recovering professionally after an internet hate campaign

A reader writes:

I’m a woman in an industry that’s typically male-dominated. Recently I was interviewed about a project I worked on and spoke about the historic sexism in the industry and my company’s goals to be more feminist and inclusive.

Well. You’d think I said I liked to kick babies for fun. Certain sections of the internet have exploded with hate against me. My company has been flooded with threats and harassment. I’ve had to completely shut down my internet presence.

Fortunately my company has been amazing and totally standing behind me. I’ve been thinking, though, of what I’ll do when I eventually move on. I doubt there’s a company in the industry that hasn’t heard of me at this point. If I want to look for new opportunities in a year, two years, five years, how do I handle it? Not mention the incident unless they ask? Address it in the cover letter? Or wait and bring it up in the interview?

Do I warn the company that any public presence on my part might bring them unwanted attention? It’s true, but I don’t think many people want to hire a stick of dynamite.

Ugh, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this.

Here’s how I’d look at it: Imagine if your company weren’t handling this as well as they are. You want to screen for companies like them in the future. This is going to give you a pretty clear-cut way to do that screening. A sucky, unfair, shouldn’t-have-to-even-think-about-it tool for screening, but it’s an effective tool nonetheless.

I imagine what you’re thinking is, “Yeah, but a company could be great and still not be excited about taking this battle on.” But I’m going to argue that if you’re good at what you do and have the support of your colleagues (which you do), a good company isn’t going to shy away from this in a few years. Also, a few years is a long time with this kind of thing; it will almost certainly be old news and you will be the awesome woman who, side note, had to put up with a bunch of ridiculous crap a few years back.

I don’t think you have any obligation to proactively bring this up when interviewing with future employers, unless it comes up organically and you want to talk about it. I think the fact that you’re worrying that you might need to is a sign that you’re still mired in the current trauma of what’s happening — you’re feeling like this is now something about you that of course you would have to disclose, that you are tarred by this. But it’s not something about you and you are not tarred. You did a normal and reasonable thing. It’s about other people. Their mud splattered on you, yes, but it is not a part of you.

That said, depending on how all this is feeling in a few years (and I promise you that it will feel different then than it does right now), it might bring you peace of mind to bring it up once you already have an offer. You could frame it as, “Hey, I don’t know if you already know this, but I wanted to mention that I got a bunch of criticism a few years ago from people who didn’t like an interview I gave about my company’s efforts to be more inclusive of women. It’s blown over, and my company was awesome about supporting me, but if it ever comes up in the future, I didn’t want you to be blindsided.” It’s very unlikely that a company will pull an offer over this, and the point of disclosure would only be to help you — to give you the peace of mind of knowing it’s not going to surprise them later, and to use their reaction to give you some useful data about whether you’ll enjoy working with them.

Read multiple updates to this letter here and here.

{ 280 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Putting this up top so people see it. Please resist the temptation to try to guess what industry the letter-writer is in. Thanks!

    (I posted this after some of that already happened, so if you see a little of it, it’s not because people flagrantly ignored this.)

    1. GreenTeaPot*

      Thank you! The issue really isn’t the industry, as much as how to recover from public attention.

    2. Green*

      Oops; sorry, I weighed in later and missed this comment. Although I wasn’t guessing so much as re-emphasizing that this happens in lots of industries. I was undergrad classmates with a Yale law student who tried to sue the commenters using their screen names, and the stalking got so bad that people were taking pictures of her at the gym to post online and e-mailing all of her professors and law firms. They STILL talk about her chest size and try to mess up her Google search results, and it has been almost 10 years.

  2. David McWilliams*

    But it’s about ethics in game journalism!


    So sorry that you have deal with this, OP. Hang in there–if I was a hiring manager (which I’m not), I’d see this episode as a plus because you’ve shown that you’re tough enough to deal with a level of criticism that most people never have to deal with.

    1. anon for this*

      I was actually just about to comment on that particular group–if that’s the industry and, ahem, section of the internet responsible for the harassment, it’d be a REALLY good idea for commentors to avoid mentioning them by name. The group in question has a tendency to search for themselves and then show up en masse to harass anyone who dared speak negatively of them, even indirectly. (The group we’re thinking of shares initials with Glamour Grate.)

      OP, so sorry you’re dealing with this. I’m glad you’ve got a good company supporting you, and I hope in a few years, you’ll have contact with plenty of other good companies who will see this as evidence of your abilities and resilience. Like Alison said, this isn’t your fault–it’s the fault of the people who threw a temper tantrum over the idea that women are people. Hang in there.

      1. neverjaunty*

        I’m not going to speculate on whether the LW is or isn’t in that industry, but I am now stealing “Glamour Grate” forever as a nickname for those people.

      2. Computer Guy Eli*

        You know that both sides of that event can be very witch-hunty, right? Both sides has/have had bad people.

        1. Honeybee*

          Uh, no, not really. There may have been some people on the other side of GG who were more abrasive or argumentative with their opinions, but only one side has launched systematic, targeted harassment campaigns against women (or anybody) in the industry.

          1. BadMoviesLover*

            yes it is comparable. Tell it to the people who the supposed “good guys” have harassed and doxxed. Quite honestly, both sides are full of poopy heads.

    2. Yggdrasil*

      First thought that came to my mind too. Fortunately, nobody in the industry is taking those Gamergate morons seriously, so if that’s her industry, there really shouldn’t be a problem.

      1. BeautifulVoid*

        Oh good, I wasn’t the only one who immediately thought OP is in the gaming industry. And I agree with Alison and the others, that I don’t think this will be an issue in the future, especially since OP did nothing wrong.

      2. Honeybee*

        Unfortunately, that’s not true. There are some people in the games industry who either tacitly or overtly agree with the message that GG sends even if they don’t agree with the extreme methods that GG uses.

    3. Observer*

      Good point about being tough enough to deal with something like this.

      In fact, OP, if it dies come up, I would make this very point – you were faced with a lot of garbage, it was rough, but you dealt and moved on.

    4. Katniss*

      I was gonna also make a sarcastic comment along the lines of “but sexism is dead!”. Yours is better though.

    5. INTP*

      I’d see it as a plus too, not just because of the adversity aspect, because any enemy of the MRAs is a friend of mine.

      (I don’t mean to speculate on the specific incident by saying MRAs, I just assume that any group of internet people that flip out over gender inclusiveness = MRAs.)

  3. Juli G.*

    First, I’m really sorry. It’s another kudos to Allison for keeping her comment section so helpful.

    Allison is so right. In fact, I would wager there will be companies that are interested in recruiting women and would love to snag you as a symbol of that, especially in a year or so when the hard part blows over. I can tell you that if you were in my industry, 8 out of 10 people would love to have a outspoken advocate for women in the workplace that was also a stellar employee (my company’s not perfect so there are still jerks).

    1. Chriama*

      Very true. Not only is this a way to screen out the crappy companies, some companies might be interested in you specifically to separate themselves from those trolls. Not that it’s great to be a token female or status symbol, but at least be assured that this isn’t likely to limit your opportunities. This isn’t like you wrote a letter to your company’s CEO about how underpaid you are – you expressed a professional opinion about a topic that many in your industry are really interested in. The people who lashed out about that don’t speak for everyone who works in that industry.

      1. Juli G.*

        Right. No one wants to be the token but unfortunately, if you’re a minority, you can be one of the few. And if a company really cares about diversity, they’ll want people that are passionate about bringing in others so they aren’t the token.

  4. Nighthawk*

    This sounds like some of the GamerGate nonsense that’s been going on for a while now. I’m sorry that you had to deal with this. Some people are just assholes :\

    1. Observer*

      You know, it’s not just the gaming industry that is subject to this. It’s true of the tech industry as a whole. And, it also shows up in other places as well.

      1. DR*

        I’m pretty sure Nighthawk was just saying this reminds them of the gaming situation. Not that it doesn’t happen elsewhere.

        1. Observer*

          Yeah, but the commenting seems so focused on that corner of the world, that I wanted to point out that it’s a far more widespread problem, trolling and all.

          1. DR*

            I see. I read it as more of a simple observation, like “Oh, this sounds similar to that thing I heard about (relatively) recently.” More to build context for themselves than to be speculation on where this specific instance of it is happening.

        1. Green*

          And law. You should (or shouldn’t, depending on your interest in gross sexism) check out the comments section on or some time.

          1. mdv*

            Interestingly, is doing away with comments, according to a post from YESTERDAY.

      2. Koko*

        Yeah, IME simply “being a woman expressing an opinion on the Internet, especially about sex or gender,” is enough to put you in the crosshairs regardless of industry. And there are many male-dominated industries that cuts across.

        1. Tor Øyvind*

          Any kind of bigotry will land you in hot water, whether you’re a woman or a man. Sexism against men is probably the kind likely to result in the least fallout.

          1. Panda Bandit*

            It’s not limited to bigotry. Wanting equal treatment or respect is often enough to bring out the hate mobs.

          2. Lady H*

            This is so outside reality that I can’t tell if you’re trolling. Men express hateful, sexist things to women on the internet constantly, on every corner of the internet, and they don’t get threatened with rape, murder or torture; or doxxed; or followed for years by a mob determined to ruin their lives. Yet this happens to women constantly, as has been well documented. It’s happened to the OP and yet you still think that “sexism against men” (which I’m guessing means feminism; ie, that shocking belief that men and women should be treated equally) is the type of thing that GG and other MRAs don’t obsess over.

            1. Tor Øyvind*

              Deleted by Alison. And we were doing so well up until now! Tor Øyvind, I’m removing you from this discussion. Thank you.

  5. BRR*

    I’m sorry you’re going through this. My feelings on what you should do is definitely just how to handle the situation and not how things should be. I would refrain from further engaging with it. If a future company searches you and see sexist hate against you, I don’t think any good employer is going to judge you. But if they see tons of back and forth, it might deter them. Might be wrong though. I also think it will die down over time.

  6. Katie the Fed*

    Alison – can I suggest that you put up a notice at the top to discourage people from guessing the industry/company?

