I wouldn’t call myself a huge Internet geek, but I can’t say that I don’t understand many of the popular Internet memes and in-jokes, most of which come from Reddit.com. Reddit is a simple website: you can post stories, articles, pictures, videos, etc. and users can vote on which content they find most interesting by upvoting, downvoting, and commenting. Content is submitted to subreddits, which are categories that help organize the site (e.g. cute animal pictures can be submitted to the subreddit r/aww, anything related to the show The Office can be submitted to the subreddit r/DunderMifflin, and so on). Redditors who get accounts can choose which subreddits to subscribe to or which default ones to unsubscribe from. A post’s success is determined by how close it is to the front page, its number of upvotes, and the legitimacy of the poster (Redditors are very suspicious of original content, so if you post something that is inaccurate or not yours, you will be downvoted quickly).
Unfortunately, there are plenty of politics that tie into Reddit. For example, most Redditors are obviously very liberal and/or atheist. While there is nothing wrong with having these beliefs, it’s frustrating when Redditors put their biases into posts, perpetuating ignorance and preventing objectivity when it comes to front page news. Additionally, most Redditors are single males. This doesn’t really surprise me when I see that common themes in posts and comments include men discussing their forever alone-ness, video games, and fake awe at finding a female submitter. What bothers me about the male domination on Reddit comes from the more disturbing trends associated with sexuality, such as posts that are NSFW.
If you haven’t come across the acronym before, NSFW stands for “not safe for work”. This is pretty self-explanatory—these posts are graphic in nature and could get you in trouble if you looked at it in a professional environment. Many NSFW posts include nudity, racy discussions, gory photos or videos, or things that are just unsettling. Sometimes NSFW posts aren’t too bothersome, i.e. slightly gory pictures from a medical procedure. However, when scrolling through the first few pages, these types of NSFW posts come few and far between. Instead, most involve a scantily clad woman.
I don’t mind men ogling at women. Yes, it’s annoying when significant others or people we have crushes on go goo-goo eyes for a hot model, but it’s natural for people to want to keep looking at people they’re attracted to. I’m also not a huge stickler for men who watch porn—I don’t want to know about how much they watch, and I don’t like that porn is degrading and unrealistic, but I understand how it’s a tool many people use to explore their sexuality.
Reddit goes beyond this ogling by making it the norm. Nine times out of ten I can expect a NSFW post to be of a woman with her top off. Whenever a woman submits a picture of herself, someone will comment on the fact that she will inevitably receive creepy private messages from other Redditors. Women are often generalized, especially those who supposedly friend zone guys or who consider themselves super feminists. Finally, and most disturbingly, Reddit has had a bad history of posting offensive, disgusting, and borderline-legal images of women. Almost a year and a half ago, Anderson Cooper exposed Reddit for part of this problem:
The subreddit r/Jailbait has since been banned, along with r/CreepShots, a subreddit dedicated to taking photos of attractive women without their consent. Unfortunately, there is a slew of similar subreddits remaining. To name a few: r/BeatingWomen, r/RapingWomen (with relevant subreddits r/RapeHumor, r/HotRapeStories, r/PicsOfDeadKids, r/KillingWomen, r/SexyAbortion…you get the picture), and r/misogyny. (Note: yes, these subreddits are still intact, and they are far too graphic for me to link to. If you choose to investigate, please proceed with extreme caution.) I thought the subreddit r/MensRights was terrible—the Southern Poverty Law Center marks it as a hate site—but then I was disgusted further by hearing about these other subreddits.
Reddit administrators were hesitant to ban various subreddits. They felt that it would infringe upon free speech. The idea is understandable—censorship is a sensitive issue and we must censor carefully—but these subreddits take things too far. People of all genders should have the right to look at pictures of people looking sexy when they are consenting and of age. However, it’s deplorable that Reddit still allows such misogynistic subreddits, posts, comments, and behaviors.
When I log into Reddit, I want to read discussions on the latest headlines, skim interesting AMAs (collaborative interviews, the most famous being Barack Obama’s), learn about the latest advances in science, enjoy my movie guilty pleasure, and look at beautiful pictures of outer space (despite the subreddit title it’s safe to click). I want to enjoy a site made for sharing new and exciting content, not one that marks itself as inclusive but can easily demonstrates the opposite. Redditors must work to be friendlier toward women. I know there are plenty of open-minded Redditors out there who agree. Hopefully they—and the rest of the Internet, for that matter—will learn to respect women.