Cyber Stalking: Anything But a Modern Love Story
The Styles section of this Sunday’s New York Times featured Amy Klein’s essay, “My Very Own Cyberstalker,” in its weekly Modern Love column. In the essay, Klein, a journalist, recalls meeting a fellow reporter, Luke Ford, who then writes about her in his blog. At first, the reporter’s posts seemed innocuous, e.g., he wrote that she favored skirts when she in fact never wore them and that she was shy. Then, his posts escalated into the frightening–“I’d like to bonk Amy on the head with a Talmud and drag her back to my Aborigine-style hovel and make her mine.” He also began to criticize her work as delusional and shoddy. The blogger apparently continued his fixation with Klein for years, and at times, Klein worried that his writing hurt her reputation.
With her history with the cyber stalker thus recounted, Klein’s essay then veers into the unpredictable and, by my lights, deeply disturbing. Klein attests that “it was oddly flattering to have someone obsessed with me, even someone like Luke Ford.” She explains that when the reporter finally began to fixate, and blog, about other women (i.e., younger reporters whom he deemed hotter than Ms. Klein), she was sad. She asks “why had he dumped me?” and admits to missing the attention.
Klein’s essay is stupefying and offensive. Klein seemingly equates her cyber stalker with a love interest and, in the process, makes light of a deeply serious problem—cyber harassment—that afflicts countless women every year. According to a 2006 study, individuals writing under female names received 25 times more sexually menacing comments than posters writing under male names. And Working to Halt Online Abuse reports that, in 2006, 70% of the 372 individuals that it helped combat cyber harassment were female and, in half of those cases, the victims had no connection to their stalkers. In response to cyber attacks, women tend to go offline or write under gender-neutral pseudonyms to avoid further harassment. Victims of cyber harassment also feel a sustained loss of personal security. In short, cyber harassment is anything but a modern love story. Such coverage trivializes the very real problem of cyber harassment and, in turn, sends the odious message that such stalking is not only acceptable but indeed desirable.