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Agreed. We don’t need names here, and they could be really counterproductive.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Agreed. I find it really, really sad that I read this and almost before I could start wondering who the OP was, I realized there was insufficient data for me to tell. The fact that this is common enough for that to be my conclusion is horrifying. :(

        OP, so sorry you are having to deal with this. Alison’s advice is good.

        1. Annalee*

          Same. For me the most depressing part of this whole thing is that the LW could be any one of a dozen women I know (and probably isn’t any of them). Everything about this is rotten, and I whole-heartily agree with Allison that folks should screen for companies that won’t stand behind their employees when the cesspits of the internet backflow into their offices.

      2. Honeybee*

        Yep. I immediately thought of my industry because we’ve had some high profile cases recently, but then I thought of a lot of different industries that this has happened in that I can name (and realized that there were probably more that I don’t know about). Then I felt sad, because really?!

    2. SystemsLady*

      I’d like to add a request to not mention specific groups that do this type of targeting, either. Groups like this can get really, really bad over even being mentioned and are obsessive Googlers/social network tag stalkers.

  7. (different) Rebecca*

    I am dealing with something slightly similar–on a very small scale, and much more personally targeted–and what I’ve told myself and my mentors is this: If the places I apply would rather deal with someone who has made an unprovoked verbal attack on a subordinate than with me, those are places I don’t want to work. Better that they reveal themselves sooner rather than later.

    1. starsaphire*

      Yeah, it’s along the lines of what the TV show “Sisters” referred to as the Jerk Test.

      If knowing something like that happened to you scares them off, then you’re better off without them, and look at all the time you saved by knowing what they were like right away.

      Still… *hugs*

  8. Cambridge Comma*

    You were doing your job, and then some people on the internet started committing crimes against you and your company. That’s not your fault or anything you should have to explain.
    This phenomenon of the internet going crazy about things has become so common, that I think that any reasonable potential employer will understand that you aren’t a stick of dynamite.
    Having said that, there are things you can do to stop this being on the first page of the google results when people search for your name, if you think that would help in the job search.

    1. I'm a Little Teapot*

      Yes – I think “committing crimes against you” is the key phrase here. A lot of these campaigns involve graphic threats of violence. Which isn’t protected speech – the harassers could be prosecuted, and should be. If law enforcement and Internet elites cared about the online safety of women and marginalized people, these harassers would be banned from Internet access the way some malicious hackers have been. (Send death threats to a blogger, journalist, game designer, academic, or female executive, and the police will tell her to ignore them. Send threats to the police, and they’ll actually take the threats seriously.)

      1. Augusta Sugarbean*

        Send death threats to a blogger, journalist, game designer, academic, or female executive, and the police will tell her to ignore them. Send threats to the police, and they’ll actually take the threats seriously.

        That’s not really a fair statement. I’ve worked alongside police for over ten years. They are subjected to the worst abuse – threats to them, their spouses, their children. They have to ignore threats every day of the week. So maybe take it easy on the “police do X” and “police don’t care about Y”, please.

        1. I'm a Little Teapot*

          Women working in certain industries have their spouses and children threatened, too, by Internet hate mobs. And police are notorious for telling harassed women to just get off the internet or *quit their careers* (yes really) instead of taking these threats seriously.

          1. Katniss*

            Yup. There have been whole books written about this. There is a clear problem with police response to these crimes.

          2. Augusta Sugarbean*

            I would ask you to reread my comment. I didn’t say the police have always handled things perfectly. I said they are subjected to similar abuse and don’t just look after their own, as your comment implied.

            My issue is that the media only reports misconduct by police. They hardly ever report on the thousands upon thousands of perfectly professional, ethical and appropriate interactions with the public. So the public can get a skewed picture of the law enforcement community. And, just like here on AAM where it sounds like the workplaces are filled with horrible bosses and insane co-workers, it looks like police are all corrupt and abusive. And, of course, neither of those are accurate.

            I also wonder how much the laws have been updated to reflect the current state of technology. As slow as the legislatures move, I’d be surprised if they’ve kept up with technology. I don’t know what the laws look like in my state. Do you know yours? Do you know what law enforcement can and can’t do with regard to online harassment? (That’s a serious question.)

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I agree with you–there are far more good cops than bad. However, law enforcement is unfortunately behind on this issue. Part of it stems from interstate differences in harassment and stalking laws, and some of it is a lack of tech education. All this is fixable, however. Hopefully it will catch up.

              1. I'm a Little Teapot*

                Thanks, Elizabeth – you explai ed better than I could. I live in Massachusetts, which does in fact have anti-stalking laws that would apply, but don’t know much about police procedure. I do know that telling women being harassed to “just get off the internet” when their careers rely on it, or to end their careers, or that it’s online so it’s not real and doesn’t matter, is disgustingly insensitive.

              2. Violet Fox*

                The lack of tech education is part of a real problem. I’ve seen stories of women being subjected to what essentially amounts to crowd sourced domestic violence have to explain things to the police like what a screen name/handle is, that in the industry they work in, just not doing anything online isn’t an option, what the actual impact of threats and doxing is. I also think that honestly law enforcement just does not have the resources to deal well with the scale, depth, and lingering nature of some of these modern sorts of harassment campaigns.

                1. plain_jane*

                  Did you see the story about those poor folks who live on a farm in Kansas who were the default address for any IP in the US where the company wasn’t able to identify where the IP actually was located?

                  Tech education for police/law is a real issue on multiple fronts.

                  ““That poor woman has been harassed for years,” Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet told me by phone. Herzet said that his department’s job has become to protect the Taylor house from other law enforcement agencies.”

                2. JessaB*

                  Luckily for those people the company that makes that database is actually working on better solutions (sourcing “centre of the area” location points in places where there are no people (like ponds or water sources, etc.)

                  The biggest problem with things like this is that people watch TV and think they can get any person down to their physical spot (CSI Cyber, NCIS, Criminal Minds, etc.) It’s like the problems people have with juries because those type of shows make it seem like you can A: find DNA on anything and B: get a real result in like ten minutes, and C: find an actual match to that stuff in a database. Considering the unconscionable amount of backlogged rape kits that when tested actuall DO show serial offenders, you have a huge issue with juries due to forensics-on-TV stuff.

  9. AnonEMoose*

    It’s definitely not just the gaming industry that’s dealing with this; it’s just one of the most visible right now, for various reasons. The geek community as a whole is experiencing turmoil, because some really important and overdue conversations about harassment, inclusiveness and what that really means and looks like, are happening. And some feel threatened because of this, some genuinely don’t understand “what the problem is,” and others are just jerks (or, all of the above – none of these options are mutually exclusive). Others genuinely want to help, but may not know how. It’s…messy. And not confined to the online environment.

    But, OP, whether or not your particular situation has anything to do with the geek community or not, I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this. But very glad your company is standing behind you and supporting you. For what it’s worth, I agree with Alison’s advice. The right next opportunity either won’t care about this, or will see it as a plus that you handled this professionally.

    1. Mazzy*

      In what way is the gaming industry dealing with this? I’m curious because my only experience with that is Anna Sarkesian, and I find her content ridiculous. Her whole premise is that sexism is so imbedded that one needs to practically have a PHD to decipher it. My take on her content is that she just clutches at random items according to their shock value, and then milks them to build a career, ignoring any contradictory information or items that are “sexist” towards men.

      1. many bells down*

        Most of my friends are in the games industry, and I can tell you that many of the top-tier companies have invited Sarkeesian to speak at their offices. Because the games industry had been predominately male, much of the problem has been that they just haven’t considered how to do things from a different perspective – because they’ve never had to.

        The games industry is aware that they have a problem, and while there are still terrible companies out there, the good ones are working really hard to make changes and be more welcoming and inclusive.

      2. Observer*

        Have you actually listened to or read her work? I don’t just mean sound bites.

        I don’t agree with everything she says, but she actually makes a very good case for the deep sexism of the games industry. What she says also makes a ton of sense in the context of the industry and the behavior see.

      3. Rat in the Sugar*

        Let’s not get into that, please. Whether you agree with her or not, the fact that she was threatened with actual violence is Not Okay and I think a discussion of it could derail things easily.

        1. Observer*

          Good point. Totally NOT OK. But, also totally not surprising. And whether she is right or not is not really relevant. She didn’t suggest anyone kick babies for fun, either.

          1. Mazzy*

            It doesn’t need to be stated, actually. I’m insulted that someone thinks that much of a random commenter on the internet that they think it is warranted…

        2. Mazzy*

          Geez…..I’m a little confused at this response but OK…..I asked why AnonEMoose mentioned gaming, which others answers, I wasn’t condoning or not condoning or commenting on threats/violence at all.

          1. AnonEMoose*

            For me, your initial response read like an attempt at trolling/starting an argument. So, since others jumped in, I stayed away from the thread until now. Apologies for mistaking what now appears to be honest confusion for combativeness.

            And if you’re not that familiar with Ms. Sarkeesian’s work, I’m guessing you’re also not familiar with the sheer level of vitriol, threats, and harassment she has received. The Wikipedia article on her has a brief description, and is worth a read. Whatever you think of her conclusions, the treatment she has received is appalling.

      4. Honeybee*

        I’m in the games industry and Sarkeesian’s work is pretty widely respected and actually not that high-level. She picks up on some really basic tropes – like the focus on women’s bodies in games and the lack of female protangonists who do anything physical and/or don’t need a male character to save them. Her videos are pretty straightforward and explain the issues well. She’s been brought in to speak at some companies in the industry. And yes, she focuses primarily on women’s issues, but that was a deliberate choice.

        But if you do a search for “video games” + “gender” or “gender diversity” you’ll see a bunch of articles and news stories about recent issues in the games industry about this. One is the huge controversy someone named up thread with the initials GG (they’re pretty rabid, so I’d like to avoid mentioning them again), which was also related to a woman being recently fired by Nintendo. There’s lots of work being done both inside and outside of companies to address issues of diversity and inclusiveness in games – gender-related but across the entire spectrum.

