post script to yesterday’s post about misogyny on twitter

(Original post here.)

On Tuesday, I blocked the man on twitter who sent the ugly reply to me. Today, he found a tweet I sent to a friend where I told her I felt uncomfortable (even though I know what he did isn’t my fault). He replied to that tweet using another account I didn’t know he had (so I hadn’t blocked it).

Moments ago, I considered posting copies of today’s tweets, too. At first I wasn’t going to, but after consideration, I will. Here’s my thought process:

My first post was meant to be information for men who want to better understand what it’s like being a woman in this hostile and misogynistic world.

When I considered sharing them, I immediately thought about how many people will find fault with me — I’m trying to get attention, I’m tarnishing the name of a good man, I’m [insert bad stuff about me], whatever it is. I’m the problem.

I also realized I was a little bit afraid. What if he turned violent?

I’m not suggesting this man is likely to be violent. I don’t know him. I can’t possibly know whether or not he’s that kind of man.

But, the fact is, it’s a possibility. Maybe he’s someone who’s on the edge and my sharing his tweets will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back? Again, I’m not saying this is the case. But, as a woman in this world, it’s something I need to consider. This fact alone made me determined not to be quiet about it. Stay quiet because he might hurt me? That’s how it is all over the place and I want it to be different. I’m going to behave differently.

Am I kicking the beehive just because I want to make this guy angry? Abso-fucking-lutely not. I would prefer to have nothing to do with him. I’m sharing these tweets, and the link to his lengthy reply to my post, so any of you who don’t understand what it’s like to be a woman in this hostile and misogynistic world might better understand what happens when we tell people about the garbage we deal with everyday.

First, there’s my tweet to my friend. Then the man replies twice to that tweet (from an account I’ve never seen before). I tell him I think this means he doesn’t have personal boundaries. I then tweeted that I had taken images of the tweets and I was going to block him.

Then, I tweeted the screen shots. Tonight, I’m sharing the tweets here because most people I know don’t use twitter and readers of this blog might be interested in what happened next.

Unless something really dramatic happens, I won’t post about this again. I don’t want drag this on. I suspect I’ll hear from him again, but if I’m wrong I’ll be delighted.

hostile, misogynistic everyday life

I know a lot of good men who, despite their best efforts, don’t really understand what it’s like to be a woman when it comes to personal safety. And, while I generally move through life assuming the best of people, in most respects, I also know (based on life experience) I need to be on guard when it comes to men.

On twitter today I experienced a solid example of how the littlest things can turn upsetting when it comes to interacting with men. It’s also an example of an exchange that could have many other explanations that don’t include the potential for violence. Therefore, it’s a good example of the kinds of everyday interactions women face all the time, at every turn, where we need to make the calculation, if I respond this way, will they get angry (which, offline, could lead to violence) enough that it will be scary? or, if I respond this other way, will it be worse?

Here are the series of exchanges.

This man followed me on twitter a while ago. I followed him back for a while, even though it seemed from his tweets we probably didn’t have a lot in common. I enjoy interacting with people who have different points of view.

Our interactions were cordial, even kind.

Should I “heart” the tweet, indicating I saw it? Sure. I think I even replied with a thank you, or something like that.

Then, a few days ago, there was this exchange:

The “fishnetspreferred” hashtag made me uncomfortable. But, y’know, it’s twitter, the wide-open Internet and we’re all adults here. At this point I start weighing my potential responses, if I don’t “heart” the tweet, will he take it badly? (too many men would.) If I heart it will that only encourage him to move farther along in that direction? In my experience that’d be pretty likely, so, no, I decided not to heart the tweet. I also decided to stop following him, taking the chance of sending a quiet message that, no, I didn’t like the tweet.

I didn’t spend many minutes on this decision, but I did have to think about it and decide which of the possible outcomes would be least annoying (or, in the worst case scenario, least scary or unsafe).

That shouldn’t be a big deal, right? So, his joke kinda fell flat because I didn’t heart it, who really cares? (I also thought, maybe he’ll just think I never saw it and it really won’t be an issue, or maybe, if I’m really lucky, he just won’t care…)

Then, today, I got another tweet from him. I want to say in advance that I’m fully aware the change in tone could be entirely unrelated to my not hearting his “flirtatious” (?) tweet. But I also want to say that it has been this 48 year old woman’s experience that men can get hostile really quickly when their advances are rebuffed. So, take this next tweet as you will:

If he hadn’t had that hostile first line, I think it could have been an interesting discussion. But, no, the hostility and misogyny of the tweet was clear.  I tweeted two responses. One, that I never called her stupid. And, two, that I was going to block him because his anger made me feel unsafe.

I’ll say again that I recognize there are all kinds of ways of reading this series of exchanges. But, in my experience (and that counts beyond just something “anecdotal” because I know I’m not alone in my experiences), this kind of escalation into hostility is typical if I don’t smile or laugh along with jokes that make me uncomfortable. (And if I smile or laugh, they’ll continue and get worse.)

