I really like blogging. I really like blogging, a whole lot. I have met several of my closest friends through it. I met the guy I’m currently dating through it. Blogging has improved my life to a tremendous degree, and given me self-confidence and something to look forward to and care about, in a way I would not previously have imagined possible.
I also think deleting blogs is bad, because it’s a way of denying accountability.
HOWEVER. I struggle, on a more or less daily basis, with the urge to delete this blog. While I can no doubt be a jerk and a bad person at times, sometimes on this very blog, I don’t want to erase that. I would just go and do it somewhere else, anyway. And I like being called out; I like being held accountable. I was raised Catholic, so I believe a regular dose of guilt and penance is good for the soul. If no-one ever chastises you, how will you know what you screwed up? But I also don’t feel, given some of the people and forces I am currently interacting with, that it is a good idea for me to have shared so much information regarding my past abuse and sexual assault via blogging. Or, for that matter, information about my family. Which is why I want so badly to delete this blog and never look back.
I wrote the whole blog, and everything else I wrote, on the assumption that nobody would ever be interested in me in an actively hostile way (well, not again; there was one scary thing, a long while ago), or on the assumption that, if someone took that sort of interest, they would be an isolated individual (as in the case of the one scary thing). That was a stupid assumption to make. Because when I wrote this blog, I forgot about what happened to Kathy Sierra.
Or Melissa McEwan and Amanda Marcotte. Or Jessica Valenti. Or, like, basically anyone else whose name I know: When feminist women reach a certain critical mass of readership or influence, then mass negative exposure and harassment invariably comes their way. Sooner or later, there are just too many people who know about you, and the threats become credible: Blacklisting, hacking, smear campaigns, invasion of private property, maybe even straight-up bodily harm. At a certain point it goes beyond grudges or trolling or sarcastic comments or even just isolated scary dudes; it becomes a large-scale Thing, and it attracts its fair share of people who operate without anything even vaguely resembling a conscience.
I knew this happened a lot, and I even wrote about it, because it’s an important issue, but for some reason, I was able to avoid it or was sheltered from it for a very long time, relatively speaking. I made it past the two-year mark, and well into year three, before it hit me, and our readership got pretty large beforehand. So I figured it wouldn’t happen to me, because I wasn’t important enough as a target, or because people were just being weirdly nice to me — Harriet J had to shut down Fugitivus temporarily after, I believe, writing one damn blog entry about Google Buzz that was less than flattering; it happened to Annaham and FWD over one blog post criticizing AN AMANDA PALMER SIDE PROJECT, for chrissakes — and I didn’t take appropriate precautions. And then it happened. Because it always does.
I mean, let’s review just a few of the more famous cases. They often have something to do with women approaching positions of power: As we all know, when Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan were hired for the John Edwards campaign, there was a national and frequently televised campaign aimed not only at getting them fired, but at making them functionally unemployable. It went on for a long while, it was vicious, and it involved Bill O’Reilly, which is never fun. Furthermore, Jessica Valenti was accused of slutting it up with Bill Clinton because she was in a room with him along with some other people, and there was a photo of all the people in the room (including Jessica Valenti and Bill Clinton), and she was standing with one shoulder forward in the photo, so: You know. Clearly some hot, slutty Clinton action happening there. In each case, this happened because the women were getting too close to power: A President, a presidential candidate. The idea that these women might be doing politics, not “just” gender politics. That was enough to set it off.
