I am not a woman. I am not a woman online. I am not a woman online with an opinion. Despite this, I have no animus with women being online and having opinions.
It seems odd that I have to say this, but it's a good thing we have women online having opinions. However many people, and I'm talking mainly men here, don't agree.
Most of us have seen screenshots of women making statements and then some dude wades in arguing and telling them to read a book on the subject only for the woman to counter that she either wrote the book or has a PhD in the subject. And oh how we laugh, ho ho ho. Look at that foolish man, trying to one-up someone that has infinitely more knowledge than he does.
Except it's not really funny is it? I've laughed at how ridiculous the man looks but I haven't really stopped and thought about the mental load that this puts on the woman online with an opinion.
I have a very good friend who is a very smart person and she happens to be a woman and she often shares her knowledge online. She doesn't share her expertise to big note. She does it because she genuinely cares about her field of excellence and wants to help people understand better. She is patient when she is questioned and she tries to explain her ideas clearly.
Despite this, people - and again it's mainly men - are often jerks to her. They undermine her qualifications, attack her on minor points that miss the main issue, and seem to actively work to make her life as unpleasant as possible.
They do this all under the guise of "questioning" or "debating", but it's not. It's sexist interrogation. And she said to me that it's wearing her down. It makes her not want to be online anymore. "It makes me want to stop" she said. And if she were to stop that would be a tragedy. Because her patience and expertise and brilliance is such a jewel that we should cherish. And it underscores my point that I'm not prepared to name her because it would just make her a target all over again.
I like to hear a range of voices online because it helps me better understand the world around me. The internet has brought me closer to millions of experts on subjects I would never have been exposed to. And some of these voices are women. And that's both inconsequential and a great thing. It's inconsequential because an expert's an expert no matter what gendered pronoun they use, and it's a good thing because we get diversity of thinking, diversity of voices.
The last column I wrote on gender diversity tried to use facts and maths to argue that having more women on boards required men to step aside. And lo did I set forth a tide of angry mens. I got emails calling into question my sexuality and describing graphically the things I must have done to get this column. I even got a text message. Dude, I have your mobile number. What were you thinking?
But this isn't even one per cent of what women online with an opinion have to deal with. I wasn't threatened with rape and violence like novelist Lani Wendt Young. I wasn't the victim of a persistent smear campaign like Green MP Golriz Ghahraman. I just got told how wrong and stupid I am.
Thalia Kehoe Rowden recently pleaded on Twitter for "good men" to please call out the bad men who are bullies. And there are good men. Which is lucky, because this fight is not on women. They have every right to occupy the same spaces that men do. To have opinions. To want to share them. To engage in discussion without being attacked or undermined.
So yes, I am aware that not every man is a jerk to women online. But the bar to being a good man is not to stop being a jerk. Being a good man means speaking out when you see crappy behaviour by men. It means supporting women where it's wanted, and it means not tolerating the tide of sexism that is awash online. This can be by either reaching out to the victim of harassment to see if they're ok and need support, or speaking out against the harasser. Because there's a lot of them.
But if we respond loudly enough and in big enough numbers then we can all be good men. I'm not perfect by any means. I'm always trying to be better and I still have work to do. But men, we can all do it together
David Cormack has worked for the Labour and Green Parties and interned for Bill English while studying