      5. Pollyanna*

        Her name is “Anita Sarkeesian.” I think you’ve incorrectly interpreted the point of her work. Her premise is that sexism is such a widespread part of the gaming industry that we take it for granted that games are created to pander to straight men, but that things don’t have to be that way. She explains a sexist trope she’s observed as widespread and then uses specific examples to illustrate her point. Her videos are pretty straightforward and easy to understand in my opinion, so I’m not sure what the PhD bit is about. You may disagree with her criticism, but it’s disingenuous to say she’s “clutching at random items according to shock value” – she clearly explains her perspective in every video.

        As for wider problems… honestly, it’s SO common it’s almost a war right now. I’m surprised you’re aware of Anita Sarkeesian but none of the constant targeting of women for harassment and backlash about ANY progressive stance a company makes (even as simple as including a transgender character in their game, like Krem from Dragon Age 3). The pattern is clear: a company does a progressive thing, people FREAK OUT about pandering to “SJWs”/feminists/LBGT people/etc, and often any woman vaguely involved gets harassed.

        Example 1: Just last week or so, Blizzard changed a female Overwatch character’s “victory pose” (one of several options) due to a beta tester’s feedback that it was gratuitously sexualized. People freaked out about pandering / political correctness.

        Example 2: While localizing the latest Fire Emblem games for US release, Nintendo changed or removed some content relating to drug use and sexuality. A female Nintendo employee (not related at all to the localization team, I think she was a marketing person?) who was a known feminist was blamed for the changes and harassed online. Shortly after, Nintendo fired her. They claim it was because she had did freelance work after hours, which is not permitted. She claims that many people there did freelance work after hours, it’s just an excuse to fire her due to the negative press.

        1. Pollyanna*

          Sorry Alison, when I started writing this your note about not naming the harassment was not posted, I didn’t see it til I refreshed the page after posting. I don’t know how to delete this but feel free do so if you think it’s best.

      6. JessaB*

        Mazzy, you can’t be sexist against men at this point in time. You can discriminate, or be nasty, but sexism and most any ism requires POWER. It’s entrenched in systems that benefit cis white men above all, better education, more likely to get loans they need, more likely to have parents who had benefits that passed onto them. -ism requires systemic discrimination. Women can be nasty to men, but in the systems currently in place in the US they can’t be sexist. Yes, it’s a language thing, but it matters, because saying people can be sexist against men, derails the discussion of the problem that women are massively disadvantaged.

        As for Ms Sarkesian, the mere fact that she FOUND all that content, is a point in favour of her analysis. It’s so embedded into the culture of gaming at this point, I don’t know if all her points are great, I do watch her videos, but does she sometimes get it wrong, sure. But look at the numbers (and she DOES provide the statistics behind her work on her website,) she’s not pulling this out of thin air. She does speak to points when women are well featured in games also, so she does give air time to the “other side,” as it were. And the fact that after the massive outrageous threats to her life and family she’s still willing to do this task, is telling.

        1. Katniss*

          I agree with you, but Allison has asked us not to get derailed with this line of discussion.

    2. AnonEMoose*

      I’d also like to point out that “gaming industry” covers a lot more than video games. “Gaming” also includes tabletop RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, and many, many others. There are also board games, card games, miniatures games (like Warhammer) and what are often referred to as “casual” games like Candy Crush and Angry Birds. Video games tend to get the majority of the press, but there’s a lot more out there.

      Besides the industry, there’s also the hobby – roughly speaking, people who produce the games, and people who play the games. In the tabletop RPG and miniatures gaming hobbies, there has been ongoing discussion about how women and girls are treated by other players, shop employees, customers in shops, and referees (known in the hobby as Game Masters “GMs”). The stories range from the mildly annoying (women being ignored by shop employees because they “didn’t look like a customer” or “I thought you were with your boyfriend”) to groping – and worse. It’s getting quite a bit of attention from convention organizers, gamers themselves, and others in the community. I just wish it wasn’t giving so many people a negative perception of the hobby; but I’m glad that people are speaking out.

      1. The Strand*

        (And a lot of what you just described also covers people in the comic book industry – oh yes, I’ve gotten the “didn’t look like a customer” bit – and even pro-oriented science fiction conventions, too. There’s a lot of overlap. She could be working in one of these fields.)

  10. art_ticulate*

    I do worry that guessing the industry/company could lead those same harassers to this site (often harassers w/specific targets have alerts out for certain keywords), so maybe it’s best not to speculate?

    Alison’s advice is great as usual. You’re not planning to move on immediately, right? Once you decide you’re ready to start looking, I guarantee you people will have moved on. And no company worth working for will hold this against you.

    Just remember, this harassment is *not* about you. I’m glad you’re working for a supportive company and I hope that you’re getting some good self-care away from work as well.

    1. Violet Fox*

      A lot of these harassment campaigns are actually pretty deep and lingering, but I would hope that since this has been going on some time that the industries this happens in tends to realise this and not hold this against the victims.

      This is mostly my hopes though.

  11. F.*

    Given the extremely rapid news cycle, this should all die down within a few weeks/months, though I am sorry that you are having to go through this. I’m not even sure I would bring it up in future employment discussions, though it could be a good litmus test to determine whether the company’s attitudes are compatible with yours. If it does come up during any due diligence a hiring company may perform, definitely use it to your advantage to show how you maintain professionalism under pressure.

    1. JessaB*

      Not necessarily, people have been attacked over things like this for years (stinks for the OP,) but it’s true. The lack of being able to sufficiently prosecute or stop a lot of these people due to law enforcement ignorance, lack of actual laws that apply, the anonymity of the internet, the inability to adequately prosecute across state or national lines, etc. It’s a huge mess and even when laws exist and police take it seriously, it’s notoriously hard to actually figure out who to prosecute for what thing. We’re getting there, slowly, but surely. More laws are being written, more law enforcement are being trained to get this, but I dunno how long it’s going to take for the tech that law enforcement need (the ability to track and actually identify the people involved,) to actually be implemented.

  12. Analyst*

    Side shout-out to Alison and this whole group… this is literally the only comments section I have ever seen where feminism and sexism can be discussed intelligently by men and women. LITERALLY.

      1. Megs*

        It’s ironic how strong moderation often leads to an environment where people actually feel free to talk about things. It’s almost as if the whole “free speech” vs. “safe space” argument was enormously oversimplifying things.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          What’s interesting to me is that I consider the moderation here pretty light. My theory is that potential trolls and jerks think a site about work advice must be boring and they stay away.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            Just having you pop up in the comments and say, “Hey, we don’t do that here” is SO unusual—I’ve never been on another site where the moderator does this (although I’m sure they’re out there). I think it scares people off and/or reminds them that there are real people trying to have a conversation in this space. It makes a huge difference.

            1. AnonEMoose*

              This – knowing that you’re paying attention and will say something about things that aren’t ok is actually huge. I help moderate a fandom-related Facebook group, and just being clear about what is and isn’t ok (and being seen to address it when something violates the rules) helps a lot. People still cross the line occasionally, but it’s much less often than it used to be.

            2. KR*

              Captain Awkward runs a pretty tight ship (pun much?). She’s the only person I’ve seen other than Alison who actively moderates her comments.

            3. TootsNYC*

              And you do that correction and boundary-setting very respectfully, which I think also influences the tone of people’s comments. That’s huge. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.

            4. A Bug!*

              The transparency is one of the things I like most about the moderation here. Instead of just removing comments that fall short of your community policies (without containing potentially-harmful information, which obviously should be removed where possible), you leave most of them up and just tell them to cut it out. I feel like it sends a clearer message to observers about what’s okay and what’s not, which lets them decide whether or not this is a comment section they want to participate in.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                In the interest of full transparency, I do occasionally just delete something without comment if it’s egregiously rude and hasn’t been up long enough to have been commented on by others. Not usually, but occasionally. But yes, I think there’s usually real value to explaining it!

            5. Lady H*

              If you do happen to be looking for a site with moderation done well and don’t already read Metafilter, I’d highly recommend it! It’s not perfect but the moderators are very involved and the community is improving rapidly in terms of making a conscious effort to promote diversity.

              1. Julia*

                MetaFilter is a bixed bag for me. Sure, it’s liberal and most people are great, but it can also be cynical. Just last week when I was distressed and asked a serious question, I was told my feelings didn’t matter in the long run. It also seems as if a lot of people don’t really read the questions anymore before posting, and even though they post because they want to be helpful, that can sometimes really hurt.
                If you have any tendency to anxiety, stay away from Ask.MetaFilter or your worst-case scenarios for your life will be fed for weeks.

            6. Honeybee*

              YES. And just the fact that you’re willing to. And the fact that you have a clear stance against this kind of harassment. I’ve been on sites (and moderated other forums) where the atmosphere was deliberately more laissez-faire because staff was afraid that taking a harder line on harassment and negativity would frighten people off.

          2. LJL*

            Moderation here is light but effective. It’s also a matter of the community that we have built and continue to nurture. Thank you, Alison, for building and nurturing this space.

          3. Megs*

            Hah, that makes sense. By strong I didn’t necessarily mean “heavy handed”, more clearly stated and consistently enforced. It’s awesome that you don’t have to deal with too much crud, though.

          4. Not So NewReader*

            You might want to consider leadership styles, also. You have an interactive style, which will produce different results than say, an ivory tower style. If a leader is conversational, then that leader may not have to do a lot of policing. Groups tend to mirror their leadership.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          I think we also police each other pretty well – when some rando comes in and starts making inappropriate comments we’re quick to point out that this isn’t that kind of place.

    1. Katniss*

      Yeah, I can think of three places where I’ve seen it happen on sites not directly related to feminism, and this is one of them.

      1. Megs*

        John Scalzi’s Whatever blog has a pretty great community for that kind of thing too. It’s also the only place on the internet where I’ll talk about politics.

    2. Kvaren*

      This. Every time I recommend this site (and I have done this SO MANY TIMES now), I make sure to mention how helpful, supportive, and respectfully thought-provoking the comments section can be. It has to be called out because the default response to any website is to ignore the comments s#!tshow.

