[Oh, yes, indeed! You thought we would slow it down? YOU WERE WRONG. Because it is still LADYPALOOZA: Like an extra-girly-flavored Woodstock, but if Woodstock were on the Internet, and two weeks long (or possibly... LONGER???) and also not very much like Woodstock at all, really. My point is: Stop having joint-fueled sex in the mud and get over here, you hippies! Because there's something we haven't covered yet, and it is important. We have been focusing quite a bit on the people making the music -- "musicians," I hear they're called -- but there is another part of the equation, and it is just as important. That part is: Fans! How do they relate to their favorite musicians? Does it get COMPLICATED? Yes, it does! And thus, we lead off with an account of one such COMPLICATION, a post which I literally begged a lady to write for me, for it concerns an issue close to my withered, Haterade-pumping heart. That lady's name is Annaham. And she has some, let us say, Experiences to share!]
Greetings, Tiger Beatdown readers! I am Annaham. You may know me from the rather scattered comments I’ve left hither and thither on this website, or from my work at FWD/Feminists With Disabilities.
You may also know me from a fairly recent controversy that erupted, in part, due to a post of mine. I am the person who wrote the infamous “Evelyn Evelyn: Ableism Ableism?” (please note the question mark there, because it seems that not many people did!) post at FWD, which got our site quite a bit of attention. That one post, once it had been be-Twittered and linked and sent around and, perhaps, rolled through one of those hand cranks used to make fresh pasta from scratch, got many, many views within a couple of days (so many, in fact, that we almost exceeded our bandwidth). This came about a week after it had been up on the site without incident, to boot.
We at FWD write on a wide variety of topics such as work, poverty, global issues, the medical industry, disability pride, advocacy, news media depictions of disability, daily life, and a ton of other things that aren’t pop culture–all of which, sadly, do not seem to get nearly as much attention as our posts about pop culture get. I have no idea what it is about popular culture that compels folks on the Internet to defend it as they might defend their country in battle. As a teenager, I used to be something of an Internet pop-culture warrior myself, but something in me eventually realized that there is much more to being a fan than fulfilling the “fan”-sounding syllable in “sycophant.” But I digress.
As a reader, you might think, from many of the responses that I and my co-blogger Lauredhel (who wrote a great followup post on Evelyn Evelyn a few days later) got, that we’d been contributing to a site called AmandaPalmerSucks.com instead of disabledfeminists.com. Some selections from the mod queue from those two posts:
“What’s the matter with you?”
“cant handle it? then just fucking die!”
“fuck u die slow nigga!”
“ONOEZ SOMEONE WANTED TO SMACK SOMEONE SUCH VIOLENCE!!! Typical retarded comment on an idiotic, stupid, moronic, weak, and lame blog. Fucking oversensitive twits.”
Let me tell you, gentle readers, some of the things that I experienced as a result of the fallout from that post are not things that I would recommend to anyone, unless you like having constant anxiety as a feature of your daily life. One thing that I haven’t really talked about publicly is that anxiety; I figure that now might be a good time to do so, given that I (fuckin’ finally) have some distance.
The weirdest thing about the Internet is that many people — particularly those who are not on it a lot, or do not have an “online life” — think it’s “just the Internet,” and therefore do not take some of the ad hominem bullshit and bullying and threats that happen online seriously. By “seriously,” I am not quite talking about legal action or anything like that; simply put, some people hear the phrase “I got threats for this thing I wrote…on the Internet” and think that since it’s JUST THE INTERNET, nobody takes trolls seriously, so why are you letting it affect you? It’s that “putting the onus on the person who gets shit slung at them to not let the shit, nor the experience of getting it slung at them, nor its odor, bother them” thing. Delightful.
It may be “just the Internet,” but unless you have personally gone through a gigantic Internet Thing where certain facets of your identity are attacked and you and your fellow writers are threatened in a way that is, to put it mildly, ick-inducing, you cannot really know what it is like — no matter how many times you SAY, “I wouldn’t let that affect me! You are just over-sensitive! Here is how I would do it differently!” Because really, saying it and actually going through it are two very different things. Especially when the onus is, once again, on you and your co-bloggers to be polite and understanding and engage with people who apparently do not see any of you as human — even as they themselves staunchly back their idol, Amanda Palmer, who, for some reason, gets carte blanche to do things such as:
- Write long blog posts that don’t actually address any of the critiques raised and instead contain classic dodges like “I’m sorry that you were offended.”
- Make fun of her critics’ very existence on Australian television. (DISABLED FEMINISTS HAR HAR HAR SOOO FUNNY U GUYZ!!11)
- Say that she’s been “crucified” by these same critics.
- Leave several ill-advised 140-character “responses” on Twitter.
