So, that Annaham post! So good, right? So important. And, let me tell you, I did not have to delete almost any comments at all for that post. Because the people who comment here? So great! And I love them!
But let me tell you why that story was important to me. For, you see, a while ago, I was reporting a story (it did not run! Probably because my take on it was not as good as Annaham’s, really) about a lady what got harassed via the Internet. And, over the course of reporting this story, I thought: Hey! Perhaps I should write about how this affects other ladies, who are more or less radically different than the lady in question! So I put up a little message as my GChat status, asking ladies if they’d ever been harassed re: their looks online.
And, can I tell you? Responses, responses, RESPONSES! So many responses! And then there were other incidents I knew about, because I have Google Reader! Because here are some things that can happen to you if you have a fairly high-trafficked blog, on the Internet, and also are a lady:
- You can be called fat.
- You can have someone opine that the reason you write about rape is that you want someone to rape you, because you are so fat.
- You can be called a slut and/or fake feminist for looking okay in a sweater, and standing at an angle in which the viewer cannot help but notice that you like many women are in possession of real human lady breasts, and sharing a room once with President Bill Clinton.
- You can have an online voting poll in which dudes decide whether they would prefer to bang you or your co-blogger.
- You can be called a fake feminist and a hypocrite because clearly you are hot, and wear makeup, and therefore cannot possibly believe that you deserve rights.
- You can be the subject of an online game, in the Tucker Max fan forums, in which the goal is to Photoshop your face into the most unflattering possible scenario.
- You can be told that the only reason anyone pays attention to you is that you are hot.
- You can be the same person, and be told that you are old, disgusting, ugly, and not worthy of attention.
- You can have the only existing photo of you online stolen and posted on a BDSM website in a fake personal ad about how you want a man to come along and rough you up to fulfill your “rape fantasies.”
- You can have your own hate blog!
- You can have the only existing photo of you online stolen, and posted on a hate blog, along with the only existing photo of the lady you do Sexist Beatdown with. One of you will be deemed too ugly to rape; one of you will be deemed rapeable. Which is which? (SPOILER: I was the ugly one. I got off easy.)
And this doesn’t even begin to address your comment section. But you know who is in the mood to address your comment section, today? It is Amanda Hess of The Sexist and I! In a very special, New-Niceness-free edition of the Sexist Beatdown!
ILLUSTRATION: “You see, Frank, I really do have to suck ALL the dicks. So I’ll need to reschedule that meeting.”
SADY: Hello! And, in related news, I hate you! Because we are on the Internet. Where ladies are hated abundantly!
AMANDA: With much vigor and from many angles! I really, really identified with Annaham’s post, mostly about how shit on the Internet does affect me, but I’m not allowed to talk about it because “it’s the Internet.” But there. I said it, it does.
SADY: INDEED IT DOES! I once spoke to someone who was like, “all you ever talk about is who hates you on the Internet today. And why are you letting it get under your skin?” And I was like, “Because they hate me! I don’t care where they are! Being on the Internet makes it WORSE, because I can SEE them hating me, FROM MY BEDROOM!” “I have a phone with e-mail on it! I can see people hating me WHEREVER I AM IN THE WORLD!”
AMANDA: Yeah, or from my office? For my career is located on the Internet.
SADY: PRECISELY. And, I mean, I really identified with Annaham’s piece too. It said stuff I had been struggling to say, for like the LONGEST time, but in an actually sensical way that could potentially persuade people. Rather than me being like, “AND ALSO, in the SUBWAY, people are mean!”
AMANDA: For me, it wasn’t so much that I couldn’t figure out how to say it—though she said it very, very well—but that I didn’t want to, because I don’t want to tip my hand toward awful, anonymous commenters, or show any weakness, or risk being eviscerated for acting like a victim. It’s not that I feel that I’ve been victimized. I just want to be able to talk about this shit, basically, and there’s no space for that. So she’s very brave, is what I’m saying.