If it’s not power, it’s geek stuff. Because we are on the Internet, and the geeks are powerful. Kathy Sierra was subject to one of the most vicious, frightening campaigns of harassment and death threats that anyone has ever seen, because she spoke about software development. And being a lady, but mostly: Being a lady as it related to software development. “I am afraid to leave my yard, I will never feel the same. I will never be the same,” she wrote, to explain why she had to quit working and earning money as a speaker for a while. You can read this on her Wikipedia page, which doesn’t mention what set the “controversy” (???) off, and on which — as on virtually every Wikipedia page which even suggests the existence of something called “misogyny” or “sexism” — there is a sign reading “the neutrality of this article is disputed.” (Click through to the talk page, and you will see that it’s “disputed” because it’s being edited by a man accused of stalking and harassment, and specifically accused by Kathy Sierra of harassing Kathy Sierra online, and that the reason it is so careful around the topic of her harassment is that one has to consider the feelings of the harassers, who don’t want anyone to think that they are bad people. “Harassment” is frequently put in scare quotes, on this talk page.) Then there was Harriet J and her criticism of Google Buzz — no, not Google Buzz!!!! — or McEwan, again, who got one of the biggest pile-ups of her career on a post about a video game called “Fat Princess.” Video games, tech, Google, basic Internet geek stuff: These are the things you’re not allowed to approach, for fear of harassment. And let us not discuss this episode, shall we? Which was basically “the time the Internet found out feminist blogs existed, and was really mad?”
The other thing you can do wrong is to piss off a celebrity. Which is what happened to Annaham, when Amanda Palmer was displeased about Annaham’s opinions in re: Amanda Palmer’s very edgy and groundbreaking side project. (Also, you cannot leave comments on that essay by Annaham. I have disallowed it.) Or Amanda Hess, when she made fun of Tucker Max and he immediately started a “contest” for his fans to see who could harass her the most effectively. Even Jezebel and Irin Carmon got a bit of it when they made Jon Stewart have a sadface.
So, the four things you should avoid are: Power and politics, giving the impression that you have power in politics, topics of interest to the geeks, and offending celebrities.
HEYYYYYYY, who just started a widely-covered, somewhat successful campaign to piss off celebrities in regard to their statements about the founder of WIKILEAKS???? THIS GIRL. HIGH FIVES. HAND ME AN UMBRELLA, IT’S RAININ’ SHIT TODAY.
So, like, if WikiLeaks is mad at me, and random mobs of cyberdudes are mad at me, and the right-wing dudes are mad at me, and the left-wing dudes are mad at me, and plenty of other people are mad at me, I honestly don’t want a whole lot of people looking at something where I talk about my experiences with sexual assault. Like, there’s a really obvious way for someone to hurt me, right there. I could be paranoid, but I think the circumstances of the past month warrant a little reasonable paranoia.
I mean, some will argue that I was paranoid and unreasonable throughout. I published one message on my personal blog about how I was a “collaborator” and I was lucky because they were “just” going to forcibly shave my head… maybe. But WORSE things happened to people who were not just “collaborators,” but TRAITORS… which I’d been CALLED… YESTERDAY… I mean, I construed this as a death threat; immediately, someone was like, “that’s not really a death threat! You should apologize for calling it that!”
But experienced trolls know that they can go to court or at the very least get kicked off the website they’re using, if they phrase a death threat as such; they know this because they do this all day long, and are invested in continuing to do it, and in not facing consequences. Trolls have directed me to libel law, or details of harassment policies, unprompted, after writing something about me. Because they fucking study it, that’s why. Because they know that they have to be careful, because they libel and harass all day long and don’t want to face any consequences. So, yeah. If you write me a vague and suggestively worded message about how you’re going to come at me with a razor and I’ll be lucky if you “just” shave my head with it, I take that seriously. If you write something about “why don’t you [die] and put us all out of your misery,” I take that seriously, because you might be joking, but that’s a lit match tossed onto this whole gasoline-soaked conversation, and even if you are joking, there is a wide array of creepy people who are NOT joking about wanting to shut me up in any possible way, so could you like NOT add your exciting new death-related ideas about how to shut me up? Even if you send me a surprisingly reasonable-sounding message about all the “enemies I just made,” and it is anonymous, I will know that it’s probably related to feminist blog drama. (Which: sorry about that. That was full-on stupid.) BUT I WILL NOT BE SURE. So, like, sign your name to it, JEEZ. I’m not going to shave your head; we’ll argue, I’ll listen, or we’ll have some minor acrimony. But YOWZERS, right now, could you consider what it sounds like when you tell me I have unspecified “enemies” plotting their vengeance upon me where I can’t see it? Could you sign your name, just so I know that — despite the dudes who want to assault me with sharp objects, despite the people who wish I was dead, despite the messages saying we ALL have to open up and give them our pussies, we ALL have to suck their dicks because they know we want it deep down — this group of vengeful enemies are bloggers or writers or Internet feminists AND NOT A BUNCH OF GUYS WITH STRAIGHT RAZORS AND THE GLEAM OF MURDER IN THEIR EYES???? Jeez, come on.