Throughout all of this, you are still the one who is Too Sensitive To Be On the Internet. And even if you’ve made it pretty clear that you are a fan of the person you are criticizing — as I did — you’ll still be portrayed as a hater.
Meanwhile: It’s affected you, horror of horrors. You can’t sleep. You aren’t eating well, if at all. Checking e-mail has become, in a word, fraught. You find it next to impossible to concentrate on your “day job” as a grad student, preferring instead to watch reruns of South Park in between pacing your apartment and feeling a despondency that anti-depressants cannot even touch. You want to write, but even sitting down in front of the computer has become overlaid with an odd kind of dread — even if you aren’t going to log onto the Internet. You’ve started grinding your teeth in your sleep again, and then you wonder why the fuck your jaw feels like it’s been beaten with a mallet. You wish you could just be enraged instead of being polite, make off-the-cuff remarks on Twitter, and adopt a sort of IF YOU ARE TAKING ME DOWN, YOU ARE GOING DOWN WITH ME, YOU PIECES OF DISGUSTING SHAG CARPET attitude. Other people — more famous people, the person you criticized — can do those things and claim that they are not overly sensitive to Internet Criticism; yet, you cannot.
However, almost no one sees any of the stress, or the anger, or the anxiety that this has caused you — and your co-bloggers — publicly. Because you are expected to bend over backwards and sideways to appear polite and reasonable in order to get the people who have cavalierly dismissed not your words, but you, and your fellow blog contributors, as just “bitching,” and “overly-sensitive,” and “insincere,” and “retarded,” and “angry,” and “not really disabled,” and other choice things (more on that here) to maybe, maybe, see you as a human being, or at least worthy of engaging with on a level that’s, y’know, fair.
But you’re not famous, and you’re not a great artist who makes art and stuff, so that isn’t going to work. You have to be patient and give it time to fade.
The responsibility is on you, little person. It’s always on you. If you speak out, you’re just easily offended and, like, if you’re so disabled, what are you doing blogging or writing or whatever the hell it is you do? (We can use computers now, yessir.) If you try to explain very basic social justice concepts politely to commenters and then lose your patience when they refuse to cut out the personal attacks… oh, you’ve lost your temper, so they don’t have to take you seriously. If you’re not satisfied with the reactions to your critique from various quarters, you’re demanding too much. If you take exception to this person’s going on TV and presenting your and your co-bloggers’ identities as disabled feminists for mocking, you just don’t have a sense of humor! If you care about these issues enough to write about them at all (without any sort of compensation, I might add) — you clearly have too much time on your hands.
All of this can be used against you as evidence — by the trolls and those who claim to be “neutral” or “playing Devil’s advocate” and superfans and people who “respect” the supposedly sacred nature of ART!!11 and people who wonder why you have to be, so, like, serious about this “social justice” and/or “anti-ableism” and/or “feminism” thing or whatever, and why can’t you just enjoy stuff, and others. It can and will be used against you, to prove that you just can’t handle the Internet. When it comes to the people attacking you, however, it never seems to cross the minds that they might be the ones who can’t handle things like criticism, or solid arguments, or, heaven forfend, the fact that other people (some of whom like to share their opinions) exist in the world and, yes, on blogs.
Here’s the thing: I’ve been on the Internet for a while. I know how trolls work. I know how this personal-attack shit works. I can handle the Internet; I’ve handled it before. What I didn’t expect was a concerted campaign to drive me off the Internet and, above all, to shut me up — spearheaded by one of my favorite musicians. And I experienced much of the backlash without the power of fame, without being invited to discuss my hurt feelings on television, without a gargantuan fan base to back up my every move, and with a widespread cultural belief that my concerns, as a woman and a person with disabilities, are inherently unimportant, trivial, and entirely dismissible. I can, in fact, handle the Internet well — better than most people. I know this, because I’m still here.
[Annaham is a feminist with a chronic pain condition and is currently a grad student in Women's and Gender Studies. She dislikes long walks on the beach, her numerous food allergies, and perfume that contains alcohol. You can keep abreast of her current quest to ruin contemporary feminism (one pain pill at a time) at her blog.]
AND NOW, A VERY SPECIAL EDITORIAL NOTE
Your comments may take a while to get through, today. This is because we are strongly anti-Internet harassment, at the Tiger B. And, given how much Internet harassment Annaham has already received, by writing about this subject, we have a duty to keep an especially strong eye out for it in regards to this post. Therefore, for one day only, we are switching back to the old Tiger Beatdown mode of commenting, in which every comment — including comments from approved users — has to be approved by hand before it is published. This is much slower! However, I told Annaham how nice you all were, and how we were going to take care that she had an extra-awesome blogtime over here, so, like: Compliments? Thoughts? Substantive engagement? I would encourage you to leave some of those right now!