Amanda Todd: Gendered Cyber-Stalking & Bullying
Discussion of suicide and child porn ahead.
Amanda Todd, a 15 year old girl, killed herself on October 10th. Before she died, she made a PSA about bullying and put it on Youtube. In the video, she detailed experiencing depression and anxiety as a result of being cyber-stalked, harassed, and bullied. She was targeted by a man she flashed on the Internet when she was 12 or 13, and then by her classmates when the man released topless pictures of her on Facebook. He did this again when she switched schools, and both times made sure that her classmates would see her pictures. Things did not culminate with her suicide attempt via ingesting bleach, a move she made after a sex partner’s girlfriend assaulted her at school — they got worse for her, as her classmates began making jokes about Clorox and her attempt on social media sites.
Amanda Todd’s story isn’t just about bullying. That’s evident in any summary of what happened to her, yet the focus is almost exclusively on bullying. But what of sexism? What about the fact that only a girl or a woman could experience what she endured? Someone released child pornography featuring her on the Internet, directed to her friends and to strangers, a factor which seems to be brought up only when people are skeptical of her story. “Something doesn’t add up,” people say. Or when they do believe her claims, they cry “where were her parents?!” and mention how they’d never make the mistake of flashing someone on the Internet. They had better self-esteem than that.
I take Amanda Todd’s story personally because I was just likeher. I felt ashamed and I was bullied and I wanted to kill myself because I didn’t see myself as having a future. To be quite frank, I have a hard time now imagining a future outside of my minimum wage job. (Even now I worry about getting fired or looked at differently at work. I’m always worried about the pictures.) And when I’ve tried to share my experiences of being harassed and cyber-stalked, a picture of my topless 15 year-old self included, I’ve been told that I must be lying – it’s child pornography, technically, so that guy would obviously be in prison. Or I could report him to the police, even though I can only suspect who the culprit is. Even though I can’t prove I was fifteen. Even though many men who are allegedly disgusted by child porn and pedophiles see minors who are post-pubescent as fair game, or as a gray area.