Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Internet and Anger

I love social media. I'm on Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, Google+, the whole shebang. I love getting news in almost real time, getting different perspectives, learning new names and ideas. But what I do not love are the knee-jerk assumptions and trolls.

I recently came out on Twitter as a rape survivor. Obviously, I do not talk about my rape frequently on social media. It happened long enough ago, that I don't talk about it much in person. No doubt, there were a few followers who knew me in real life who found out that I was assaulted on the internet. And maybe they were shocked. Or, they know the statistics and were not shocked.

Now, I had a reason for sharing this information on the internet. I wanted to share my story of abuse, shame, and recover in 140 characters or less to explain my participation in Slutwalk NYC, which has a politically complicated relationship with a number of women I admire very much. I got a call about this tweet from a friend (probably notified by another friend) and we had a very emotional discussion about the walk and my experience with sexual abuse.

But I also got a spammer who replied to that post. I saw it immediately after the walk, when I was extremely rattled by the day's events. At first, I just wanted to ignore it. It was what my mother taught me to do on the playground "Just ignore them. They only want attention." But then, that attitude got me raped in the first place, delayed me even calling it rape, and the asshole is walking around a free, married man. So I cussed the spammer out.

This wasn't necessarily what I would call a proud moment, but you know what? The fucker deleted her comment.

So today, after a full week of work, I go to a conference marking the 20th anniversary of Anita Hill's testimony. It was another brutal day--in large part because I was operating on a small coffee, conferences bring out weirdo cranks, and then I was thinking back to my rape again (my rapist was also a coworker). I had originally thought of making it a full day of activism, moving on to Occupy Times Square tonight. But I just couldn't. I'm exhausted, I have laundry to do, I want to spend time with the cat, you know? Sometimes you have to pick your battles, and what can I say, I picked mine.

So I tweeted this, because this is what I do. And this bitch writes back, "well why don't you just roll over and continue to sleep. and you will wake up to a nightmare. cause you didn't participate." 

And again, I thought, "I'll just ignore her. I don't know her, she can fuck herself." But again, I said no to my good girl instincts and instead let loose on her:

  • Why don't you go fuck yourself for judging a fellow activist who spent her day fighting a related fight?
  • By the way, my day job is fighting for economic justice, not playing with dolls [as she stated in her profile. Yes, I went to her profile looking for things to hate.]

And then, to the general public, these:

  • Folks, just because we're on the internet doesn't mean you can ignore context. Pay attention to links, times, etc before you run your mouth.
  • Political arena needs thoughtful discussion, not more asshole remarks. I'm not going to be quiet & take it online anymore than in person.
So I can't say that I lived up to my own words here (although I am not linking to her profile, to protect her anonymity), but I do think that this is useful. I refuse to be bullied on the internet, even by people who clearly have no idea who I am. I know a lot of women, transpeople, queers get much worse harassment, but that still doesn't mean that I have to put up with what is thrown at me. I like that the internet allows me to publicly experience my anger, and also think for a few minutes before responding (unlike in a conversation). Women still aren't allowed to experience anger in many public forums, and it makes me feel stronger knowing that I am not backing down and playing nice.

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