Sky Ferreira’s Facebook Message Highlights the Fine Line Between Internet Misogyny and Sexual Harassment

Sky Ferreira is no doubt an “internet artist.” As much as her major label, Capitol, would like to see her on radio playlists, that will require more pop tides to turn full Lorde. Part of calling the web your home turf is, of course, dealing with the haters. We all know the rules: don’t read the comments, don’t feed the trolls, etc. etc. But online hatred can and often does go too far, particularly when the comments cross over into harassment. Ferreira took to Facebook yesterday to discuss both her own experience of this, and the blanket misogyny of the web.

Ferreira’s post is a candid reaction to her treatment by “fans” and the internet in general, detailing both specific one-on-one harassment and more general being-a-wang-on-the-internet behavior. Focus on the former while reading (full letter below), because it’s what is really troubling here:

I’m exhausted of (more than some) people telling me how I should look or be if I want to be a “pop star” & how they think it’s okay to say vile & (sexually) abusive shit to me on a daily basis over the internet. I’m not only writing about myself…because almost every person has to deal with this. It’s a shame because I now feel like I can’t connect or directly speak with true fans. I’m not a mess,I’m not a drug addict, I’m not a slut or a bitch. I recently blocked someone because they were constantly harassing me & making fun of sexual abuse that happened in my past…Which I’ve publicly spoken about to hopefully help others. They came to one of my shows & my friend confronted the person.We were accused of being homophobic after. Which is absolutely insane because my friends,my family & a majority of my fans are homosexual. Sexuality,gender,race,& age are irrelevant to me. As it should be for everyone by now. Treating people like shit because you feel like shit doesn’t help anyone. If you see hateful/disgusting/abusive comments,please start reporting it or deleting it. I think that’s the only way we can start to lower that sort of thing from happening. Use the internet as a way to connect with others & LEARN. Show & spread compassion. <33333 P.S. Sorry for the typos

I’m reminded of the disturbing editorial CHVRCHES frontwoman Lauren Mayberry wrote for The Guardian last year, in which she detailed the graphic messages received via the band’s Facebook. Demands for sex, threats of rape, that kind of thing — not mere “you’re ugly/fat/not good enough” comments. (Not to downplay all manners of internet scrutiny faced by visible females. It’s all rage blackout-inducing and casually accepted out of futility over the fact that there are few proven solutions besides getting rid of comments sections all together.)

There’s also Grimes’ highly detailed list of grievances over being in the public eye, which made the rounds on Tumblr last April. Some were the standard fare as far as celebrity misogyny goes — weight, looks, sexuality — but like Ferreira and Mayberry, Grimes shed light on some of the more vulgar examples. “I don’t want to be molested at shows or on the street by people who perceive me as an object that exists for their personal satisfaction,” she wrote. “I don’t want to live in a world where I’m gonna have to start employing body guards because this kind of behavior is so commonplace and accepted and I’m pissed that when I express concern over my own safety it’s often ignored until people see firsthand what happens and then they apologize for not taking me seriously after the fact.”

What made the Tumblr rounds shortly thereafter was a screenshot of sexist comments made on a Rolling Stone news story about Grimes’ post. Make me a sandwich, get back in the kitchen, deal with it or get out, and a slew of other disheartening snark that only reaffirmed what Grimes was saying.

So often it feels like when young women in music speak out against sexual harassment, their perspectives are lumped into a generic “ladies bitching” category and thus taken far less seriously. Ultimately, I’m not sure it’s reaching the kind of scum who threaten others on the internet, instead mostly just preaching to the converted and riling them up. But it does feel necessary to discuss regardless, and getting specific certainly helps. Online anonymity allows people to disassociate themselves from their bad behavior very easily, so the tactics taken by Mayberry and Ferreira — in which they either clearly describe the situation or even screenshot it — force the offenders to see the effect their words have. The alternative — saying nothing — shows implied compliance over the fact that accepting this behavior is somehow de rigueur for a public figure.