I’m not minimizing anyone’s support. It has meant the world to me. It really has. And there’s been a lot of it. But one perfectly reasonable person wrote a tag (and then apparently deleted the post tagged with it, because people are nice to me, and someone told him that it wasn’t appropriate) that read “Sady Doyle always takes the rape bait.” I came across the tag, and I thought about how much time I actually do have on my hands, and then I left my personal blog. I’ll probably delete it, once the withdrawal passes; I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to have a personal blog any more, for a few reasons. But also: No matter how many people are nice to you, or what the intent was (I really do think it was a mistake; someone made a mildly rude joke and took it down) nothing mitigates or alleviates that feeling — someone is out there, and you don’t know who they are, and you don’t know where they are, and they plan to hurt you, and you can’t stop it. No amount of friends makes that better. Because it could BE any one of your friends. That’s what that does. No matter how many people like you, you’re always twitchy and craning your neck, waiting for the punch.
And, to bring it back to the point of how this is all of us, how it’s not just me, do you want to know why “Sady Doyle always takes the rape bait” wasn’t really that funny? Behold the words of Harriet J at Fugitivus, on who her “Frequent” contacts on Google Buzz are!
…people who email my ANONYMOUS blog account, which gets forwarded to my personal account. They are frequent contacts as well. Most of them, they are nice people. Some of them are probably nice but a little unbalanced and scary. A minority of them — but the minority that emails me the most, thus becoming FREQUENT — are psychotic men who think I deserve to be raped because I keep a blog about how I do not deserve to be raped, and this apparently causes the Hulk rage.
So, this is written BEFORE her entry, which is primarily about Google Buzz and not rape at all outside of this one line, got covered and linked to all over. And here’s her comment AFTER the linking:
I’m approving this after deleting hundreds of comments like this, since I’ve addressed this a few times already, and since most of those comments also included “u r stupid get raped.”
And here’s Harriet J after she finally comes back to her own blog:
Here is the arrogant thing that I am just going to have to say even though it makes me cringe: I CANNOT SEEM TO STOP THIS BLOG FROM BECOMING POPULAR. Despite never making an attempt to gain or keep readers, despite never trying to name-drop or publicize (because I wanted a quiet little livejournal), I keep getting popular. And being popular brings a whole new slew of concerns into my life. The comments and the emails take up more and more of my time. It’s a lot more work and anxiety to make my blog posts, knowing how many people are reading them… I shut my blog down because I didn’t want to deal with all the attention.
And the thing is, given who might be reading me, I can’t even bring myself to link to this. But you should pay attention to these three quotes, because they are a perfect little fable of how feminists and women deal (or are allowed to deal) with success. Other people are allowed to seek popularity. Other people are allowed to think it is a good thing. And yet, over here, we know that popularity is not good, but BAD. Feminists often RUN THE HELL AWAY FROM POPULARITY. At least, we do if we’ve got any darn sense in our heads or have seen this happen often enough. (I have a little sense. Not a lot, or enough.) Or if we don’t run away from it, our first instinct is to disavow basic things to which all writers should be entitled, like pride in our work, or a hope that our work might be read and respected. And the reason is this:
Because you cannot so much as mention “not deserving to be raped,” in a blog post about freaking GOOGLE PRIVACY SETTINGS, without getting hundreds of comments about how you should go get raped immediately, because you deserve to be raped so very much. If that blog post cracks the mainstream, if it is even so much as linked to by a newspaper, DANG, you’ve got rape threats. (“You’ve Got Rape Threats” is also the title of the worst Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan comedy ever, by the way.) So many threats you have to stop blogging, maybe. So many that you view your talent as a liability, not a blessing; so many you wish you’d never tried to write; so many you lament this uncontrollable curse, this thing called “popularity.” Maybe you come back after you shut down the blog. And maybe you don’t. And then we lose another one, because the cost of being female and talented on the Internet is just too fucking high.
