Please note that all links in this post are courtesy of Do Not Link.
A lot of you have no doubt noticed by now that despite rigidly sticking to a posting schedule for several years now, much of 2014 has seen a dramatic decline in my post numbers, as well as in regularly-scheduled posts. (Meaning that things go up when I manage to write them rather than on our Tuesday / Thursday schedule.) And a number of you have noticed that I rarely manage to return emails anymore, and that my Twitter activity has become almost non-existent.
I'm ready now to talk about why that has been happening.
I want to say in advance that I am grateful to everyone who has sent me well-wishes, though I haven't been able to respond much to those missives I am nevertheless grateful. And I appreciate that everyone has been kind about my disability flare-ups: my bad back (and the copious medication I require to manage it) as well as my depression. But today I need to talk about the online harassment that is actually underlying this constant stress, pain, and depression and greatly exacerbating it.
There is a website run by a group of people who are dedicated to harassing Melissa McEwan and anyone who associates with her online. I'm not going to get into the specifics of their harassment of her, as that is Liss' story to tell, but I do highly recommend that you read her account at Shakeville, and I want to underline that I support Liss completely, both as one of my best friends and as a feminist who I believe to be doing great work in maintaining a space that is safe for me and many others. But what is my story to tell today is that these people have been harassing me simply because they can, because I am an acceptable target on their radar as a woman and feminist who exists online, because they deliberately hope to hurt Liss by hurting her friends, because they want to isolate her from her friends by tearing us down, and simply because they are bullies who like to bully.
When they feel like it, these bullies like to pretend to pity me and believe I'm a good egg who just needs to be separated from Liss for my own benefit, because I am an infant who needs their conscientious intervention. I also make for a useful contrast when they want to outline why Liss is a Bad Woman for not having a job outside the home whereas I am a Good Woman for having the immense privilege that I had to land the day-job that I have. I am used as an Exceptional Woman in order to wield me as a club against my friend:
To ME Ana has the most social skills and understanding towards her costumers/viewers and people who go onto her blog. Her Sob Story also seems legit and doesn't define her at all. I like her blog and her co moderators on their. She also does proactive crap and has a job which isn't her own blog. Ana's legit and three times the person Liss is!
You’re right, ana actually does seem to be reasonable and thoughtful. It’s a shame she doesn’t have more to do with the blog. (Other than those awful Elementary recaps)
When I am not being held up as an example of Exceptional Womanhood in order to criticize Liss for failing to be precisely like me in all points (lolsob), I am being lambasted as being just as bad as Liss, worse than Liss, a "copy" of Liss, and so on and so forth because all this is an excuse for bullies to bully me.
Not more than four days after the site owner called me "reasonable and thoughtful" and stated their opinion that I didn't have much to do with the Shakesville blog (and what a "shame" it was that I didn't, what with my being so reasonable and thoughtful), the same person was encouraging harassing submissions about me. Not because they like to bully, oh no! Just because I influence Shakesville as a blog and community heavily and therefore I'm fair game for harassment. I went from not having much to do with Shakesville to influencing the blog pretty heavily in four days time, largely because my value as an Exceptional Woman stick had worn out.
Could I send you some things from Ana Mardoll's blog? At first I really enjoyed her Narnia deconstructions, but it was ruined when I read the comment section where she brooks no dissent and dismisses all criticism as "'splaining." She's even attacked people who were agreeing with her because she misunderstood them. There's also nonsense like her adding a "content note" for ableist language to a line from Macbeth ("a tale told by an idiot.")
By all means! She influences Shakesville’s uh, community, pretty heavily.
Over and over again, this harassment site refers to me by inflammatory and harassing language. The site owner has literally called me "fair game" and has a site tag dedicated to me. Commenters dehumanize me into a "horcrux" of Liss or her "doppleganger". Commenters call me a "heifer" because of my weight. I want to here note that the site comments are moderated and I have seen more hateful (and sometimes what I feel are outright threatening) comments about me removed by the site owner, which means that (a) the hateful comments that remain up about me are the ones that the site owner feels are appropriate, (b) the site owner is perfectly aware that they are whipping up harassers at their site, and (c) it becomes that much harder for me to point to these harassers when the most culpable comments are being scrubbed with regularity.
Despite the fact that the site owner is aware of my disabilities which sometimes prevent me from blogging--I've made multiple posts about my disabilities, and numerous commenters have pointed them out, usually in order to mock me for being disabled--they also nevertheless choose to make posts mocking my "filler" content like the Cute of the Day because open threads are not feminist work and I'm fleecing my readers by allowing a donation button on my site if I don't generate new and original content on a faster basis, disabilities be damned. All of this whips up a Robin Hood mentality against me: I am "fair game" (a dangerously loaded term) because I am hurting others by not generating Twilight posts fast enough.
