On Tuesday I was sitting in a coffee shop with my friend Lana, reading a post by the journalist Clementine Ford. She had compiled screen shots of some (some, just some) of the horrendous abuse she received from men (and the odd woman) around the world for daring to express her opinions and for defending herself when attacked online.
I was stunned by the vitriol. Stunned by the hatred. Stunned by the language. C**t. Slut. Whore. Rape threats. Threats of violence. It was horrifying.
What was even more horrifying is that so many of these men used their real names. Their social media profiles showed pictures of them smiling with their families, or linked to Facebook pages listing their hobbies and interests. There were pictures of dogs and friends and holidays. This is how little they fear consequence or retribution. Because there IS no consequence online.
It was not me being attacked. I tend to fly under the radar when it comes to online abuse; I write about parenting and relationships and life and anxiety and just don't attract that kind of attention.
But those messages reflected such a profound misogyny, such a deep seated contempt of women, that the actual target was irrelevant. When you attack women with those kind of words, you attack us all.
Everyone gets abused online from time to time. Men also get abused online. But men are not threatened with sexual violence. Men are not threatened with harm towards their families. Men are not degraded and intimidated into silence.
I couldn't bear it. I couldn't bear the fact that people feel they can attack women in this way. I wanted to do something. I wanted to show my support for Clem, but not just for Clem, for all women who are abused online.
And so I gathered some friends. I asked that we each tweet the names of the offenders listed on Clem's post, or at least the names of some of the worst offenders. I asked that we use the hashtag #endviolenceagainstwomen, and link to her post so people know what we are dealing with.
Please note that we do not wish to abuse or threaten or slander these men. We are simply naming them as being the authors of abusive tweets. Their messages stand for themselves.
I wanted to stand up and say that this is not okay. That this kind of abuse will be noticed. That there are consequences. That we will stand together and support each other. That when you attack one of us, you attack us all.
By this morning, my little group of friends had grown into a group of hundreds, and it keeps growing. You will see our tweets and read our Facebook posts. If you wish to support us, please share this post and others like it. If you are on Twitter, please retweet our tweets or cut and paste them into your own timelines.
I don't believe for a moment that this will change our culture of violence. I don't believe for a moment that this will end violence against women. But it's a start. A small step. A show of strength and support.
You have to start somewhere. We are starting here. Today.