  13. Joseph*

    Another way to look at it is this: You gave an interview (doing your job!) in support of (a) equality and (b) praising your company’s goals for inclusion. If a future company has a huge issue with that, I’d call that a massive red flag about the company.

    It’s also worth keeping in mind that the attention span of the Internet is measured in days, not months. By the time you’re looking for a new job and go through the whole interview/hiring process, you’ll be old news.

  14. Chriama*

    I think Alison is absolutely correct. This is not about you, and no normal company will see it that way. Even stuff like threats and harassment from random internet trolls (especially from a year or more in the past) aren’t going to phase any halfway decent employer. I think the sting of everything is making you lose perspective. This is about a bunch of assholes with internet mob mentality, and not about you. You are still awesome and you have a current great company that is sticking up for you. If you’re going to let other people influence your perception of self-worth, at least choose the people who care about you and not the psychos who don’t know anything about you.

    1. I'm a Little Teapot*

      I don’t really like framing things like this as “don’t let them influence your self-worth” – that is apt to lead to more self-blame because the target feels guilty for “not being strong enough not to let it bother me.” I know this is common advice, and well meant, but to a victim it often feels like being told “if you feel bad because people are saying awful things to you, it’s your fault.”

      1. LQ*

        I agree with this strongly. It’s ok to be hurt and bothered when a whole bunch of people or even just one come at you and target you. It’s natural, it’s human, it’s ok.

      2. Chriama*

        Hmmm. That’s not where I was trying to go with this. I was trying to point out that OP is taking on their vitriol as if it was her burden – should I tell a potential employer about this? Like she was responsible for what had happened and needed to personally take action to mitigate its consequences for a future employer. So, sorry OP if I made you feel like you’re wrong for being upset about it. You’re not. But I hope you recognize that you don’t need to take responsibility for other people’s bad behaviour.

          1. LQ*

            (This back and forth is a great example of the whole this is a pretty dang good community thing.)

          2. Chriama*

            Totally fair, and I get how that came across. Bottom line is we all support the OP and I hope she knows that!

        1. AnonEMoose*

          That’s a great way of phrasing it. I think that, when we’re young, those of us who are bullied are actually taught to take responsibility for the bullies’ behavior. Or at least that’s how it feels. It doesn’t help to hear things like “Well, what did you say/do to provoke him/her?” “If you ignore her/him/them, they’ll get bored and stop.” “You’re just too different.”

          It’s almost a reflex (maybe mostly for women, I don’t know), when someone mistreats us, to start thinking “what did I do to provoke/deserve this?” When, really, the answer (most of the time) is, “It’s not really about you. It’s about them/their insecurities/need to feel superior or powerful. You’re the target this time, but it’s really not about you as a person.” It doesn’t make it less scary or dangerous, or make it suck any less. But it does remove the “If I hadn’t done or said X.” Maybe in a sense that’s true – they maybe wouldn’t be targeting you specifically…but it doesn’t mean you were wrong to say or do X. It means that these horrible people are using X as an excuse to work out their own problems with you as a punching bag.

          1. Julia*

            It’s also a common way people make excuses for bullies. “Boys will be boys”, “you just have to ignore it” etc. Heard it all. In the end, no one is ever telling the bullies to cut it out.

            1. JessaB*

              Yeh, I do not get why parents do this or allow other people to do this, do they realise what it says about their parenting and their male* child’s behaviour? We never taught him to behave properly and when he doesn’t it’s not his fault because it’s really impossible to actually teach him something cause he’s a boy? How utterly awful that is for boys and men to be told “you can’t control yourself anyway, so we’re A: not going to try, and B: going to blame all the girls/women for your behaviour?” Why do men let this message continue.

              *I don’t know how to actually phrase this particular argument without being binary about gender. Because “boys will be boys” presupposes a binary that really doesn’t exist and probably does not include trans or non binary boys because of different issues to those socialised mainstream as male. So maybe cis-boys/men? I dunno.

              1. AnonEMoose*

                And don’t get me started on “he picks on you/hits you because he likes you…”. What kind of messed-up message does that send? Even if it might be true, in a sense, it’s not, or shouldn’t be, on girls to put up with or try to fix that!

                Why are we not focusing on teaching boys more appropriate ways to handle their feelings? Oh, because that’s emotional labor, and girls need to learn that that’s their job Makes me stabby.

        2. afiendishthingy*

          Yeah, that’s what I got out of your comment – It totally sucks that OP is in this situation, but it’s important to remember that she is the victim. Her company is standing behind her, which is great, but it can be tough to feel like you NEED that support when you’re used to having your own back. It sounds like OP may be feeling some guilt about the situation’s effect on her company, and I think it’s normal to have a lot of very mixed emotions in a case like this. But I think reassurance that OP’s attackers, not OP herself, are responsible for any disruption, is important.

  15. AW*

    *Certain sections of the internet have exploded with hate against me. My company has been flooded with threats and harassment. I’ve had to completely shut down my internet presence.*

    The comments section of any article on sexism/racism/bigotry being a problem will always prove that the article is correct.

    Any reasonable employer isn’t going to punish you just because the crappy part of the Internet did what it does. Any *unreasonable* employer who wouldn’t hire you for publicly stating that the industry is sexist wouldn’t hire you anyway because you’re a woman. If they’re that sexist that they think the problem here is with you, this doesn’t really change anything except the excuse they’ll give for no hiring you.

    1. RVA Cat*

      …or they’re hire you but lowball your salary and treat you like cram. Either way, bullet dodged.

    2. Observer*

      Either that, or they are cowards – or maybe even somewhat reasonably afraid, unfortunately.

      Does anyone remember the Adrai Richards mess? Her then employer had a good reputation for valuing diversity and treating women well. But, she got fired anyway. There was a lot of hot air from the company, but the reality is that they didn’t have the infrastructure to protect themselves from the damage that the mob was trying to inflict on them.

      Do I think that they should have responded by beefing up their servers? Yes! Do I think that this proves they are sexists jerks? Not at all.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        Eh. I don’t want to get into a derailing discussion, but Adria Richards also posted photos online of people who were making comments that she felt were inappropriate. Representatives from her company said that they disapproved of her use of public shaming to address the situation. It’s not clear that her firing was a response to the harassment that followed, as opposed to a reaction to a questionable decision that she made.

        But I realize that reasonable minds can vary on this, so as I said, I don’t want to get into any big argument or discussion—just wanted to leave that comment here.

        1. Observer*

          We can agree or disagree on why her company actually fired her. But, it is absolutely certain that their servers were targeted, and that they didn’t have the infrastructure to handle it. And, although I think that any company should harden their infrastructure rather than fire or even not hire someone who might attract that kind of threat, I cannot entirely blame a company for taking the easy way out. I might not like it, but it doesn’t make them sexist jerks.

    3. Myrin*

      Seriously. “I don’t like this thing you said about people like me harrassing and threatening people like you! I will prove it! By harrassing and threatening you!”

      1. JessaB*

        Yeh, the lack of logic, it burns. Seriously. This is probably the exact thought loop that goes through them.

  16. Doriana Gray*

    OP, I’m sorry you’re going through this nonsense just for telling the truth. It sucks, but please remember Internet bullies are only a small fraction of the population, and the most ignorant people are usually the most vocal. There were probably many people who agreed with what you said, or if not agreed, at least understood where you were coming from. I really don’t think your career is going to be destroyed by this admittedly crap moment in time. You’ll rebound.

    1. RVA Cat*

      OP, in due time these Internet bullies are going to look like the white mobs who threatened schoolchildren during integration. In other words, haters, and ultimately – losers.

      1. Observer*

        I think that there are plenty of people who recognize this already. Not enough, and some that do don’t recognize that the danger is just as real as that to the children in question.

        Death threats are death threats, on or off the internet.

        1. RVA Cat*

          This. I have to say, if I were getting death threats I would get a concealed carry permit, and perhaps politely ask the haters to sign their organ donor cards.

  17. HRChick*

    I don’t really have anything to add except to say THANK YOU for speaking out for women in your field. I’m sure there are innumerable women who greatly appreciate your voice. And THANK YOU to your company for taking steps to correct inequality and supporting their employee through the hate and attacks. I’m so sorry that this happened to you, but really admire you for getting through it.

    1. KathyGeiss*

      Hear hear! I’ve been battling with being really depressed about the state of sexism in my industry and while your story makes me sad because of the outcome, thanks for being awesome and speaking out.

    2. B-Bam*

      This right here! Thank you for lending your voice to fight a problem in this country. By speaking out, you’re part of interrupting sexism which we need more of as it isn’t just a problem in one particular industry.

  18. Connie-Lynne*

    Ugh, OP, I’m so sorry this happened to you. This sort of thing was an informal topic of discussion at the lunch table Friday at a convention I attended (Usenix SREcon). The good news is, it turns out a lot of companies have policies in place now to protect and support their staff in this kind of situation (big companies like Time-Warner and Google, as well as many smaller orgs).

    The bad news is that this is common enough that it requires such efforts.

  19. jhhj*

    Every company in your industry knows that this happens, almost at random, to women in the industry. This is the silver lining: a company that doesn’t hire you because of this is a company you don’t want to work at, and now you will know in advance (should this happen again).

    And I’m really sorry — there are some dedicated hate mobs out there.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      This is the silver lining: a company that doesn’t hire you because of this is a company you don’t want to work at, and now you will know in advance (should this happen again).

      That sounds great in theory, but if it turns out to be every company (except for the company the OP currently works for), that’s very limiting. Of course people don’t want to be working at companies they don’t want to work at. At the same time, most people need to be employed to pay the bills, whether they like their workplace or not.

  20. Carrie in Scotland*

    OP, I’m sorry this has happened to you. I think alot of online places, especially those with a comments feature, suffer from online abuse, nasty comments in some form (luckily AAM is one of the sanest there is). The Guardian website suffers from this, and is actually publishing various articles on it. I will link one in my reply about ‘how women are fighting back’. It may or may not be helpful but maybe there’s is a small comfort in knowing that it isn’t just you – it’s a known problem on the internet.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        Ah, I was going to link to the current Guardian series. It’s really interesting.

