An open letter to Reddit, from a female Redditor
|August 24, 2012||Posted by Jennifer Lambourne under Social Media|
Reddit, I love you. This is a public announcement of my sheer devotion to the beautiful addition you have made to my life. You have opened my eyes to the wonders of the internet. I will happily skim through hours of your pages of subreddits, saving and forwarding endless game reviews, imgur links and cat gifs to my online brethren. From terrible memes, to space exploration, from comics to nuclear power, you have my back. And Reddit, for that, I love you.
I visit you nearly every day, armed with an array of geeky interests to share with your community, but my best weapon isn’t a love of graphic novels or Nyan cat; it’s a thick skin.
With ovaries, an opinion and a Reddit account comes trouble in the form of a raging misogyny that the anonymity of the internet has only served to feed. It is no secret that you, Reddit, are heavily male dominated (Google Ad Planner shows the ratio between men and women to stand at 72:28 worldwide and 87:13 in the UK), and the gender divide is a recurrent theme within your subreddits.
For a community based around common interests who has a penchant for classing itself as ‘forever alone’, it sure does spew an extraordinary level of vitriolic insidious abuse aimed at women.
Having been a lurker for a few months, I signed up to actively join discussion with people all over the world on my favourite subjects. Three hours after my first post, I was told to get back to the kitchen and make a sandwich. Haha, Reddit, you guys are so funny. The second, third and twenty-eighth times, I realised I was just one of the many female Redditors who are targets for these incredibly witty men who are clearly just about to break onto the comedy circuit. My only crime? To post under an obviously female username. After a remark from one user that I deserved sexual assault, I closed my account.
Your position as a key player on the social media scene showcases the best in the potential that user-generated content can provide, but as with any site of your nature, you pass control of discourse to everyone. And that means everyone.
And yet there is a strange discord in your community. You are the pinnacle of everything that is great on the interwebs. You provide a voice to the masses, and fuel discussion from the bottom up. The viral sympathy for victims of the Aurora shootings, of charity fundraising campaigns, endless cancer support posts and romantic proposals suggests that amongst the comments on women’s culinary skills and bra size, you do have a community that is inherently good.
Reddit, your power is in your expanse of potential. You are a source to collate, to educate, to communicate. However, your goodwill and (endless!) love of kittens is being overshadowed by a minority. Sometimes, in the words of the Professor meme, I don’t want to live on this planet anymore. You may make me want to slam my head on the keyboard at times, or stand on a chair waving around a copy of The Female Eunuch from my university days, but I love you. The humour and warmth generated from happy upvoters makes for a fantastic addition in a crowded social media space. With a gender-neutral username and a willingness to recognise trolls as a minority of the fantasy of the internet, you have brought a powerful tool to social media. For better or for worse, I am a Redditor.