When you Google my name, in the search results on the first page are things written about me by my harassers. Nasty things, written by nasty people.
I’ve been the victim of online harassment. I’ve had both months-long, targeted, coordinated campaigns of harassment and individuals who have written obsessively about me for years. I’m also regularly deluged by groups of racist trolls on Twitter.
My friend was recently publicly chastised by a very prominent MRA. She’s not a prominent feminist. She just tweeted one thing and then had to delete her account when she started getting scary, creepy mentions from random men online.
People will tell you that it’s just words. That these people are harmless. That you shouldn’t let it get to you. That you’re weak for being upset.
That. Is. Bullshit.
If you are not upset when people are mean to you, something is broken in your brain. If you aren’t scared when strangers break social protocol and invade your space to say vile shit to you, there’s something wrong with you. If it doesn’t hurt your feelings that people would take time out of their day to try to make you feel bad about yourself, that’s odd. If you’re not embarrassed that anyone who Googles you sees your harassment, that’s weird.
I cried when people who are part of the bitcoin community started lying about things I’d said. I cried when they called me names and tried to oust me. I thought I was part of that community. I’d done so much work to try to promote bitcoin adoption. I was so excited about the technology and I thought we were all working together for the greater good. But my being willing to mention that privilege is real and important and that protocols are still used by people with varying levels of privilege, just that erased all the good work I’d done in their eyes. Suddenly I became aware that there are lines drawn between people who oppose bigotry and everyone else and that I’d chosen the wrong side and people wanted to punish me for that. It hurt. It sucked. I’m not ashamed of that. I’m not ashamed that I have feelings that people can hurt.
It’s been a while, and the hurt has faded. I’m willing to write about privilege and politics and sex and I know the price for that and being a woman is sexist, racist harassment. I’ve accepted that and it hurts my feelings a lot less now than it did in the beginning. I’m now more cynical than I was before about who exactly makes up the groups I talk about.
It will get better. Don’t engage people who don’t add to your life. But don’t stop talking about the things you care about. I block people with abandon and have created a followership/community of people who engage with me in constructive, interesting ways. They bring information to me I wouldn’t otherwise have. And I still get harassed. It sucks that that’s the price of admission. But it is worth it.