        The CBC has recently shut down comments on all news articles to do with indigenous issues, because they attract so many hateful comments, and are going to start requiring real names for comments on all articles. I don’t know how they’re going to enforce it, but it’s heartening that so many major news outlets are starting to look at what they can do.

        1. blackcat*

          A lot of places use Facebook plug-ins for that purpose.

          Given the completely vile things I’ve seen posted on professional association facebook pages when those groups post something about women/minorities/LGBTQ folks*, I do not have much faith that it would help.

          *So far as I can tell, there is a multiplier effect of number of marginalized identities on how many nasty comments there are. A piece black woman may get more vile comments than a piece by a white woman. A piece by a Latina lesbian may be even worse.

            1. Lady H*

              This reminds me so much of Dave Eggers’ book, The Circle. There’s no perfect answer. If we all used our real names, we might see a drastic reduction in trolls and harassment. Or it leads to no one having any privacy, including people who have good reasons to want to keep their lives private.

              I have also seem Facebook-linked commentators on other sits say some of the vilest things with the person’s full name, employer and other information easily available; it didn’t stop them from saying something abhorrent.

              And Facebook’s real name policy is troubling for a lot of trans people and other people concerned about privacy. I have a fake Facebook name because I don’t want someone abusive in my past tracking me down, but a Facebook login is required for so many other things that I found myself needing to sign up.

              1. Violet Fox*

                If we all use our real names (for whatever a real name is in many cases), it might also open up people in marginalised groups for even more harassment, and more dismissal because the person is just a part of WhateverGroup instead of MajorityGroup. It also makes it impossible for people that do need to protect their privacy for any reason to speak out.

  21. Zillah*

    Not that this is a road the OP would want to go down (and I’m not advocating it!), but could pulling an offer over this be construed as discrimination based on a protected class (gender, obv)? It’s well known that women are far more likely to be the targets of these sorts of people than men, and particularly since the OP experienced it as a direct result of speaking about gender equality and sexism, it just made me wonder.

    Again: not advocating a legal route at all, and I think the OP would be far better served by screening for companies that will be supportive against general/sexist assholery. I’m more just curious in theory.

    Also, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this, OP. :( I agree, though, that in a few years it’ll have likely diminished significantly – these people often don’t have long memories, particularly given how many women there are to be outraged at.

  22. Honeybee*

    As a woman who works in a male-dominated field myself (video games), and who has watched many of these campaigns of harassment happen to other women in the field, I just want to thank you for your courage in speaking up and discussing the issues publicly. It’s also great that your company has been so supportive!

  23. Student*

    I admire AAM for taking this one on, but I also hope she will not hesitate to lock down the comments should things get out of hand. OP, we’re all rooting for folks like you; I’m sorry it’s never as visible as the crazy haters, but it is there.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Can I just say that I love this statement, and the fact that you haven’t had to do it? (And…I’m actually hopeful you won’t have to. Most places I’d just be waiting for the firestorm to arise….)

  24. Rahera*

    Whoa, what a nasty situation. I’m so sorry you’re going through this, LW, and glad your company is being so supportive.

    1. Observer*

      Although there are some significant similarities, there is a key difference. That is that the public shaming he talks about is related to things that actually were blame-worthy. Just NOT as blame-worthy as the mob made it out to be. In other words, the phenomenon is about public shaming going way, way out of proportion and the harm it causes.

      The type of situation that the OP describes is fundamentally different in that she did not do anything wrong. “Out or proportion” is not a relevant phrase, because there is no level of “shaming” that could be considered IN proportion.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        Yeah, I have some issues with some of that book’s examples, for sure – and it’s absolutely not comparable to the hate-mobs.

        1. Argh!*

          The book talks about how to recover from being publicly shamed, so even if it’s not exactly analogous, the book does talk about what to do about it. The point is worrying about reputation. Someone who posts a slightly crass joke on Facebook doesn’t deserve worldwide humiliation, harrassment and firing any more than someone who says their industry is sexist, and they certainly don’t deserve to hang their head in shame their whole life and never try to rehabilitate their professional reputation.

          1. Observer*

            It’s not just not “exactly” analogous. It’s completely not analogous in terms of how to deal with it. The fundamental difference is that one is over-board shaming whereas the other is hate based bullying.

            A key part of recovering from shaming is to figure out what you have done that triggered the whole mess and how to avoid doing that again. Even the implication that figuring out what you did wrong is part of the process in the case of hate based bullying is both utterly unfair and totally impractical. The only way to appease the bullies is to roll over and die (or at least play dead.) So, you need to approach the whole issue from a very different angle.

            1. Argh!*

              Someone who has been shamed for an off-hand Twitter remark could simply avoid Twitter. Job done.

              We could all avoid Twitter and then we won’t be the next one who says something ironically or sarcastically to our friends who we think know us well, and then find that the Twitterverse has found it offensive.

              It could happen to any of us.

              1. Honeybee*

                It’s sometimes not that simple. First of all, someone with a consistent presence across social media might get followed from account to account. So @JanefromTeapotsInc says something crass on Twitter, gets called on it, stops tweeting, but people show up to her Facebook account or Tumblr account to demand that she resign or try to coerce her employer into firing her or to post personal information about her there.

                All of us avoiding Twitter (or any one piece of social media) also isn’t a practical solution because some of us use Twitter in our jobs.

                1. Argh!*

                  “Observer” seems to think that people deserve what they get, when the examples in the book are of disproportionate outrage, so my twitter response was somewhat sarcastic. The woman who posted a remark on Facebook before boarding a plane and was fired before she landed is a case in point. In the old days, you could say something tacky to a friend and they would get it (or not, and then you’d explain) but today an offhand remark could destroy career and reputation. The woman’s FB remark was in no way worthy of worldwide humiliation and loss of career.

            2. Undercover*

              I’m finding this conversation very interesting. I was publicly bullied by someone at work last week and have not been supported by upper management. I am planning to talk to HR about it; not because I expect any action (because I don’t), but because I want there to be something on record the next time the bully does this to another person.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Is that the same thing, though? I haven’t read the book, but I’ve heard interviews with the author, and it seems to be more about you did something actually wrong that you’re being shamed for (albeit excessively) than that you did something right and are being bullied and harassed for it.

      1. Argh!*

        Should someone who says something tacky on Twitter be shamed, humiliated, harrassed, fired, and prevented from working for the rest of her life? No. She deserves to have a life and not be tainted by that one statement that some people took exception to on the internet.

        I have read the book, and I stand by my statement that the book covers the issue of repairing your professional reputation after an internet hate machine attacks you.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          It’s still not the same thing. The OP’s reputation is fine. She didn’t do anything wrong. Nothing to repair.

          1. Argh!*

            The book is about recovering from a hate campaign. The innocence or not of the person who has been smeared is irrelevant.

            People are so touchy nowadays that any of us can wind up at the wrong end of a hate campaign. Don’t think it could be you? Then why aren’t you using your RL name?

            1. Anonymous Educator*

              The book is about recovering from a hate campaign. The innocence or not of the person who has been smeared is irrelevant.

              In this case, I think it’s highly relevant. If I’m a hiring manager, I will look very differently at someone who was the victim of a hate campaign that resulted from that person’s bad choices (even if the hate campaign is grossly disproportionate to the “crime”) than I would at someone who did the right thing and was the victim of a hate campaign against the right thing.

              In the former case, my concern is whether this person will use good judgment on the job. Yes, one bad decision shouldn’t result in death threats and a barrage of harassment, but that still doesn’t take away from it being a bad decision.

              In the latter case, my concern is whether our organization can withstand a barrage itself even if we know we’re doing the right thing and backing our employee who’s doing the right thing.

              People are so touchy nowadays that any of us can wind up at the wrong end of a hate campaign.

              Agreed. I don’t think anyone’s had a problem with that idea.

              Don’t think it could be you?

              Sure. When did I indicate I was immune to hate campaigns?

              Then why aren’t you using your RL name

              Lots of good reasons. I don’t want random people on the Internet to find me (with my real name, it wouldn’t be too difficult to find my home address or work address). I don’t want public statements I make to be interpreted as representative of my employer’s opinions. How is this question at all relevant to what we’re discussing?

              “Publicly shamed” means you did something wrong, and you’re getting a disproportionate backlash against that. Can you glean some principles from being publicly shamed that may apply to other situations? Sure. But you started off by saying “this kind of thing.” Two completely different kinds of things.

              1. Argh!*

                As a hiring official I would not place much creedence in a smear campaign that resulted from something rather minor. If you do, then you’re part of the problem.

            2. Lady H*

              You’ve veered into something that wasn’t being discussed, which is a right to privacy online. Making a straw man argument is a poor way to make your point.

              What is being discussed is the fact that the book is about people who were disproportionately shamed by mobs on the Internet. It does not relate to the OP, as they did not do anything shameful that ruined their reputation. They were bullied as a silencing technique.

        2. leslie knope*

          personally, if you’re enough of an a-hole to say something offensive publicly, i’m of the opinion that you should face the consequences. it’s not any worse than what discriminated-against groups have to deal with at the hands of ignorant people.

            1. voyager1*

              I don’t think it matters how much of ahole one is, if it goes viral the SJWs and anti-SJWs will go nuts either way.

              However not all public shaming is social justice related ex: Mike Rossi the Boston Marathon cheat is a good example. Everything that happened to him was of all his own making.

          1. BadMoviesLover*

            Except when the consequences aren’t proportional to the actual offense. Losing your job and your prospects at making a living because a sector of society found offensive is a disproportionate consequence. Not only because it affects you, but it also affects your family.

  25. GlamNonprofitSquirrel*

    As someone who’s currently under fire for pointing out “ism” in my sector, this post is so very timely.

