A great swathe of the internet is positive, a place where people come together to collaborate on ideas, discuss news and share moments of levity and sorrow, too. But there’s also a dark side, where comments, threads and DMs are peppered with ugly, hostile language designed to intimidate and harass. Women online, especially women who are outspoken in any field — journalism, tech, government, science, and so on — know this all too well.
What’s the solution? People being less terrible, obviously. Until we reach that stage of human maturity, the B!tch to Boss extension for Firefox can help by replacing words like “bitch”, often used in derogatory comments and messages directed at women, with the word “boss”.
How bad is online harassment of women?
Recent Pew Research data from January 2021 shows that online abuse is getting more severe and more common. While the share of men and women experiencing online harassment is comparable (men: 43%, women: 38%), the severity of it is far greater for women. Some 14% of men targeted in online harassment say that the most recent incident they experienced was very or extremely upsetting, whereas 33% of women, more than double that of men, said the same.
Online abuse also impacts young women and girls who are joining online communities for social connections, creativity, learning and activism. A report from Plan International USA, “Free to be Online?”, showed that 58% of 14,000 young women and girls surveyed in 22 countries faced online abuse or harassment. The report authors found that girls and young women are harassed simply for being female, and that the harassment increases as they speak up about issues they care about.
It has a chilling effect. Plan International’s report is full of stories from young women from around the world expressing a strong desire to be online, yet being afraid to use their voices due to the threat of abuse that can come of it, both online and in real life. That rings true, even for this article. We reached out to several women who have been targeted recently by trolls and hate speech. None of them wanted to speak on the record, having been so shaken from their experiences.
B!tch to Boss extension for Firefox
Mozilla is committed to an internet that promotes civil discourse, human dignity and individual expression. A person’s sex or gender shouldn’t determine their access, opportunities or quality of experience online. Will the B!tch to Boss extension solve the problem of hostility and hate speech directed at women online? No, but it will make some insults sting less so we can all get on with making the internet a better place for everyone.