****** Trigger Warnings ********
In the post, I discuss internet harassment, including death and rape threats, in some graphic detail, especially in the articles linked. Also, I use my more grown-up vocabulary, so if you don’t like R-rated movies, read at your own peril.
I love football. That isn’t a deep, dark secret, and it isn’t a guilty pleasure. I LOVE FOOTBALL. Sundays, at our house, are full of jerseys and chicken wings and cheering and occasional groans and outbursts of swearing. That is the game–you win some, and you lose some. When I was pulling this post together in my mind, I was going to talk about Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson and the utter shit-tastrophe that last week was, PR-wise, for the NFL. I was going to write about how you can hate the things that these men did, and still enjoy the game of football. This isn’t an if/but situation. This is life, where sometimes people do bad things, and yet we must remember that ALL people associated with them are not bad. That’s what I was going to write, and that is how I feel. Do I think that the NFL should let either of these men come back to work? No… with the addendum that I believe in second chances. If either man went to counseling, saw the error of his ways, expressed honest, soul-changing remorse. Then maybe.
Adrian Peterson is still asserting that what he did to his son is just “discipline.” He’s got a long way to go before I will ever be pleased to see him in a jersey, again. Ray Rice and his wife seemed to have worked things out. Why she stayed is, quite frankly, none of our damned business, and has no bearing on how the NFL treats this situation. I’ve read a lot of victim blaming, in this situation, and it makes me sick. If you’ve watched the video (which I will not link to here, because it is disturbing and I don’t want to glorify it, any more), I would imagine that you would see that there is nothing that she did that deserved to be cold-cocked to the face. Blaming women when men are violent, or sexually aggressive, or just assholes, has gotten really old, folks. Can’t we just move past the “Boys will be boys” nonsense?
Did the Ravens have the right to cut him? You betcha. You can be let go from employment for just about any reason under the sun. Randy Moss, arguably one of the best wide receivers ever, was traded away from the New England Patriots (for a 3rd round pick) and then cut by the Minnesota Vikings, all within a month–because he criticized the coaches. Ray Rice’s actions made the Baltimore Ravens look bad, and in that case, they have every right to protect themselves.
But where I started, with this post, and where it is going, are two different places. I’ve been somewhat horrifically mesmerized by the internet response (and the real world response) to these controversies. One woman showed up at the Vikings game on Sunday wearing a Peterson jersey and carrying a tree branch. People everywhere are watching that video of Ray Rice knocking out his fiance and saying, “Well… maybe she hit him first,” or “Well… if it was so bad, then why did she stay?” I’ve seen people defend Peterson’s actions as reasonable discipline. I’m sorry–any time a child’s genitals are lacerated during a “whipping” you’ve crossed the line beyond reasonable, a long time ago. According to the internet, Peterson was just doing his best to make sure that his son grew up to be a good person. Hell. Adrian Peterson is a damned hero.
And that’s where I fell down a toxic rabbit hole.
The internet, for good or ill, has transformed our lives in a million different ways. We now know the correct song lyrics, any time we want. (There’s no more excuse to sing “Wrapped up like a douche, another runner in the night,”–which does make me sad.) Information–vast, unadulterated piles of information–is in our back pocket. Social media gives us the opportunity to keep in contact with people we love, people we admire, people we’ve never met. The world is both bigger, and smaller, than it has ever been, before.
And mostly, that is a great thing. What’s not so great?
Because it turns out that a chunk of the population is made up of people who get off on tormenting others. (Shocker, right?) And it may be that some of these douche-nozzles wouldn’t be so brave, face to face, but hiding under an anonymous avatar on Twitter, or Reddit, or 4chan, or wherever, they are willing to say some truly God awful things. “Maybe she deserved it,” or “Why did she stay?” look fairly innocent, in the light of some of the more heinous internet harassment campaigns that have taken place–Many of which, we (average, non-internet trolling citizens) will never know much about.
Take for instance the recent #GamerGate B.S. A coder/video game designer named Zoe Quinn was “revenge-porned” by her ex-boyfriend. He wrote a detailed, graphic, 10k word rant about her sexual deviance and infidelities and posted it all over the internet. Not just one place–but dozens of places. Her name, her image, her personal details–splashed all over without her permission. That sounds bad, right?