    OP: Thank you for standing up for what’s right, for speaking the truth and in a way that reflects well on you and your employer. Hold that head up and keep on doing what you do. Eventually, the rabble will move on to rouse at someone or something else and you’ll be last month’s news cycle.

    I opted to not shut down my personal internet presence but I have made a concerted effort not to read the comments on media stories in which the “ism” is referenced. Good luck!

    1. ArtsNerd*

      I can only guess about what your experiences are, but the nonprofit sector is ripe with “isms”-aplenty. I’m trying to do my little part in pushing against them (structurally and in my own actions both.)

  26. Pollyanna*

    I appreciate what you did, as a woman whose favorite hobby is in an industry that is basically at war with itself over women involved in it. It means a ton when the companies involved are willing to make progressive choices and publicly own them. I’m very loyal to the companies that do that and will continue to support them with my dollars, my reviews, my word of mouth. Thanks for doing what you did!

    (Trying hard to avoid naming industries here but I just wanted to sincerly express my thanks).

  27. Employment Lawyer*

    This question is moot. If the blowup was that bad they’ll find it instantly on Google and your disclosure is irrelevant (search adr!a r!chards, for example). If it’s old enough not to be found then it’s old enough not to matter.

    1. Lee*

      They are companies that help people with this issue ( negative search results, mugshots on public sites, etc), which ironically makes your comment moot.

    2. Elsajeni*

      Whether it’s easily findable on Google or not, though, she’ll want to have a plan for how to discuss it — should she be the one to raise the topic first, will it seem weird not to bring it up since “everyone” knows about it, etc. I think Alison’s script works just as well even if you’re sure the interviewer already knows.

  28. LQ*

    This is for the future, but at some point (when you feel comfortable with it) you may want to ease yourself back into being yourself online. In whatever way that is for you. Stuff like posting useful things on forums, keeping your LinkedIn up to date, etc. Even if you find a hobby that isn’t really related but feel ok posting online with your name, it will help at some point, to push those older results down.

    What search algorithms look like in 2019 will be different, but chances are good that it will still put some value in recent things, so you can managed to get some of those older things pushed down with newer content.

    Do it as you feel ok doing it, but it might help you if you know that it is possible.

    (On the off chance that you are not in the US look into some of the right to be forgotten laws as well.)

  29. Lee*

    There’s a TV show on SyFy (or Sci-Fi) called “The Internet Ruined My Life” and it deals with numerous cases where women were threatened, lost their jobs, etc…all because of pictures of them that were posted or tweets/public entries they made. Of course the show encapsulates more than just victimized women and includes men and people of all colors, but I thought it was interesting just to see how people were attacked (some folks would like up their personal cell #s and text them) and how scary it could be.

    In relation to this situation however, the OP could go through the process of changing her name (or at least her last name) or look for a new or related industry. Even taking your maiden name could help directly linking you with this. Also there are certain companies that can help clear someone search results by name (eliminating the worst results on the first google page, having good stuff pop up first, etc). Good luck OP!

    1. I'm a Little Teapot*

      Unfortunately, forcing women out of an industry is often exactly what these scum are trying to do. If OP decides to leave her industry for her safety, that is her choice to make and completely understandable and she shouldn’t be shamed for it, but I don’t feel good about advising her to leave.

      1. Lee*

        Maybe….it’s hard for me to infer intent from anonymous comments.
        But are you saying she should risk her ~*life*~ just to spite a male dominated industry?

        1. I'm a Little Teapot*

          Certainly not! I’m saying we shouldn’t tell her she *should* leave her industry – any more than we should tell her she shouldn’t.

          And it’s not about “spiting.” It’s about the fact that these assholes are deliberately silencing women and we shouldn’t encourage that.

        2. The Strand*

          No one feels good about saying “Sorry, we just can’t seem to resolve this problem for you, so you’ll just have to move on.” Sometimes that is the only answer you can give, in lieu of better solutions. You don’t want to blame people for throwing in the towel, you want to support them and say, “It’s logical to do that,” even though you want them to be able to keep fighting.

          You can’t pick other people’s battles for them, in essence.

        3. OlympiasEpiriot*

          What risks she is willing to take must absolutely be hers to weigh; but, I feel it is necessary to point out that realistically we are all ‘risking’ our lives just by existing. (The single quote punctuation is there as it isn’t a real choice those presenting as female have. We can’t decide to not take the risk of just breathing.) Some people have a higher or lower ‘risk’ given their luck of the draw as to where they were born or into how rich or supportive a family they have or as to how conventionally or unconventionally attractive they are; but, breathing while female is definitely what make me a target to begin with.

          Personally, when I decide to make an issue or cause of a particular problem, it is not the risk I weigh but how much energy I have to give. This shit gets tiring.

      2. LBK*

        There’s also something that rankles me about this because the less space women take up in an industry, the easier it is for sexism to persist. By no means is it any individual woman’s responsibility to stay in an industry where she’s being harassed just to fight sexism, but I also don’t think things will ever change if we treat leaving the industry as the clear and simple solution. That’s part of why it’s been hard to equalize gender representation in STEM, because women are exiting the field just as fast as they’re entering it. That also contributes to the wage gap, because male-dominated industries tend to be higher paying.

    2. Chriama*

      I definitely don’t like the idea of advising OP to leave her industry. She did nothing wrong. If she wants to leave then that’s fine, but it shouldn’t be advise we give her as a way to deal with harassment.

      1. Lee*

        So, she should possibly risk her life because “sexism” is an issue in the industry she works?

          1. Lee*

            I just wanted to emphasize the word “sexism” because it seems like a lame reason to risk your own life, when put into perspective (i.e. the majority opinion of other men in a male dominated industry is really worth dying or being violently threatened over)?

            1. Violet Fox*

              The whole problem with that line of thought is in 2016 no woman should have to pick and choose what industry she wants to work in not by her own skills and interests, but the idea of personal safety and that some industries are off limits because they are not safe due to things like rampant sexism. That is not something that is okay in any sense anymore.

            2. KR*

              I get where you’re coming from, but my point (I can’t speak for Teapot) is that to a lot of women it is worth risking their safety over. It’s been too long that misogyny has prevailed under the guise of protecting women.

            3. Megs*

              As an aside, you can avoid the scare quote confusion by using * * for emphasis instead. Quotation marks for emphasis is generally a grammatical error, in any case.

                1. TootsNYC*

                  quotation marks around a word often mean “I don’t think this is a real thing.”

                  So putting “sexism” in quotes means “that stuff everybody says is sexism but isn’t.” So I second the use of */* or -/- around a word to emphasize it.

            4. Temperance*

              I’m going to be gentle here, but you are a man, therefore you’ve never experienced institutional sexism or malignant sexism.

              You’re mansplaining here. Basically, a bunch of women have told you exactly why it’s not cool to say what you’ve said, and why, and you are arguing instead of listening.

              1. Lee*

                Look, I hear you and I don’t feel I have strong enough debate skills to take this any further…but I would like to say I just wanted to give my opinion on what options the OP had available, I really wasn’t trying to push anyone this way or that way or make sexist suggestions about last names.

                I didn’t feel I was arguing, just answering questions…

                1. Mookie*

                  But her actions already indicate where her values are and what she’s willing to risk to voice them. It’s not helpful to suggest to her to relaunch a second career when she’s explicitly asking for advice about how to advance the one she’s got.

                2. Kiwi*

                  The only question related to the doubt-commas placed around the word *sexism*.
                  All other correspondence was information and the answers for your questions.

                  A woman’s statement is not a question.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, it was coined specifically to describe an instance where a man is insistent that he knows better than a woman does, even when the woman or women are talking about their own personal experiences, which is a surprisingly common thing that happens.

                2. Computer Guy Eli*

                  Is that what’s happening here though? It sounds like, because he’s a man, he’s not allowed to have an opinion on this topic.

                  Isn’t equality about not letting people get discarded because of their gender?

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  That’s been addressed above, so I’m not going to repeat it here, and I’m going to ask that we end this here, particularly given the subject matter of the post. Thank you.

                4. I'm a Little Teapot*

                  How would you like it if someone who had no experience with computers, but was some important executive bigwig or something, tried to explain to you how to set up a new Linux server, despite not knowing anything about it, and insisted he was right when you knew from personal experience that he was wrong? An imperfect analogy, but think about it.

            5. The Strand*

              Arguably, if no one ever took a stand over sexism or any other thing, there would never be change. I think it’s pretty questionable to tell people that ideas aren’t worth risking their lives for, because it’s a slippery slope. We can tell people to pick their battles, but sometimes battles pick you.

              The other aspect, is that trolls have technology giving them a power they would not ordinarily have had years ago. I doubt that Christine Craft (a 1980s newswoman who sued when she was fired for not being “attractive enough” as she aged) was having people from all around the world threatening her and sending her pictures of her front door, because she could control access to that kind of information (unlisted phone number, etc), and it was harder to get information about people in other cities. Today, you don’t have to be a public figure like Christine Craft, you can be Jane Schmane and post something on Twitter. Suddenly people are sending SWAT teams to your door, sending you death threats, releasing your social security number; and these people can be relatively powerless folks in our society – teenage boys living under Mom and Dad’s roof, who may not even have a driver’s permit yet. And the harassment they engage in means nothing to them, because they’re just striking at some person on the internet, not a real human being.

              You don’t have to be making an intentional decision to ‘risk your life’, with these POS trolls, all you have to do is be a breathing human being with an opinion and the wrong set of genitals, (or ethnicity, or sexual preference), and come into contact with them.

              Thus living your life normally, like any man would, ends up being a way of ‘risking your life’, whether you like it or not.

              1. I'm a Little Teapot*


                When I hear about teenage (or sadly sometimes even younger) boys doing this, I wonder about the parents. I wouldn’t monitor everything a kid ever did online, but if I had a child who was sending violent threats or SWATting people, and I found out about it, he would be permanently banned from using any device with Internet access, if not thrown out on the street without a penny.

        1. KR*

          Women have risked their life because of sexism and they’ll continue to do so until we’re treated equally. Telling women that they shouldn’t do risky things because they are too risky for women isn’t the right way to change things.

