On last night's episode of "The Bachelorette: Men Tell All," viewers got a taste of the vicious online abuse many women face on a daily basis. The Internet can be a glorious place where women's voices are lifted up -- but it can also be a hell hole of harassment.
Kaitlyn Bristowe has come under fire this season from both men and women who have taken it upon themselves to play the morality police. She (gasp!) had sex with a man she was dating mid-season -- one who she was very attracted to and who is currently one of her final two suitors. This act -- which breaks the unwritten, deeply retro sexual rules of "The Bachelor" franchise -- forced the show to acknowledge the universal truth that sex happens. It also brought a hailstorm of unsolicited, abusive and disgusting commentary into Kaitlyn's social media feeds. ABC decided to address this abuse on-air.
Chris Harrison, resident host/therapist/father figure, sat down with Kaitlyn and had her speak about the wave of abuse she's received. "I like to think that it doesn't matter what people think about me," she said, "but when it's thousands and thousands [of comments] just pouring in of people hating… I get death threats. That hurts."
He also read some of these tweets out loud:
"your the worst #bachelorette ever in history you're a little #whore so shut your little whore mouth. #slut"
"Kaitlyn you need to unspread your whore legs and shut your [redacted] filthy diseased mouth and [redacted] off"
The sentiments behind the tweets are clear: You're a woman and you acted in a way that I don't like, so stop talking and stop existing.
For anyone who has spent a lot of time on the Internet -- especially professionally, and especially as a woman -- these comments probably aren't all that surprising. Disgusting? Absolutely. Shocking? Sadly, no.
Women are more likely to be stalked and harassed online, no matter their age. Female gamers like Anita Sarkeesian and Brianna Wu receive targeted death threats on a regular basis. Women who write about women's issues for a living draw the ire of random Twitter users every day. Kaitlyn Bristowe is yet another public figure who has fallen prey to the crime of existing as a woman with a voice.
If nothing else, ABC's miniature PSA seemed to have an impact on a few of "The Bachelorette" contestants, encouraging them to speak up for Kaitlyn both during the show and online.
The segment shed light on a few truths that are far larger than "The Bachelorette": The people on the receiving end of Internet tripe are human beings. This is what women put up with online. And women -- their choices, their sex lives, their words -- do not exist for you.
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The best tweets about this week's "Bachelorette":