So what about those of us—especially, but not only, women—who want to dig into contentious topics like Sarkeesian’s, especially when we know damn well that doing so all but guarantees that we’ll be targeted? Besides barricading our comment queue and our hearts against the inevitable attacks, what can we do to try to smooth this rocky passage toward a better, safer world?

I am so far from having an answer, but I have a suspicion that counterattacks are not working. It’s worthwhile to cover horrible things like the attacks on Sarkeesian and Penny Red and so many others because doing so can help uncommitted or passive readers understand and defend against this behavior. But as cathartic and entertaining as it might be, skewering trolls and attacking jerks is never going to change their minds. Putting people on the defensive only hardens their positions.

When it comes to actually changing minds, I think we’re stuck with love.

Recognizing the humanity of people who do awful things is one of the core challenges of being human. (We have enough trouble recognizing it even in people who are like us.) But it’s the only way out. Even when the worst trolls are beyond visible redemption, the way we handle them is visible to so many others who are still capable of feeling empathy or recognizing pain or changing their minds.

How to Kill a Troll – Fantastic and brave essay by Erin Kissane.