SADY: Exactly. Because, the thing is, when you talk about Dicks On The Internet Getting You Down—or, worse, snap at one of them—people think you are just hypersensitive, and a whiner, and petty, and whatever. They think it’s a personal problem. Whereas, me, I’ve talked to a lot of ladies who are on the Internet. I’m really into building Internet Lady Community, because it’s not so easy. And here is the one way I have learned that you can start a passionate conversation with a lady who works on the Internet: MENTION MEAN COMMENTERS. Because we all get it! In super-intense ways! And at high volume! Every single lady on the Internet gets this thing!
AMANDA: Oh yeah. None of us is immune. And it’s not subtle, either. It’s obviously—just obviously—targeted at shutting us up.
SADY: Yes. It is not personal, it affects ladies qua ladies, it hurts and saddens, and I believe in ye olden tymes we would refer to this as a “Really Fucking Obvious Feminist Issue.”
AMANDA: I know you recently quit the Internet for a weekend, and who can blame you? Because the real world is pleasant? But actually, people who aim personal attacks at us know that it makes us turn away and shut up, even for a little bit.
SADY: Exactly! And you can tell, because it tends to get more intense the larger one’s audience is. I feel like I, full disclosure, have been relatively privileged insofar as I do NOT get mean commenters all that often, largely because they can tell I am WAY MEANER than they are. I have developed this Massively Uninhibited Bitch Who Will Cut You Persona. And as much as that might alienate people, I feel like it was a smart decision. Because when posters OTHER than me are at my blog, they DON’T have a rep as someone who will cut off your balls and feed them to you, perhaps in a delicate white wine sauce, and the assholes feel a lot safer.
AMANDA: Well, I know a lot of women who fucking love that persona of yours because we sort of live vicariously through it. But we shouldn’t all have to adopt extremely defensive strategies in order to just … speak.
SADY: Right. You should be able to post a picture of your new hat on the Internet without having to have built up 9,000,000 defensive strategies for when someone calls you ugly. Because they will call you ugly! They just will! Or a slut, if they can’t call you that. “WHY ARE YOU SHOWING OFF YOUR PROVOCATIVE TORSO IN THIS FASHION?”
AMANDA: Because can I tell you? This woman on my blog the other day posted a comment about how the arguments that I make are less valid because of how my voice sounds. Because of how words sound when they leave my mouth. And because it sounds kind of like how a lady sounds.
SADY: Hahaha. So, she is just LITERALLY TELLING YOU not to speak. “When you speak, I can’t help but notice that you are speaking,” is what she says, “and that makes it harder for me to pay attention when you speak.”
AMANDA: Right. Like could you perhaps get a surrogate voice, a more manly and patronizing one? Perhaps then my voice (but not my voice) can truly be heard.
SADY: Right. I mean: I think that, when people talk about blogs, they talk about the democratization of voice, and how it allows everyone to be heard. But what they don’t talk about, so often, is how (a) We also re-iterate the same structures of rewarding or punishing voices that you see in Actual Real Life Not On The Internet, and (b) How the possibility that ladies might be TAKING to the Internet, and thus might have finally found a forum in which you literally CANNOT SHUT THEM UP by refusing to publish them or listen to them at your party or allow them into your fancy organizations or whatever, scares the shit out of dudes, and thus amps up the harassment to a truly scary degree. Like: I get harassed on the street, told to smile, have my tits pointed out to me, whatever. But on the street I don’t TYPICALLY get told that someone should rape me to death. Thanks to the Internet, I can in fact have just such an experience!
AMANDA: Oh agreed. And I certainly don’t get the degree of vitriol that some other people get, who are not cis, and not white, and not straight. But good golly do I still get a lot of it! There is just so much vitriol to go around!
