Illustration of Greta Thunberg as Antigone, crossing the Atlantic

It might seem that the trolling of girls is an disagreeable by-product of the web period.

In truth, the ways used are remarkably much like these employed in historical instances, particularly when you evaluate the trolling of Greta Thunberg and the way in which the traditional Greeks used to deal with “hysterical” girls.

Women and girls who communicate out or categorical opinions are sometimes subjected to abuse on-line, supposed to intimidate and silence them.

Local weather activist Greta Thunberg is a major instance of this. As the teenager continues to talk out concerning the impending environmental issues attributable to local weather change, she is topic to better and better quantities of abuse.

She has repeatedly been known as “hysterical”, and “mentally sick”, and has been the goal of social media loss of life threats.

The ‘hysterical girl’ delusion

Whereas these on-line platforms are comparatively new, the threats themselves usually are not.

For these of us working in Historical Research, it’s simple to identify a sample right here stretching again throughout millennia.

Way back to 2,500 years in the past, in historical Greece, women and girls had been managed in comparable methods.

Greta has grow to be, for a lot of, an icon of resistance, of talking reality to energy. On this, she resembles the legendary Greek heroine Antigone.

Antigone is barely in her mid-teens when she rebels in opposition to her uncle Creon, the more and more tyrannical King of Thebes.

Like Greta, she dangers her security for a trigger that she believes in, and refuses to be cowed by highly effective politicians or by what anybody else thinks.

And like Greta, Antigone’s energy is undermined by misogynist beliefs, as Creon claims that she is insane.

This a part of the parable represents a standard view on the time, one which nonetheless receives airtime immediately.

An historical Greek medical textual content tells us ladies like Antigone, who had been sufficiently old to be married however had not finished so, had been mentally sick. They had been considered “hysterical”, an concept that originates from historical Greece.

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These younger girls had been additionally considered too gloomy, obsessing about loss of life.

One may think an historical Greek sarcastically commenting that Antigone “appeared like a really glad lady wanting ahead to a brilliant and great future”.

Misogyny within the social media age

Quick ahead 2,000 years, and whereas misogyny could also be culturally hardwired, the comparatively current creation of social media has facilitated it in notably damaging methods.

These platforms have allowed nameless assaults and enabled campaigns focused in opposition to particular person girls.

Ladies within the public sphere can now anticipate to be bombarded with memes and threats on social media by a brigade of on-line trolls.

This typically entails having private data comparable to their addresses and telephone numbers printed; a tactic referred to as “doxxing”.

Over time, these trolls have solely grow to be extra skilled and complex of their use of social media to threaten girls who communicate, and frighten others into silence. These assaults are typically infected by racism, anti-Semitism, and transphobia.

So what is the answer? One method is to refuse to show a blind eye to attackers, and have interaction with them as a substitute.

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Getty Pictures

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Mary Beard was affectionately known as “the troll slayer” by The New Yorker journal

That is the method taken by classics professor Mary Beard, who was affectionately known as “the troll slayer” by The New Yorker journal.

In a single infamous incident, when a 20-year-old college pupil tweeted graphic sexual slurs at Prof Beard, certainly one of her supporters recognised him and supplied to tell his mom about his behaviour.

When requested by the BBC what she would say to him, she replied: “I might take him out for a drink and smack his backside.”

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However even when we may establish all on-line abusers, Prof Beard’s method doesn’t essentially appear sensible or fascinating: consider the time, cash, and power it could take.

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Is ‘troll-slaying’ the reply?

Different ways contain unifying in opposition to trolls, or chopping them off altogether.

A brand new hashtag, #TeamMuskOx, encourages social media customers to help girls who communicate out about local weather change on-line, by boosting constructive interactions, and reporting, muting, or blocking abusive responses.

The phrase refers back to the follow of musk oxen who kind a circle round weak members of the herd to guard them.

Social media platforms themselves have additionally tried to deal with the issue by implementing stricter harassment insurance policies and limiting the accounts of influential trolls.

This usually results in complaints that freedom of speech is being restricted.

These objections go to the core values of recent society: how can we protect the liberty of speech whereas creating an web the place future Gretas will not be subjected to a lot abuse?

In addition to, de-platforming alone is probably not sufficient to fight the misogyny ingrained at each stage of our society.

Freedom of speech v social duty

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“A distinct final result is all the time doable. We simply have to alter the script”

The traditional Greeks is likely to be useful right here. They too prized freedom of speech. They’d the phrase parrhesia, which isn’t fairly the identical idea as ours, however contains the important thing concept that anybody can communicate frankly.

Nevertheless, it was supposed to be practised alongside with one other core worth – aidos.

Aidos basically means seeing your self as a social being who’s related to your fellow human beings.

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It means having respect in direction of others. So freedom of speech, for the traditional Greeks, would have inspired strong political debate, however mixed with a way of respect. This is able to have meant that anonymously attacking girls or sending them pornographic slurs wouldn’t have been socially acceptable.

Think about a future the place kids are introduced up with a way of aidos, of better connectivity and consciousness of their social duties. Social media may also help right here; it would not should be solely a instrument of poisonous masculinity.

The Greeks have one other lesson for us too. It’s that there is all the time another ending to the story.

The Antigone delusion that most individuals know resulted in tragedy for Antigone, and for Creon.

However there was one other model of the parable by which Antigone survived, married, and had a toddler. The kid, in fact, symbolises the longer term. A distinct final result is all the time doable. We simply have to alter the script.

About this piece

This evaluation piece was commissioned by the BBC from specialists working for an out of doors organisation.

Donna Zuckerberg is editor-in-chief of on-line classics journal Eidolon, and the writer of Not All Lifeless White Males: Classics and Misogyny within the Digital Age. Her brother is Fb founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Helen Morales is professor of Hellenic Research on the College of California, and writer of the upcoming Antigone Rising: The Subversive Energy of the Historical Myths.

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