a need to develop a battalion of such hackers who are interested in bringing a halt to this online misogyny. Their assignment, should they choose to accept it, would be to search out, identify and publicize the existence of these harassers and, as they say, return the favor— any volunteers?

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a talk show host, writer and activist. You can follow him on

Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.