Rachel Stewart is winner of the 'Opinion Writer of the Year' award at the 2016 Canon Media Awards.

Rachel Stewart: Unwanted male attention? Use the block

To block someone is not censorship. It's just that I don't want to hear you, or more to the point, for you to hear me. Photo / 123RF
To block someone is not censorship. It's just that I don't want to hear you, or more to the point, for you to hear me. Photo / 123RF

To block someone is not censorship. It's just that I don't want to hear you, or more to the point, for you to hear me, writes Rachel Stewart.

You may have noticed that I don't tend to write columns about fluffy kittens and sun-kissed rainbows.

Some female columnists do, and that's fine. They play nice; don't make trouble. Yet, despite that, they still cop a bit of flak. They get labelled "shallow" or "blonde" or an "airhead".

I don't write satire either.

It's not that I can't, but the market is cornered by columnists who do. Satire is a fine way of making a point, and is quite useful for not blatantly upsetting anyone. Another plus is that because it's predominantly practised by male writers, they receive far more accolades than brickbats.

It's also just not my style. I have strong and, I like to think, well-considered opinions which I'm not shy about sharing. Should I be? Shy about it? I mean, I get paid to express one, so why not be bold? Right?

Women in the media, and particularly those who stick their head above the pulpit, are used to all manner of unwanted male attention. We generally sport thick skins but it does get tiring wading through rivers of unsolicited blokey baloney every day.

These are things the average white male never ever needs to think about, let alone remotely empathise with if they don't want to, and it shows.

Let me elaborate.

Twitter is a useful marketing tool for a columnist. Further, a wordsmith like me gets to interact with the phenomenally clever, and experience the most belly laughs I can have without watching Seinfeld.

Then there's the flipside. The trolls, the stalkers, the obsessed, the boring and, probably the most prevalent problem of all, the simply rude and bad-mannered.

It's well-known in Twitter circles that my solution is to use the block button. I also never apologise for my zero-tolerance policy, and I never will.

I block for many reasons. Years of serious and unwanted attention from dairy farming interests - to the point where someone's physically been on my property - has likely made my blocking finger itchier than most.

All of which drives some men wild. They view being blocked as the social media equivalent of a restraining order. The more thrashing and slashing about they publicly indulge in after the deed, the more I know I made the right choice.

The chaps who - sometimes even years after the event - incessantly wheedle and whine about me for blocking, also spend unhealthy amounts of time speculating on why I did it to them.

Until Twitter, and other social media sites, come up with a mechanism to finally put an end to online harassment, I'll keep treating the block button as my friend. It's called self-preservation.

I'm either going mad, hate men, can't stand anyone disagreeing with me, am a "nasty" woman, need a good shag - and/or variations thereof. Their inner torment is revealing, but it says absolutely nothing about me.

Yet, hordes of pathetic males continue to publicly ruminate on why women forcibly remove them from our social media lives. What are they? Thick? This is the reality of the online world women in the media find ourselves in. Every single day.

They remind me of possums. Just when you think you've eliminated the last one from around your vege garden, along comes the next unstoppable surge of the obnoxious, furry pests. Out comes the gun and off we go again.

Fellow Herald columnist Lizzie Marvelly has an entire blog site devoted to her. A very literate man who writes suspiciously well, but is clearly emotionally deranged, raves at length about who he thinks she is, why she is so wrong about everything, and how she "uses her sexuality" to get ahead in life. A life basically undeserving, he opines.

Now, think about that for a moment. Thousands of words used for the express purpose of attacking a woman for having opinions. Well-adjusted people would choose not to read her column. Not this guy.

To block someone is not censorship. It's just that I don't want to hear you, or more to the point, for you to hear me. There is no rule that I must give you access to my online world. Just like you can block me whenever you choose. Rather that, than festering away behind the scenes, where it's only you and your mates having a wee paddy about me.

Without a doubt, even writing this will set off another wave of howling and baying from the usual suspects. Some will even say I'm asking for it. Hmmm.... where have I heard that line before?

Until Twitter, and other social media sites, come up with a mechanism to finally put an end to online harassment, I'll keep treating the block button as my friend. It's called self-preservation.

Dress it up however you want. Their online behaviour is about silencing women, and pure unadulterated hate. Unlike many other women, I'm not going to be driven off Twitter.

Must dash. The next procession of possums is arriving, and I need to get my eye in.

- NZ Herald

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Rachel Stewart is winner of the 'Opinion Writer of the Year' award at the 2016 Canon Media Awards.

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