There have been a myriad of suggestions over the years as to what the best response to online harassment is. You’ll hear everything from ignore it, to report it, to fight back and engage with your harasser. I’ve written before that I don’t think staying quiet it the best solution but actively responding can sometimes make things worse. Everyone has a different way of coping with being harassed, there’s no right answer, you just have to make sure you’re doing what’s right for your own physical and mental health. One student, though, has found a response to online harassment that might just be the best we’ve seen.
Emily Temple-Wood is a biology undergraduate at Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois, and for each harassing email she receives, she writes a Wikipedia article on a woman in science. It’s almost a kind of positive punishment; for every person that thinks female scientists are somehow lesser, Temple-Wood turns their negativity into a positive reminder that female scientists have been doing amazing things throughout history, and they’re going to get the representation and recognition they deserve from the women following in their footsteps.
Since she founded the WikiProject Women Scientists in 2012 to change the fact that “women in science are woefully underrepresented” on Wikipedia, many more women have joined her effort and they’ve managed to get 376 women scientists onto Wikipedia’s front-page “Did you know?” section, and 30 articles through a peer-review process.
Siko Bouterse, former Wikimedia Foundation staff member, told the Wikimedia blog that Temple-Wood’s efforts have had a huge impact in addressing the scientific gender gap: “She’s created hundreds of articles about women scientists, including articles that address multiple gaps in Wikipedia—it’s really important that she’s not just writing about white women scientists, she’s also working to address underrepresentation of women of color in Wikipedia and looking at other points of intersectionality as well. And perhaps most importantly, because we’re much stronger collectively than alone, Emily has taught and inspired others to do the same … When I was a kid, I could count the number of women scientists I was aware of on one hand. But I know our daughters are going to have access to so much more free knowledge about scientists who look like them, thanks to Emily’s efforts, and that’s really powerful.”
Although we wish Emily didn’t have to find ways to cope with harassment at all, this is an admirably positive and productive response to those who want to silence women online that will hopefully inspire more women to continue pursuing STEM careers.
Via Wikimedia Blog
Image © iStock/Shironosov