Should Women Who Get Death Threats Grow a Thicker Skin Because It’s Just Trolling?

The FBI apparently doesn’t think so when the person against whom death threats are made is high profile enough:

A 27-year old San Antonio man faces felony charges and up to seven years of imprisonment for allegedly using Twitter (NewsAlert) to harass and threaten prominent Google executive Marissa Mayer, the company’s first female engineer and its current VP of local, maps and location services.

Gregory Calvin King was indicted by a federal grand jury last week for sending more than 20,000 tweets to Mayer over a ninth-month stretch. Many of the tweets were profanity-laced and aggressive, including several that contained explicit threats of physical harm.

Man Facing Seven Years Behind Bars for Threatening Google’s Mayer over Twitter

The reports don’t offer any reason why Mr. King chose Ms. Mayer as the target of his threats. Maybe he had no real reason. Yet, this kind of thing—death threats and threats of sexual violence against women on the internet—is not an isolated incident. Women who dare to be public figures, particularly public figures on the internet, get violent threats all the time. I hesitate to even call this kind of stuff harassment. The word harassment seems to imply that it’s only an annoyance.

Well-meaning dudes often tell women who are on the receiving end of harassment that it’s just trolling and we should grow a thicker skin. Somehow we’re supposed to accept threats of murder and rape as just part of the cost of doing business. That’s a pretty bizarre state of affairs. I hope that this case will convince more people that just because something happens on the internet doesn’t mean it doesn’t count or isn’t real.

Women should be able to fully participate in the sphere of public life, including online. Threats specifically directed against women who dare to be public are a device to keep women out of public life:

These people think that if they scare the women of our community enough, this will stay a secret, and their misogyny and violence can snowball. This seems to be a group attack, and here, their details are FAR more specific than they were in the Kathy Sierra case.

Death Threats and Hate Crimes, Attacks On Women Bloggers Escalating

It’s not “just trolling”. It’s threats of physical violence against women simply because they are women and dare to speak publicly.