And for you? The guy making the joke? It’s “rape bait,” maybe. Maybe you don’t mean it. Maybe you’re just fucking with us ’cause we’re so sensitive. Maybe it’s a really, really funny joke, and I just don’t get it. For you, though, it’s “rape bait.” And for us? IT’S OUR LIVES.
I honestly was able to avoid this for a shockingly long time, and to get a shockingly high amount of exposure before it happened. I had to break EVERY RULE in the Don’t Get Hated Handbook before it happened to me. And I still haven’t gotten it as bad as other online feminists have gotten it. The backlash I’m dealing with from #MooreandMe is MINOR, as these things go. It really is. As always, the people they’re really targeting are the ones who seem easier to attack, and who seem to have less support. The mere fact that I’m in the middle of all this is part of what’s protecting me from its most extreme manifestations; I might get the most attacks, but I don’t get the worst ones. Although, now that I’ve typed that sentence, I’m sure things will probably change.
But like anyone in this position, I have contemplated shutting Tiger Beatdown off entirely and never trying to write anything for anyone ever again because they probably hate me anyway and this isn’t going to stop unless I stop writing 4-EVA and WAHHHHHH. (Q: Do I now understand how Olbermann felt when he shut down his Twitter? A: No, I still have no idea what it feels like to have millions of dollars, a TV show, a peiner, and the official White Cis Man License to be Angry.) But I have contemplated this course of action, and I have found it to be stupid. I’m not getting silenced; I’m okay. I’m learning from this. And as I said before, I want you to continue to hold me accountable, because being held accountable is how we grow and improve. I’m not saying I was never petty or overly confrontational or reckless or immature or just plain mean; I clearly was, at certain points, and legitimate anger is legitimate. Please: Even contact me to explain what I did wrong, if you are not yet another guy writing a comment that reads “why do you hate Julian Assange?” I actually want to know these things.
But this isn’t about legitimate anger. This is about something that happens over and over, no matter who you are, if too many people hear you speak. This isn’t about legitimate anger, and it never is. This is about abuse. This is about sexual harassment. This is about hurting women because they’re women, over and over, until they go away.
At a certain point in my life, I put a whole lot of information relating to abuse, sexual assault, and my family and friends, online. I did not anticipate, at this point in my life, that this information could be used to hurt my family and friends, or me. That was a faulty assumption.
But here’s the thing. Here’s why I’m not deleting Tiger Beatdown: They only do it if you’re good. Seriously. They only do it if your work reaches people, and convinces people, and if they literally cannot frame an opposing argument that they think might have any chance of winning. They can’t beat you in an argument; that’s why they abuse you, that’s why they try to make you feel as worthless and self-loathing and incapable of self-defense as any other abused person, that’s why they abuse you till you can’t work or even think about anything but being abused, that’s why they try to make you believe that it won’t stop till you stop publishing or die. That’s why they make you want to stop publishing. Or make you want to die. Because after all of it, after all the “bitch” and “cunt” and “die” and “dyke” and “ugly” and “smoker” (???) and “I’monna rape ye, woman,” there is actually one threat scarier than ALL of that: The threat that you’re right, and you’re going to win. And that’s the threat that you pose.
Like I said: I just really, really, really like blogging.