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Watching out for women on the web

Malinda Groening

Women are finding new ways on the internet to fight back against men who've cheated or harassed them.

"While he may seem like a sweet, caring, overall nice guy at first, be warned that first impressions are deceiving, " says one post on a new Web site, "Not only is [he] a compulsive cheater, but a liar and a manipulator as well."

Founder Tasha Joseph's bio on the site says she was inspired to create this space after watching her girlfriends go through the pain of infidelity uncovered.

The site touts itself as, "a new cost-effective weapon in the war on cheating men," as opposed to costly private investigators and background checks. Women can add the name and details of the alleged betrayals to the database, complete with photograph. "This is just plain trashy," says sophomore Anu Bhatt. "Its just vindictive. Its not fair to these guys to have their private liaisons broadcast on the Internet because their exes are stupid bitches."

"Even though the saying goes 'once a cheater, always a cheater' it's not exactly true. I think mostly this site is a place for bitter women to vent their frustrations in the company of other bitter women" says sophomore English major Charlotte Riggert.

However, other women have a different perspective on the sites. "I think someone who cheats is the scum of the earth," remarks junior international relations major Caitlin Ferguson. "I don't find a problem with a wronged woman pronouncing it at the top of her lungs."

Another site in the same vein is, where, taking full advantage of cell phone technology, users can snap and submit pictures of street harassers. The site's credo is "If you can't Slap 'em, Snap 'em!"

The HollaBack site defines street harassment as, "a form of sexual harassment that takes places in public spaces." In the Frequently Asked Questions section of the site, they focus on the harassment directed at historically subjugated groups like women and those of alternative sexualities.

The site says "Whether you're commuting, lunching, partying, dancing, walking, chilling, drinking or sunning, you have the right to feel safe, confident and sexy, without being the object of some turd's fantasy."

"It seems like it might have started out as a good idea; street harassment is definitely a huge problem anywhere for women and no one seems to do anything about it," comments Riggert. "Maybe it makes women feel better to do something about it, even if just over the Internet, but I can only imagine these guys sitting around patting each other on the back if they saw this."

Sites like these can prompt questions about whether they empower female victims of harassment and infidelity by providing a forum through which they can commiserate, or whether they further the stereotype of women as gossips.

Bhatt comments, "There's so much out there about how smarmy some women can be after break-ups, and these just reinforce that stereotype."

Many women expressed concern that these sites lacked an element of proactivity, and relied instead on reactive opinion and after-the-fact information, doing very little halt the cycle of harassment.

"We can all sit at our computers and say 'God, what dogs,'" says Riggert, "I think pasting their pictures on the Internet and giving them a quick 15 minutes of fame isn't going to help the situation."

Could these resources be helping women take back the web? "In this day and age if I decided I wanted to know about a person, I would probably Google them to make sure I didn't find a prison record," says Ferguson. "What's wrong with knowledge?"