The 'Solution' To Preventing Online Harassment That I Won't Support

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online harassment
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The social media world was rocked recently by a now-viral video of men reading some of the “mean tweets” two women reporters have received.

These tweets are just a few examples of the prevalent, relentless, and downright painful harassment that takes place online. I, for one, have watched the video at least a dozen times, angered by my nonchalant attitude while witnessing brave women listen to horrid comments they’re clearly used to, and uncomfortable men awkwardly regurgitating them.

Online harassment isn’t new. As a woman, I’ve sadly had to grow accustomed to being attacked for simply having and expressing an opinion. In other words, the video was neither shocking nor surprising to me.

What made me even more angry than listening to the comments themselves was the fact that our culture has allowed what can only be described as verbal abuse to become just another fact of life online.

I had multiple friends—mostly men, but a few women as well—contact me with the link and many heartfelt, sincere apologies:

“I’m so sorry if you’ve ever experienced this.”

“I can’t imagine what you go through when you publish an article online.”

“Is this really what it’s like?”

Intentions were pure, but honestly, I was (and remain) unfazed. Sadly, if you’re a trans or cis woman and you’ve spent any significant amount of time using social media—as a sports reporter, or you know, simply as an outspoken individual with thoughts and feelings and emotions—horrid comments promoting domestic violence or rape or death or all of the above are all too common.

I’ve been called every name under the sun. I’ve been told I look disgusting and will die alone. I’ve even been attacked as a mother; someone shamelessly told me that I’m a horrible parent raising a horrible son and that my kid would have been better off if I had aborted him.

None of these comments particularly upset me. Perhaps that’s the only positive to growing up with a physically and verbally abusive father: Whatever a stranger says, my father has already said, so they have far less power over my emotions than they think.

However, when a dear friend shared the link online via her social media channels and asked those who even contemplate expressing similar comments to women to stop and pretend they’re saying them to their mother or wife first, I was stunned.

Tell me you’re going to hate-fuck me and kill me and leave my body in a ditch? Eh.

But tell me that you have to think of me (or any other person) as someone you care about or at least know of for you to see me as a human being? I’m at a total loss.

A woman shouldn’t need to be someone’s wife, mom, or sister to be treated with decency and respect.

A woman shouldn’t need to get married or procreate to be considered a human being worthy of dignity and kindness. Men shouldn’t be horrible and cruel to women they don’t know any more than they should the women they know and care about.

A woman who isn’t connected or related to you in any way is still a human being. Establishing empathy and compassion for a woman shouldn’t depend on who she is in relation to you. This devalues the reality of every woman’s humanity. You shouldn’t have to go to a great imaginative effort to humanize a woman in order to treat her like a human being.

Spoiler alert—she’s already a human being, regardless of whether you know her or care for her or see her as a long-lost relative or even agree with her.

You shouldn’t need to imagine yourself kissing her, your wife, goodnight to refrain from calling her a cunt.

You shouldn’t have to imagine her as your 5-year-old daughter with pigtails, innocent and wide-eyed, to realize you shouldn’t say she’s a stupid whore.

You shouldn’t have to think of a woman as a mother or a sister or a daughter in order to respect her and acknowledge that her thoughts and feelings—even if they’re vastly different from your own—are still valid and worthy of expression.

I’d like to clarify that I understand the thought process behind the suggestion that men should think about women as their mothers/sisters/daughters/wives. But I still fail to connect the dots here in an even abstract way.

Mothers and daughters and sisters and wives benefit men, even if in a small way. Telling men that they should view women through a familial lens in order to be kind to them is essentially saying, “If a woman doesn’t give you pleasure—in any way whatsoever—she is worthy of your violence and hatred and harassment.”

That line of faltered reasoning is something I simply cannot get behind. And trust me, I’ve tried, as some of the most wonderful people I know still feel like this exercise is a necessity.

The truth is, I’m not everyone’s wife or mother or daughter or sister. In fact, as of today, I am no one’s wife; I am only one man’s mother, only one man’s sister, and only one man’s daughter.

My inability to be all of those things to every man who disagrees with me or follows me online or simply reads my work and becomes angered does not warrant endless harassment and verbal assault.

Just because I’m not your lover or daughter or friend doesn’t mean you have the right to be my harasser.

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