I’m sharing this in the hopes that some men I know might continue learning how tricky it is being a woman out there in the world. If we women dare not smile and “encourage,” we end up being called “an unholy, judgmental snatch” (the choice of language for his insult is another indication about his lack of respect for women).

one of my many #MeToo experiences (the need for consent)

What’s been bothering me the most about some of the memories I have of being sexually assaulted is how at the time I didn’t seem to understand that what had happened was really bad. I knew in my gut that something was wrong — my behavior, my “acting out” that followed shows me I knew something was wrong, but that’s in hindsight. At the time that I was hurt, I didn’t seem to realize I deserved better.

For example, in the fall of my sophomore year I went with a (girl) friend to meet some boys in a fort they had built out of plywood scraps in the woods. We all got drunk. This was my first time ever drinking; what I remember most was gulping tequila and saying, “the faster you drink it, the less you feel it.”

At some point in the night, I was lying on the floor, slumped up against the wall. One boy was on my left, one boy was on my right. I don’t remember much about it except for this: they moved my head back and forth to take turns kissing me; they talked about what they wanted to do, they dared each other to do things; they had my shirt open (I remember the navy blue laciness of my bra and the pastel stripes of my shirt); they were touching me and I was mostly not awake for it. I don’t know what happened in great detail, though I suspect they did more than open my shirt and kiss me. I do know there is not a chance I was capable of saying yes to what they were doing. Later that night, my friend (the girl) also was trying to kiss me (at this point, I was sitting up on the edge of the two level floor) and I remember pushing her away and saying no. The boys (there were three) were sort of cheering her on, telling her to do things to me.

What has been so disturbing to me as I reflect on this experience is how after that night, one of the boys became my “boyfriend,” the other was “one of my best friends,” and the girl continued to be one of my very best friends. We all talked and laughed together like nothing bad had happened.

What I’m coming to terms with this week is that me now sees how wrong it was, but me then didn’t. Me now wants to make sure that all boys and girls today recognize the importance of consent. Informed, aware, and enthusiastic consent should be the minimum requirement in all sexual acts.

The me then had an idea that what happened wasn’t okay, I just didn’t know how to process it. Once I was no longer too drunk to talk, I didn’t say, “What you two did to me was awful, you are awful, you took advantage of me and it was disgusting and you should never do that again to anyone, ever.” I pretended like nothing bothered me. Part of me shut down. I desperately needed to believe that I couldn’t be hurt by anyone ever again.

The same “shutting down” process happened with each assault, those that came before and those that followed. My behavior as a young girl showed how I was frantically trying to figure out how to make my way in the world when people who were supposed to be safe, to be my friends would actually hurt me when I was at my most vulnerable.

My hope for my daughters is that we can create a world where people grow up understanding the importance of consent. That’s why I have no patience for people suggesting we do anything other than believe all the women who tell us, “He hurt me.” There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that sexual activities should only ever happen with enthusiastic consent — and that means taking into consideration power dynamics like employment. When in doubt, don’t sexualize anything. It’s a simple philosophy, but it’s a good one.

the spectrum of sexual misconduct/harassment/assault/shitty behavior

I think the men who are being out-ed now for being assholes (even from actions 20-40 years ago) should most definitely be out-ed.

I also think there is a spectrum of harassment and asshole-ry onto which many men, if not most, fall.

Those who are on the “stood by while my peers made nasty sexist jokes or told about asshole sexual activities” side of the spectrum may simply need to face the truth that they have been complicit and stop being so passive in the future. Hopefully all of this new public discussion will help them be more courageous. “Why is that funny to you?” is a great response to awful jokes and “that sounds like assault” is a good response when hearing about sexual assault.

Those who are on the “shoved my tongue into her mouth even though she didn’t want to kiss” area of the spectrum should be called out in public and given the opportunity to face the truth about their assaulting behavior. Those who pose for photographs grabbing the breasts of a sleeping woman should also be called out in public and given the opportunity to face the truth about their assaulting behavior. If a pattern of behavior shows the offenders still think such behavior is okay, they should face the consequences similar to those I describe in the next paragraph.

Those who repeatedly made sexual advances toward teenaged girls or repeatedly showed their genitals to unwilling women should be called out in public and given the opportunity to face the truth about their assaulting behavior and also should be socially ostracized, including but not limited to being fired from jobs and being refused membership in communities of decent people. It should be socially acceptable to say “no, you can’t play or work here anymore” to those men.

be gentle with each other

So many of us—I most definitely include myself in this—are having to relive traumas over and over as more and more people are finding the courage to speak out about sexual harassment/abuse/assault. In my newspaper column, I wrote about Trump’s election being like “a punch in the gut” because I’m a sexual abuse/assault/harassment surviver. It’s gotten worse lately, even though I’m sure that more people speaking out is better in the long run.

I’ve just realized that for my own mental health, I need to unplug from all the various social media sites for a while. I need to regain some control about how often and when I am exposed to conversations about assault and abuse. For a while, that means turning off twitter and Facebook, and not posting here.

My Bangor Daily News column in October was about being kind to people because you never know what they are going through. So many of us are being forced to relive traumas and, speaking for myself, that means I’m especially tender and vulnerable. Let’s all be gentle with each other, okay?

(I’m cueing this up to post later, I’m stepping away from the non-work computer use for a while.)