Wednesday 26 October 2016

BBC sends security guard to protect journalist who received abuse on Twitter after she said she didn't want children

Holly Brockwell is the editor of Gadgette, a tech and lifestyle website for women

Published 26/11/2015 | 08:16

A journalist who talked about how she didn't want to have children received so much abuse from trolls on Twitter that she was forced offline - and the BBC had to send a security guard to protect her.

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Holly Brockwell, 29, is the editor of Gadgette, a tech and lifestyle website for women. A winner of The Drum's 'Woman of the Year' award, she was commissioned to write for the BBC to celebrate its '100 Women 2015' series, in an article entitled, 'Desperate not to have children'.

In the piece, which was published on 22 November, Ms Brockwell wrote: "As a woman, there are four little words I can say that invite more condescension than almost any others: "I don't want children."

"The fact is, there's nothing about creating another human that appeals to me. That's an emotional thing, and translating it into rational reasons takes something away from its strength."

She went on to describe the most common response when people hear of her decision to seek sterilisation - "But why?" - and explained that she's been called "selfish" and has experienced difficulty having her tubes tied, even when going through her GP and Marie Stopes.

But nothing could have prepared her for the level of abuse she would receive once the article went online.

It was so vitriolic that she was forced to deactivate her Twitter account, and, as reported by Business Insider, had to be met and escorted from her car to the building by a security guard when she visited the BBC to take part in a Q&A.

She told the news outlet: "They actually got me a bodyguard to take me from the car to the building, they're worried someone is going to attack me" - adding later that the "bodyguard" was most likely a BBC security guard.

She added: "There is no escape from it, it's across all social channels, in my work email and my personal email. ... I got a message from Linkedin!"

In a follow-up article for the corporation, Ms Brockwell explained that she was forced offline after being inundated with insults and threats ranging from "ignorant", "selfish", "stupid", "an attention seeker" and "in need of psychiatric help".

Some told her that the NHS shouldn't pay for her to be sterilised as the money "would be better spent on sick children", others branded her a "media whore" and: "One man said he wouldn't want to have sex with me (except he was far less polite about it)."

"The volume of messages I had within half an hour on Twitter, Facebook, email and Instagram worried me," she said.

"Things that I can't repeat and I would never say to anyone no matter what they had done."

Ms Brockwell also said that while many of the comments were supportive, some of the most abusive used "gender-specific" words that would never have been said to a man in the same situation - and most of the messages appeared to be from men.

"I feel like that's significant because it was nearly all from men - although there were a couple from women - men trying control a woman's body," she said.

"I am used to trolling as I run a women's tech website but even I was affected this time because it was so vitriolic, so personal and nasty, and so specific about me and my professional life - not even about the issue of having children which I had been writing about."

She also said she believes she was targeted more vociferously because she is a woman writing about what some view as a "man's domain".

"There is a very small section of technology enthusiasts who know me because I'm a tech journalist and really decided to tear me to pieces," she told Business Insider.

"Those people specifically don't like having women in technology, they don't like women writing about it. Automatically, as a woman, you have to work so much harder to get any recognition at all, there's hardly any of us in it, I'm not surprised.

One man said he'd like to "crowdfund a laryngectomy for me so I wouldn't be able to speak anymore. That really got to me."

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