By Elizabeth Plank
When Aisha Tyler isn’t busy being a talented actress (i.e. the voice of Lana Kane in FX’s animated comedy Archer), a brilliant comedian, a successful author, and a fabulous talk show host, she enjoys being a social justice crusader. As an avid activist, she’s supported a range of causes, from gay marriage to reproductive justice. As the woman who famously told Mitt Romney, “You do not love women,” she’s topped our list of the most amazing feminists in America. In honor of PolicyMic’s special series of content around Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (read more here), Aisha Tyler agreed to answer a few questions posed by PolicyMic’s rockstar intern Liz Plank about her first-hand experience with internet trolls, online sexual harassment, and her thoughts on modern-day feminism. Here’s what she had to say.
Elizabeth Plank, for PolicyMic (EP): You encountered a lot of sexist online harassment after you were the host of the E3 Ubisoft Press Conference. Your response was awesome. Did it stop the online assaults? What is your advice for women who are being harassed online?
Aisha Tyler (AT): I don’t think the gaming letter I wrote on Facebook (found here at https://www.facebook.com/notes/aisha-tyler/dear-gamers/10151040991508993) necessarily stopped any online assaults. But it did help encourage others to speak out about misogyny in gaming, and to help them feel like they had an additional voice speaking on their behalf. And for the record, for every sexist or negative comment I had online, there were 10 or more encouraging or supportive ones. So while there is still an outspoken contingent of people in the gaming community who try to discourage or lash out at women gamers, for the most part the community becomes more welcoming every day. I love games; and gamers all have that in common. A love of gameplay tends to level the field.
For women who are being harassed online, there are two choices: one, ignore it. This is far easier said than done, but the fact is that if you address a troll, you are feeding their flame. As the saying goes, “don’t feed the trolls.” They are looking for a reaction, so the smartest and best approach is to not give them that satisfaction. If you must engage, employ your allies. There are far more positive voices in the gaming community than negative ones. Retweeting a negative or sexist comment puts that person on blast with the larger community. Usually your friends and followers will do the dirty work of ripping this person a new one for you, which I admit with some sheepishness can be very enjoyable to watch.
EP: What do you think men can do or say to stop sexual harassment and sexual violence, both offline and online?
AT: Men need to speak up when they see harassment, either online or in the real world. Period. Just imagine that this woman is your girlfriend, mother or sister. Would it be okay for someone to treat one of them the way they are treating the woman in front of you? If you can find a way to empathize by relating to the women you care about, it quickly becomes clear that this behavior is unacceptable. And men are more likely to respond to the comments and scrutiny of other men when they are harassing women, as they can’t dismiss their disapproval as gender-motivated. It doesn’t have to be a speech. Just a simple, “Dude. Not cool.” can make someone reexamine their behavior.
EP: You’ve been involved in a lot of causes over the years ranging from marriage equality to women’s reproductive freedom. Why do these causes matter to you? Do you identify as a feminist?
AT: I definitely identify as a feminist, but more widely, as a humanist. A belief in feminism is a belief in personal freedom — the freedom to live a life free of fear of violence, to select a fulfilling career and be compensated fairly, to choose when to start a family, to marry whom you love. I want everyone, regardless of gender, to live a life free of restriction or fear, able to pursue their own personal brand of happiness and fulfillment. As an American and a patriot, I believe deeply in our right to be the sole architects of our own destiny. That is why I fight for equality.
You can catch Aisha Tyler as part of the cast of Archer Thursdays at 10:00 PM on FX. She also debuts as the host of the (long-awaited) comeback of Whose Line Is It Anyway on June 16th on CW. She can be seen every weekday as co-host of the Emmy-nominated show The Talk on CBS. Her new book Self-Inflicted Wounds will be out July 9th and you can pre-order it at girlonguy.net. Also be sure to check out her fantastic podcast (also available on iTunes and Stitcher).
Originaly published on April 24, 2013 on PolicyMic.com.