Before I worked at the Herald, I never read the comment section.

I, like many Kiwis, simply opted out. Better that than arguing with a holocaust denier until 3am.

My resolution couldn't last. When I was hired as a social media producer, managing the comment section became one of my responsibilities.

The Herald receives hundreds of thousands of comments each week, most of them constructive and respectful.


It is the vocal minority, however, that keeps me awake at night.

On Facebook, where most people use their real names, some Kiwis are perfectly comfortable voicing views that, to my mind, seem incredibly backwards in 2017.

In a country that was the first to give women the vote, and one of the first to allow gay people the right to marry, this seems a sad indictment on our proudly progressive history.

What the comment section has taught me

I learned that sexism is alive and well in this country - and it's not just a women's issue.

I learned that if a young man has been sexually assaulted, there will be many comments congratulating him.

I learned that fourteen year olds raped by their teacher will be considered by some to be "Lucky boys."

I learned that if there is a sex pest or rapist on the loose, hundreds of men and women will tag their mates, suggesting "humorously" that they may be the perpetrator.

I learned that some people think there are things a female rape victim can do to "deserve" their victimisation.

On a story about a Kiwi rape victim finally coming out of hiding, a commenter said:

"It's BS if you were that innocent, you would have gone straight to the police. Waiting years before you say anything and then running to the media hahahaha."

Another story, about an extremely drunk 15-year-old New Zealander raped at a party by her "friends".

"The victim has to take some responsibility for her actions as well. If she hadn't made such poor choices it wouldn't have happened."

I learned to develop a thick skin, but it doesn't sit well. It sits particularly badly today.

124 years ago, our little country became the first to grant all women the right to vote and we celebrated that on our Facebook page.

"What a mistake that was" a commenter shot back.

Happy Suffrage Day New Zealand; see you in the comment section.