          1. Temperance*

            Oh hell yes. I have an intern who has done a lot of reproductive justice work, and she knows that she’s risking her life by taking up this cause.

              1. Lady H*

                The point is that there are things worth risking your life for, not that only women should risk their lives.

                Asking “what about the men?” when the conversation is about sexism is a really tired approach.

          2. Sigrid*

            Exactly. For many of us, sexism *is* the hill we are – literally – willing to die on.

        2. Kyrielle*

          No, but that should be *her* choice whether she feels that’s what is going on.

          If she wants to or feels she needs to leave her industry over this, then she should, especially if she feels it is a matter of safety.

          But we shouldn’t tell her she should, either. That has to be her choice – and encouraging someone toward that choice without knowledge whether they would reach for it is a little bit like siding with the folks who did this in the first place, since that was their goal.

          I _absolutely_ have the back of any woman who suffers from this and chooses to leave her industry for safety. But I won’t suggest it to someone out of the blue, without them at least asking ‘do you think I should…?’

        3. Student*

          A huge part of the war against these kinds of viral smear campaigns lies in making sure they have no lasting effect, or that they appear to have no real affect. If they are, or seem to be, just so much howling into the wind, then they’ll subside. If they are, or seem to be, effective, then they will grow into a maelstrom that will harm us all.

          Having dealt with many forms of harassment and intimidation, it is absolutely amazing how many of these bullies will back down if you stand up to them and refuse to appear frightened, refuse to give them the emotional satisfaction they want. I’ve had a man holding a gun to my head absolutely wither away when I refused to be intimidated by his scare tactics. It works in the majority of cases. That said, I’ve also been physically attacked and had my property damaged – it doesn’t always work. Lots of these internet attacks, however, are exactly that – verbal attacks by people far away that can’t actually hurt you unless you let them. When they do cross the line, prosecute them to the full extent of the law, with glee, to extract as much blood-for-blood as you can. Then, prosecute them in the court of public opinion, with glee, to the extract as much revenge as you can and shame them in any way available.

        4. Chriama*

          My concern with this is that as long as we consider it a valid option to tell the harassed woman “just leave”, we absolve ourselves of the responsibility to call out harassers for their crappy behaviour. As long as it’s ok to tell a woman to just leave, we don’t have to take responsibility for anything as a result of her decision to stay. It’s not valid advice because it says to everyone – be loud and aggressive, and we won’t contradict you. We will tell your victims to run away. We will support your beliefs and behaviours and offer no support to the people you hurt. So again, if OP wants to leave the industry because that makes her feel safe, then she should do it. But it should never be our recommendation to anyone.

    3. Temperance*

      It’s sexist to assume that just because the LW is female, she has a “maiden name”. I sure don’t, and I’m married. I have a name, thanks.

      Why should she have to give up her successful career because some dudes are rude and sexist? Women shoudln’t have to give up on success because men are threatening them and threatened by them. If we keep giving in, nothing will ever change.

      1. Lee*

        Is it sexist? Her most identifying feature from her interview is her *full name*, so I gave suggestions for combating this.
        Should I have assumed she’s single then? Or married but kept her surname? How PC does it need to get?

        “Women shoudln’t have to give up on success because men are threatening them and threatened by them.” That’s a generalization and not what this is about. We don’t know the identity of the commentators who attacked the OP. For all we know, they could be a group of women against equality for women.

        1. blackcat*

          You could make a reference to changing her last name without referencing marital status at all. You know, like someone would do for a dude being smeared on the internet. “Consider changing your name” can be valid advice, and it does not need to be related to one’s marital status.

          And, you know, for many women, *we know* that there are men threatened by us–we’ve got some good, real life evidence. For many of us who are relating to the OPs experience, this is EXACTLY what it is about.

          1. Lee*

            “You could make a reference to changing her last name without referencing marital status at all.”
            My original comment was: “In relation to this situation however, the OP could go through the process of changing her name (or at least her last name) or look for a new or related industry. Even taking your maiden name could help directly linking you with this.” The maiden name was an afterthought and clearly only if applicable to the OP if she was married and had taken her husband’s last name (as most women do when they marry).

            “You know, like someone would do for a dude being smeared on the internet.” But I know the gender of the OP, why would I tailor the comment for both sexes?

            ““Consider changing your name” can be valid advice, and it does not need to be related to one’s marital status.”- Correct, but it can be related so I included it.

            “And, you know, for many women, *we know* that there are men threatened by us–we’ve got some good, real life evidence.”- Correct. Women are also threatened by other women. In fact, anyone can be threatened by anyone else, no matter the gender.

            Also, you are generalizing the OP’s experience and relating it to yours. That’s not what this is about and your relation of the OP’s experiences might be completely wrong.

        2. De*

          “How PC does it need to get?”

          Remembering that an OP might not be married is “PC” now, really?

          1. Lee*

            I don’t understand your comment. How is assuming someone is single more PC than assuming their married? We don’t have enough information from the OP to know their marital status, so there is a 50/50 chance she is married or single. I added a singular comment about a maiden name on the chance she is married and it could apply to her.

            Also, De, cherry-picking one sentence from my comment and then adding your incredulous reaction to it and nothing else? Really?

  30. Marina*

    Alison, thank you for taking this on. I think “going viral” in a negative way is becoming a much more common issue, especially for women, and it’s great to have this addressed from a professional standpoint.

    1. Megs*

      Seriously agree – this kind of thing is a big personal nightmare of mine. I read an article a while ago about a woman who was targeted because her *husband* made a comment that set off a a certain community. The only reason she was targeted was that her husband’s account used a picture of the two of them as the icon. It’s horrifying.

  31. Ultraviolet*

    I’m sorry this happened to you, OP!

    I disagree with the suggestion from Alison about how to possibly bring it up at the offer stage. I have the sense that it’s really unlikely that this situation won’t come up in a Google search for your name, and saying something that suggests you think a prospective employer hasn’t heard of it could make you sound a little naive. A lot of employers probably are going to seriously consider not hiring you over this, and even those who would be happy to hire you will be aware of possible consequences. I think it will sound tone-deaf to be so breezy about it.

    I also think that describing it as “criticism” is a little weird. OP’s concern is that the prospective employer would want to be aware that they might experience the same harassment and threats as her current company. Describing it as “criticism” will either mislead them (if they somehow haven’t heard of it and don’t realize that criticism of a woman in that situation implies harassment and threats) or make them think she’s afraid to talk about it directly.

    If OP wants to bring it up at the offer stage, I think I’d recommend saying, “I’m sure you’re aware that a few years ago, a lot of harassment and threats were directed at my company and me personally after I gave an interview about historic sexism and current inclusiveness efforts. Do you have any concerns about how that would impact [prospective employer] if I accept this position?” I think speaking about it so directly and matter-of-factly would make you look good to the new company.

  32. I'm a Little Teapot*

    If only employers would fire or refuse to hire harassers and people who vocally support them, instead of the people they target. I recently heard of some women on Twitter starting an organized effort to forward threatening tweets to the harassers’ employers – “hey Teapot Co, here are the threats Wakeen from your R&D department sent me!” It’s amazing how many of the harassers reveal their real names and employers…

  33. Greg*

    First of all, OP, I’m so sorry this happened to you.

    I’d like to echo those who recommend looking into companies that help improve your Google results. You could also take some proactive steps to put the context you want out there.

    This is an imperfect analogy, but many years ago my father was the victim of a malicious prank where someone called up a bank and said, “The next customer at the drive-through has a gun. Give him all your money.” The next driver was, of course, my dad, and before he knew it he was surrounded by police cars. They sorted the situation out fairly quickly and let him go, but just to be sure, my dad worked some connections and got the local paper to write up the story. This was all pre-Google, but he figured if it ever came up he would have a written record that he had done nothing wrong.

    As Allison says, a good employer will be supportive, but I think there is a risk that an employer who might otherwise be sympathetic will get an incomplete picture of the story. Even if you later provide them context, it can be hard to shake first impressions. That’s why it might be worth the effort to put content out there so that your story, in its full context, will appear at the top of results.

    For a good example of what I’m talking about, Google “Alexandra Polier”. She was the woman who was slandered as being John Kerry’s mistress during the 2004 campaign (she had actually just dated one of his staffers). NY Magazine wrote a whole cover story about the smear campaign, and it’s now the No. 1 result on Google for her name. I have no idea if your story could garner that level of publicity, but it might be worth pitching your story to some journalists — maybe some who write about gender issues, or Jon Ronson, who wrote a book about online shaming.

    All that said, it sucks that you have to go through this effort considering that you did nothing wrong.

    1. Dang*

      I just came here to recommend the Jon Ronson book you mentioned- So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed- just read it and it’s really eye-opening.

      1. JessaB*

        I wish he would write a follow up for being online bullied because “shamed” has a context that is really not true for the people being doxxed etc. because of sexism, racism or something else. Shamed is like that hunter dentist who ended up having to close his office for doing something society didn’t like. IE he did something on the legit scale of “wrong things,” and the punishment phase got so out of hand it endangered his family. Shamed implies that there is something the person who was shamed did that was on the legit scale of wrong things. Whilst the advice might very well be useful to the OP there are unfortunate implications regarding that book.

  34. Djuna*

    Adding my voice to the chorus here. Thank you, OP, for speaking out. I am so sorry that you’ve had to deal with the disproportionate viciousness that comes when some people mistakenly think that “equality” somehow means everything being taken away from them.

    It’s hard to know if a company (even if aware) would ask you directly about it, since that would be making it a thing (and reminding you of what you’ve endured), and probably unnecessary. So Alison or Ultraviolet’s suggestions both seem really good to me.

  35. Elizabeth West*

    This sucks and I’m glad the OP’s company is supportive of her. As someone who is courting a career where everything I say may end up being subject to public scrutiny, I want to join the chorus of women thanking you for doing this. It won’t end if we sit down and shut up, which is what they want us to do.