Well, what happened next was worse. Some a-holes over at 4chan got ahold of the rant and realized that some of these alleged infidelities were with a game reviewer. Suddenly, this woman’s personal life (mind you, the reviewer in question had not reviewed, nor ever did review, her game–especially after the relationship began) became a rabid, scathing discussion on how women in the gaming world are using SEX (the most forbidden of tools) to heighten their ascent. Not only was Zoe Quinn a slut, but she was CHEATING!!!!
Seriously. This was a thing.
Quinn’s life was turned upside down. Her bank account and Social Security number were leaked online. Her dad received phone calls, calling his daughter a whore. People sent her death and rape threats. People exposed the personal information of her friends and co-workers. Anyone who dared to speak up for her was publicly threatened, their sensitive information exposed.
This. This is bullshit. But it’s just one case, right?
This happens all the time. ALL THE DAMNED TIME.
(I’m going to link to several articles, because I don’t want you to take my word for it.)
There’s an article by feminist blogger, Jill Filipovic, on TPM, that chronicles her own battle with repeated, horrifying death and rape threats–including a psychotic man showing up at the place where she was studying.
And there is a piece by Amanda Hess, at Pacific Standard, that takes a hard look at how nothing is being done to protect people (although it is mostly women) from this sort of harassment. A great quote from her: “But making quick and sick threats has become so easy that many say the abuse has proliferated to the point of meaninglessness, and that expressing alarm is foolish.”
Yup. Because we shouldn’t be alarmed when strangers feel comfortable describing, in detail, the sexual pleasures that they would take with our corpse. You know, because we are women, and we dared to have an opinion. There appears to be a small sect of the population who has decided that women are getting above themselves–working in fields they have no business in, standing up for themselves, speaking out of turn, speaking at all. And this group of hate-filled monsters are using the internet as a weapon.
We hear the term “revenge-porn” and it isn’t even surprising, any more. I had to have a conversation with my teen daughter about the dangers of sexting. NOT because I was worried about her picture being seen, but because I want her protected from her picture being used against her. We’ve seen that female celebrities aren’t protected from this–and again, we hear, “Well, WHY did she have those naked pictures?” We must be clear. A woman owning a nude picture of herself is NOT a crime. Stealing it, distributing it without her consent, and dehumanizing her with it, IS. Oh, and then there’s this guy, who took his “revenge” to a WHOLE other, brutally disturbing level.
There is a segment of the population (and it is really hard to tell if it is 0.5% or 50%) that doesn’t see what is wrong, here–women, included. But I ask you–how would it seem if someone walked up to you at work and said, “Tonight, after you go to bed, I’m going to break into your house and rape you until you bleed.” Not cool, right? Pretty terrifying. So how is it different when someone says that, on the internet? Why do we shrug it off and say, “Oh, it’s just those crazies.” I hate to break it to you, but I bet some of you know some of those crazies. People who think that, because they cannot be identified, they have the right to say whatever twisted and disgusting thing pops into their little minds. People who believe that words have no power, or people who enjoy the power that their violent, hateful words give them.
I started off wanting to talk about the NFL. But these aren’t just NFL problems. These are problems, across the board. I was going to write that Ray Rice was a coward, that Adrian Peterson was a coward. That there was no more craven act than a man abusing someone who doesn’t have the power to stop them–and that was true.
But even more cowardly than that is to hide your fists behind words, to hide your name behind a screen. To demean, dehumanize, terrorize, and torment someone simply because you can hide, makes you a vile piece of human garbage.
I’m so tired of it. I am so tired of learning, bit by disgusting bit, that the world that we live in is still (in the 21st fucking century) so bent upon keeping women down. I am SO tired of it. I’m tired of teaching my daughter ways to protect herself from it, and I’m sick of having to explain to my son the kind of man NOT to be, in the face of so many examples. I’m exhausted and weary and pained to see that so many men haven’t gotten that memo.
Please. If you are reading this, and you are a man, take a second to think about how you treat women. I don’t want royal princess treatment or chivalrous manners. Just, you know, don’t threaten to rape us when we do something that strikes you as opinionated. Don’t punch us in the face. Recognize our humanity, acknowledge our worth. Call me crazy, but I don’t think that’s unreasonable.