A woman who spent years seeking refuge from hateful online comments says she’s once again being victimized after her anonymity was compromised, allegedly by an LCBO employee.
The woman, who doesn’t want her identity revealed, says her nightmare began after a video showing her confronting men’s rights activists at the University of Toronto went viral in 2013.
It’s been viewed over 1.2 million times on YouTube, spawning venomous comments like “I hope you die of breast cancer” and “I would love to take a rifle and shoot you dead with it.”
“I was harassed and stalked over the internet,” she says. “I was threatened. They sent me death threats, rape threats.”
The frightening deluge of hatred forced her to cease her feminist activism. She stopped going to protests, seeking solace in obscurity.
But her brief reprieve ended after someone posted a screen grab of a security video to Facebook recently, showing her shopping inside an LCBO store.
She believes it was posted by the LCBO employee who helped her inside the store a few weeks ago.
The post states: “Ladies and gentlemen I present to you … the U of T feminist sensation … I deliberately asked her if she needed help to confirm her voice and my God everything checks out.”
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The LCBO tells CityNews an investigation has been launched.
“The LCBO is taking this matter very seriously, and has policies in place to protect the privacy of our customers,” the crown corporation said in a statement. “Our store video surveillance system at the LCBO is in place to protect the safety and security of LCBO customers and staff, as well as to protect LCBO property and deter criminal activities. Under our policies, video surveillance footage is only to be used for these purposes, and we have rules around the handling of images.”
Since the matter is under investigation, the LCBO says it can’t discuss the employment status of the person accused of the privacy breach.
But the woman whose image was plastered online says the issue transcends one LCBO employee’s alleged indiscretion.
“It’s an issue of women getting harassed, especially feminists getting harassed, by men. In particular people who are anti-feminists. It’s a huge thing we ignore,” she maintains. “We don’t take it seriously.”
“The level of misogyny in our culture has been exacerbated by social media,” she adds.
She’s not the first feminist to experience a barrage of sustained online wrath. Anita Sarkeesian, who criticized how women are portrayed in the gaming industry, is just one high-profile example.
Sarkeesian received thousands of death and rape threats.
The woman at the centre of the LCBO controversy admits she was somewhat crass and confrontational in the original YouTube video from 2013, but says she didn’t deserve the “living hell” that followed.
“I was vocal, I was rude, I’m not going to deny that,” she admits. “At the same time it was still just a war of words.”
“I don’t regret going to that protest,” she adds. “What I regret more than anything is that we live in a world where this is the reaction.”
After the Facebook post, her sense of privacy has been shattered, and she’s not sure it can be pieced back together.
“(I feel like) I’m being watched constantly,” she says. “No matter what I do, I’m under a monitor.
“This is not going away, no matter what I do.”