    Also, I think the reason everyone is so screamy about this right now is because the change is already happening and people who dislike change will always kick and scream loudest right before it becomes ubiquitous.

  36. KWu*

    Just wanted to say that I love this formulation: “you’re feeling like this is now something about you that of course you would have to disclose, that you are tarred by this. But it’s not something about you and you are not tarred. You did a normal and reasonable thing. It’s about other people. Their mud splattered on you, yes, but it is not a part of you.” Thanks for writing that, Alison.

    1. First-time poster*

      I’ve been following AAM for over a year now but I’m also familiar with OP’s type of situation. I second the recommendation for Crash Override 100% (and was going to post it as my own comment but figured it couldn’t hurt to search the comments first–glad I did!).

      They have a LOT of resources even without reaching out to them directly–including a one-page fact sheet you can give to your current employer, if they’re not familiar with what internet hate mobs are actually capable of doing.

      Stay safe, OP.

  37. Engineer Girl*

    I’ve had this happen to me on a smaller scale. One thing I haven’t seen mentioned is the PTSD that can come out of it. You begin to think you were responsible for what happened. “If only I had worded it differently”. “If only I’d been more diplomatic”. Nope. You delivered a message that some did not want raised. Their reaction was to try to shut down the discussion. That’s the common tactic of all tyrants.
    I would suggest going to a counseling session or two. Make sure they deal with PTSD. It will help you regain perspective on the situation. That way you can make clearer decisions.
    My personal experience is that tyrants are much louder than good people. For every 5 tyrants screeching there are at least 20 good people that agree with you but haven’t spoken up. It’s not right, but at least you should realize that you have more support than you think you do.
    Many companies want people that will stand up for the right thing. Unfortunately their HR departments may be risk adverse and may try to block your hire. It’s really important to use networking and make job contacts through the hiring manager. That way you can get around the nervous HR people.
    To the HR people – yes there are good HR folks out there. But many can’t see the benefits of this hire far outweighing the risks.

  38. LisaD*

    HEY OP if you’re still in this thread and you want to talk to someone who’s been through this, drop a way to contact you in a reply and I’ll reach out. I don’t feel comfortable revealing all the details here but I think I was one of the first women to have something like this happen online due to being a vocal internet feminist – back in 2009 when Twitter was still young.

    The short version without any details I’m not comfortable revealing is: I was feminist on a social media site, anti-feminists tried to take over the feminist group I started, the admins of the site helped me regain control, they got back at me for getting admins involved by whipping up a hate campaign with false claims that I had done something against the community norms as supported by fabricated/hacked together evidence from unrelated out of context documents. This was before this kind of thing was a normal risk of being female online that everyone knew about, so I thought I could hide the hatestorm from my employer – turned out they were getting phone calls telling them to fire me :(

    The good news is 7 years later nobody whatsoever in my industry gives a shit other than to find it an interesting story about how the internet got to this weird place it’s in now with regard to the vituperative anti-feminist hate mobs prowling it.

    1. The Strand*

      I hate to say it, but it’s not even since 2009. The early internet was *not* a friendly place for women, either. It’s a matter of degree.

      In the early years prior to usenet being opened to all, there were also flame wars and mobbing on regional systems. In the ’80s those of us with modems were using Bulletin Board Systems (google Jason Scott to find out more about this), and flame threads would sometimes be dedicated to ruin people. One couple that disagreed with something I’d posted about abortion started stalking me from one system to another in our metro area- it was awful. It was also 1989.

      What’s different is the number of tools these trolls now have at their disposal and how much more networked we all are. Your reputation is your Google result, another problem.

      That said, you’re right that after a while, you can move on, and often find that your reputation has moved on too.

  39. Not So NewReader*

    OP, my story is no where near what you are going through, but I would like to offer you some encouragement. I worked in a male dominated field in the 80s. Disturbingly, women were just as apt to be bias as men. One woman explained to me that women lack the part of the brain that comprehends X and therefore she could only talk to men about X because women were not capable of understanding X.

    I was in the field for eight years. In that time, I saw HUGE changes. By the time I left there were just as many women in the field as there were men. (I left for unrelated reasons.) As in any work place the greater the diversity of people you have the more creative ideas you get. Women were very influential in changing the arena.

    I’d like to encourage you that time will be very kind to you and your situation will not stay the same forever and ever. Additionally, remember that back-lashes will in turn create back-lashes. When people see the way others are speaking about you and to you, this will cause the Good People who usually remain silent, to start speaking up more. Good People will be disgusted by what they are seeing and they will feel pushed to speak out. These people will create a second wave but a good wave. Hang tough and wait. Know that the good wave is coming and know you have done a lion’s share, now it is other people’s turn to jump in. This is not something one voice can solve, it takes many voices chiming in for changes to happen.

    And, btw, thank you for what you have done.

    1. I'm a Little Teapot*

      The illogic baffles me. If women lack the part of the brain to understand $Thing, how could she understand it herself.

      Ugh, thinking about it for a bit gave me the answer. It’s that *she’s* extra special and Not Like Other Girls, so special that she has the amazing manbrain power they lack. Yuck.

  40. Kimberlee, Esq*

    I’m a bit late to this particular thread, but if you’re in tech or are tech-adjacent (who isn’t?) there’s this Hack Harassment initiative that a few companies (mine included <3) who take this really seriously. The companies involved would absolutely be good ones to look into working for, and it could also be used as a litmus test for companies you work with, asking them if they would consider joining, or how they otherwise protect employees from online harassment or support those being harassed. There are companies out there that know what's up and want to support people who, in the course of doing their jobs, are subjected to the worst of the internet.

  41. Mel*

    I don’t know if anyone has mentioned it, but if you are still really worried about it later, you could work with one of those companies that clean up your internet history. I agree that you did nothing wrong and you are the victim here, but it is just a suggestion for later.

  42. BadMoviesLover*

    This kind really needs to be dealt with by law enforcement, in addition to anything a company can do for the victim. Law enforcement can find harassers who think they are anonymous, and that’s happened multiple times. If they can find people who SWAT others, they can find people who make rape and death threats. Make an example of a few of these, and see if you don’t start seeing changes.

  43. Tinea*

    There is a very useful practical guide for handling harassment online or partially online, put out by survivors of such in the tech and gaming fields:
    Speak Up & Stay Safe(r): A Guide to Protecting Yourself From Online Harassment
    (I’ll post the link in the next comment, or google it– it triggered the spam filter)

    “This guide contains things we’ve learned about how to keep yourself safe from individuals, loosely organized groups & cybermobs online. This guide is for anyone who fears they might be targeted, or who is already under attack, for speaking their mind online, but is especially designed for women, people of color, trans and genderqueer people, and everyone else whose existing oppressions are made worse by digital violence. It details best security practices for social media, email, online gaming, website platforms, and ensuring privacy of personal information online, as well as the documentation and reporting of harassment, and caring for yourself emotionally during an online attack. You don’t need any specialized knowledge to use this guide – just basic computer and internet skills.

    “The authors of the guide have all been targets of cyber attacks ourselves, so we’ve written the guide we wish had already existed when the attacks on us began. We’re all based in the US, but we’ve done our best to make it useful no matter where you live.”

  44. Programmer 01*

    I’m chiming in super late, but OP, you’re not alone, and you’re absolutely going to be valued elsewhere. There are a lot of companies right now who have employees in similar circumstances (even after a year of this… honestly, best word I have is terrorism with our office getting bomb threats for having one of the better gender ratios in the industry) and if anything it’s just showing a lot of people how problematic things are and even more why it’s important to change from within, because we don’t really want to be making stuff for people who want to kill us. Funny, that.

    I can tell you 100% that the big three would hire you in a heartbeat, and I work for one. I hope you don’t have to go looking anytime soon, but if you do, you’re always going to have a home where your passion is.

  45. Original Poster*

    Hi everyone, I’m sorry I’m so late in commenting here. I was taking some time off from the Internet (as I’m sure you’ll all understand!). I really appreciate all the comments and support.

    Good news is my company has continued to support me and the worst of it seems to be over. Crash Override (mentioned here) has been a great resource and I managed to lock down most of my personal information before I could be doxed or really ugly things could happen.

    I’ve passed through terror and despair and come through to anger and I’m feeling a lot stronger about myself and my position. I think Alison’s advice is fantastic and definitely something I needed to hear.

    I stopped reading my Twitter/FB notifications after this whole thing broke, and instead of trying to tackle them all myself I’m having some good friends come over to help sort through them. We’re documenting all the really nasty ones just in case and making a “positivity book” from all the great and supportive comments. I think that’s going to help me if this incident flares up again or something similar happens in the future.

    Thank you all again!

  46. Agness Kaku*

    The Letter Writer has just one thing going for her: “my company has been amazing and totally standing behind me.” Unfortunately, nothing else—including your actual ability—matters as much as the public, unwavering support of her (male) managers and (male) colleagues. She’ll need to retain the goodwill and build on it. Need to lock down the support, in a visible and portable way: public statements by senior management, LinkedIn (yeah, I know it’s not a big thing in some industries but still) recommendations from people you work with, photo ops with respected figures at industry events and conferences. In effect, she will need to make herself less disavowable in the long term.

    Will it be worth it? I don’t know. It’s exhausting to not just *be* a hyper-competent and personable professional, but to have to *play* one as well. It’s like getting dropped in the middle of a perpetual election. And it will be very hard not to mirror the mindset of those who hurt you, to say “no” to the cycle of dehumanization and incendiary rhetoric.

    Something not dissimilar happened to me, but I was freelance and got zero support—nothing from companies, media, or professional group. I was fired from 2 projects and resigned from a third. Some people at a client firm even joined in the harassment. I did what I had to, most of it sub rosa. But any liking or trust I felt for that industry—which I spent 16 years in, on and off, is gone. Whenever some bright-eyed young thing asks me, “How do I get in?” I just tell them, boy or girl, “Don’t.”

    Things may well flare up again for the Letter Writer at some point. The social media threats are low-priority. She should understand her rights as a worker in her jurisdiction, first and foremost.

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