I spend such a large part of my day, no, life, dealing with people. I interact with people on a regular basis, requesting that they give me copies of all of their most personal information and assessing for whether they’re lying to me and how deep the lie potentially can go. I study human behavior for school at night. When I’m able I offer help and an ear on twitter, doing what I can to pay attention for those people who are speaking out into the void just hoping someone is paying attention… especially on those days when they might feel the most alone. I learn about how relationships affect us. I learn how families work. How relationships work, not just intimate life-partner ones, but all of them including acquaintances and stranger-relationships (just think your closest friends were once strangers).
As much as I learn about people and behaviors and motivations that cause behaviors, there is always one underlying constant… no two people are alike and no matter how consistently people tend to act, another (flawed) human cannot reasonably anticipate behaviors for all other people. I, like you, will make mistakes.
I bring this up because I was chatting with a new friend via text last night. There was mention of me being a celebrity of sorts and I tend to shy away from that in all ways. I watch my friends, the ones who are more popular and more well-known than me, deal with the gamut of Stuff from the internet masses that I refuse to believe I’m in any way a part of that. But I guess, in certain circles, the argument can be made in favor of my having some level of celebrity-dom (in spite of my insistence that it’s NOT the case). I’ve actually had many discussions with Terran about this specific topic.
The talks with Terran were always about how once a person has reached a certain level of popularity, their human-ness is almost non-existent. The Celebrity almost becomes an object, often with their feelings and experiences dismissed and erased. They’re no longer a person who is allowed to BE flawed and make mistakes. Every word is scrutinized. Every gesture is questioned. Everything about their existence is called into question. This happens for all celebrities, but there’s an added “bonus” for women, especially those on the internet.
There was a time, years ago, when I got hundreds of visitors to my blog in a day. I wrote so often. I got lots of comments. People seemed to enjoy what I was writing, even if it was controversial or dripping in feminism. Then I took a hiatus from the internet, which turned into years away. I became an unknown again and it was nice… quiet. When I created my twitter account it was to separate “life” from “WoW”. What happened was that I found myself interacting with people in the WoW community so much more. They became friends. We bough each other gifts. Sent each other cards. Exchanged numbers and texted. My personal celebrity-dom is minor in comparison to others. I’m pretty much not that known, really, in the grand scheme of things. I don’t write often enough, I don’t stream, I don’t make content, I don’t “contribute” to the community, as some folks would easily and quickly point out. What I brought to the table was something vastly different, I think, and that got me attention, wanted or not.
I look at Anita Sarkeesian and I often sit and think to myself “In another life, I could have chosen the path she chose… would I be able to handle that?” So back to my text conversation from last night… I said that I could be a bit overwhelming, personality-wise. They said that they loved how comfortable I was being my own person and that I had opinions and wasn’t afraid to speak my mind. There are very admirable things about a person, even if you take them out of context of referring to me. So then I mentioned that even on a much smaller scale, I’ve had the target on my back.
I don’t begin to compare any online harassment I’ve received to that of well-known women in the gaming universe. Some will say any harassment is too much harassment. At what point, though, do you just give up, give in, be silent? For some, like Anita, you don’t. For others, like me, you just sort of fade away. I rarely rant anymore. Long strings of tweets have almost stopped. I’ve been accused of dog-piling on unsuspecting misogynists or mansplainers once they’ve crossed from “devil’s advocate” into “asshole.” I’ve been called a bitch. I’ve been called a bully. I’ve been told to get in the kitchen, because what woman on the internet hasn’t heard this one before. I’ve been told to get fucked by my father. I’ve been told the solution to my problem is to get laid. I’ve been called fat. I’ve been called ugly. I’ve been mocked for writing about WoW or games at all. I’ve been mocked for writing about anything else too. I’ve been told to kill myself. I’ve been told I’m too ugly to be liked or be fucked. I’ve been told I wasn’t fuckable with someone else’s dick. I’ve been told the solution to my problem is that I needed to be raped. I had one guy think he was doing me a favor by sharing my name, address, and phone number but blocking out some of the letters and numbers and acting surprised when I requested he delete the tweet. I’ve had people talk about where I live flippantly, like it was public knowledge.
My point is that there isn’t really any safe space on the internet to BE a woman. I’m far from the only person to experience these things and it will happen again. The problem is that I know it’s inevitable that I will experience this again, so long as I am a Woman with an Opinion. So will most women who exist on the internet in any capacity.
The balancing act by existing in an internet space means having to make those kinds of decisions. Do I censor myself, sharing less and less, to avoid scrutiny? Can I be a flawed human being or is that only reserved for people with 500 followers or less? Did my capacity to learn from mistakes disappear once I became “popular” on the internet (even just saying this bothers the shit out of me because I don’t feel it or believe it or think it about myself)? If I call out shitty behavior am I just a bitch? A crazy bitch? A psycho? Do expressing feelings of frustration, annoyance, and talking about moments of intolerance make me such a horrible person that mocking and personal threats and name calling are okay? Where’s the line and who defines it?
I generally remember that for the most part (bots notwithstanding), there are people on the other side of the twitter handle. And if today is not the day in which I can handle their sadness, depression, anxiety, frustration, annoyance, or negativity, then I push on. The thing I try NOT to do is shame them for the things going on in their lives and how they feel. I try to keep myself in check and don’t extend offers to listen unless I have an abundance of spoons to shoulder the burden of someone else’s Stuff. Don’t get me wrong, there are those who are the same for me as I am for them. They listen. They are my friends. And if I needed them, they would be there for me. And there are others who don’t see or recognize how their actions and behaviors affect others.
I guess this is another one of those posts where I’m not really sure what my point is… or where I was going (or not enough coffee).
I guess, as my last post said, if “… we work from a place that says, “I’m enough,” then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.”