SADY: That is the thing! And I feel like, you know: We can talk about the New Niceness, and whether it is a thing (it is probably not a thing) or “Internet harassment” in general, but looking at it: I’ve written so much that is mean about ladies in the pop culture! But I have NEVER gotten it as hard as Annaham has. And I have to think that it is because she has not one, but TWO marks against her in the Things I Can Dismiss A Person For column. She’s a feminist lady, and she’s a lady with a disability. And making fun of “feminists” is a time-honored Internet Pastime, but “disabled feminists?” Boy howdy, is that ever an excellent punchline for Amanda Palmer and her delightful comedy routines!
AMANDA: Oh God, I know. International televised harassment for … what? Not particularly enjoying the way a particular musician she likes is appropriating disability?
SADY: Right. And then, the Internet Douches, well-accustomed to not listening to ladies, ESPECIALLY not listening to feminist ladies, and ESPECIALLY not listening to people who talk about disabled folks getting the short end of the stick, are like: YES. TARGET ACQUIRED.
AMANDA: One of your commenters (you have some really great commenters, along with the bad ones) made a really good point about the difference between criticism and harassment, and how Amanda Palmer and her legion of defenders have failed to recognize the difference. And I feel like that’s a common trait of all trolls—just flat out refusing to engage in any kind of subtlety or empathy.
SADY: Exactly. I mean, I did not read the Male Studies Scholar Conference that happened on Sexist Beatdown two weeks ago IN ITS ENTIRETY, but I do vividly remember the gentleman who requested that, next time we spoke, the other one suck his personal dick, that he might be able to tolerate our lady jabber. That is not, “I think the political underpinnings of your work are flawed.” That is not, “Okay, good post, but here’s the line I have an issue with.”
AMANDA: Oh, well I live for this man to tolerate me!
SADY: I forget. Is it your turn to fellate this gentleman? Or mine?
AMANDA: It is what feminism has been striving for all these years. Tell Gloria Steinem that it was just as easy as a blow job.
SADY: I mean, it’s so easy to dismiss everyone who criticizes you as a hater or a bad person. So easy! But I’ve been CRITICIZED, from a lot of different angles, by a lot of people. And it might irritate me. But none of it is people just flat out saying, “fuck or walk, bitches.” And that’s what the Internet is, for women, a WHOLE STINKING LOT OF THE TIME. Like, maybe if they are Gawker commenters they might wrap it up in some clever allusion to a Baumbach movie, or whatever. But you can still feel it seething, a lot of the time.
AMANDA: Yes. And this is one of the reasons why I love, love, love Feministe’s Next Top Troll series.
SADY: Is it not the best?
AMANDA: Because the comments? They never change. It doesn’t matter what woman is talking or what she’s talking about or what the tone of her argument is. The vitriol is across the board just exactly the same as what I get. And it’s fucking hilarious, and I take comfort in it.
SADY: Exactly. In summary, for Troll SEO Purposes: Male studies. Male studies, male studies, male studies. Women tell the truth sometimes about rape. Circumcision! DIVORCE. There. That ought to get them started! Oh, and also: I dislike prog rock, and dudes who make prog rock, sometimes. WHAT DO YOU GOT, INTERNET? WHAT. DO. YOU. GOT.
AMANDA: I can’t wait to hear the troll perspective on this. Oh please! Yes. Explain the various ways that voluntarily reading and commenting on my blog oppresses you! Go on! Or perhaps you’d like to argue as to why you are doing me a service, and why I ought to be praising you for your volunteer work in the comments section? I am interested in considering all of these possibilities.
SADY: “One time I was on the Internet, and someone disagreed with me! I politely explained why she was a stupid little girl, and then, she YELLED at me. My oppression, it is intense at times. And yet, I soldier on!” — A Commenter.
AMANDA: In conclusion, BONERS.
SADY: It is a regular BONER PARTY, out there on the Internet. And it makes my lady boners wither away in despair. Though not really! Because also, I keep blogging. At this point, mainly just to piss them off. Do you hear that, Feminist-Blog-Hating Internet? YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR FEMINIST BLOGGING!
AMANDA: The world will never shrink this feminist boner!