Not that they like the Twilight posts, except insomuch as it gives them a chance to call me condescending names ("sweetie, honey") and stir up the harassment even more by loudly and longly complaining that I'm not doing feminism right, that I'm wasting my time, that I have armchair-diagnosed mental disabilities for performing media analysis when I should be... something else. Hosting a Tumblr site dedicated to tearing down women like me who perform media analysis, I suppose; harassment being the new word in good feminist work.
I will here also note that this site has over a dozen posts dedicated to complaining about my Wendy Davis transcript. They have elaborate conspiracy theories about how the transcript project was a ploy to get all the volunteers involved to be distracted so as not to notice that Liss created a separate blogging board that was being used to test coding changes. They have posts and posts about how the copyright line in my transcript--which was included under actual legal advice and not five minutes googling (shockingly enough!) and which covers any original material in the ebook including my extensive footnotes and introduction--is a nefarious ploy by me to... I don't even know that they know what this is supposed to accomplish. But it is definitely very nefarious! They encourage mock-reviews on Amazon in order to weight the search result ranking down as low as possible.
I honestly don't know whether this fits some legal definition of harassment, nor do I even really care. What I care about is that I feel harassed. I feel hurt. I feel depressed and tired and in pain and stressed. I feel the impact of these posts, of the hatred they whip up for the thrill it gives the bullies involved in it. I am reminded of this site--which I would happily never visit--every time someone comes over here to leave troll remarks in the comments, because I have to click over to their Disqus profile and see why some random person is coming over here to be fussy about a Twilight post and oh wow isn't that nice when I see their Disqus history involves a comment about my mental health (or any number of other, scarier comments) over on That Site under a post with my name in it. This behavior disturbs and upsets me. It is deliberately repetitive in order to do repeated harm to me. It is intentional and persistent. And it hurts.
And I need to point out what I find most gobsmacking about all this. This site uses me as an example for why they "need" to harass Liss and spend their lives minutely cataloging everything she does. They have to harass her because otherwise I--that's me, Ana Mardoll, not "people like me" or me as some stand-in for a hypothetical person, literally me--might fail to realize that Shakesville isn't a safe space for me. I mean, I think Shakesville is a safe space for me, but I'm wrong to think that, and these people are helping me by tearing Liss down. They claim to be attacking Liss on my behalf, for my own betterment.
screenshot of me at Shakesville saying:
[CN: Misogny] And I click over to the original article and am instantly reminded by the comments of one of the many, many, MANY reasons I appreciate Shakesville and all Liss' hard work in sharing stories like these in her safe space.
Thank you, Liss.
This. THIS right here is why I think it’s important to call Liz out on her bullshit. People need safe spaces on the Internet, especially women. Right now there’s a lot of talk about how if you are a woman and dare to write shit that you get threatened with all kinds of depraved things and no one wants to actually do anything about it. In fact, it’s acceptable.
People trust Liz to create somewhere that isn’t hostile. And that trust is broken over and over and over again. But people like fucking Ana Mardoll can’t see it. They think the controlling and the nitpicking is all in the name of justice instead of feeding some deeply seeded desire to control.
So what happens when you abuse people’s trust in the name of safety? She’s made herself a guardian, an authority figure. Shouldn’t she be upheld to standards?
What strikes me about this post is that it exists on a tag with my name (for ease of stalking!) where the latest post openly admits that they harass me whenever they're bored because Liss "isn't giving [them] a whole lot to work with this week". This site dedicated to tearing Liss down in order to "improve" the internet isn't about improving Shakesville or teaching Liss or making a safe space online for women--a safe space that isn't "toxic" or "controlling" or "nitpicking" or defined by a "deeply seeded desire to control". Because when Liss doesn't "mess up" (by their standards) or goes offline for a time, it's run-run-run to my site in an attempt to find something, anything to pick on in order to feed their bullying outrage. I am their "Ana Mardoll Break" for when nothing better is going on, a little amusing popcorn ball to pick at.
An Ana Mardoll Break
Since Liz isn’t giving me a whole lot to work with this week I thought I’d have a peeksy over at Ana’s place and see what all this Twilight business is about. Much like the Wendy Davis transcript, Ana is trudging on doing the Lord’s feminist’s work and recapping the Meyers masterpiece.
I’m honestly not sure who is more obnoxious.
From her Chapter 19 recap:
What I am going to point out is that this is entirely out of character for Charlie. Charlie has, for better or worse, spent the entire novel trying to leverage his privilege over Bella—his privilege as her father, his privilege as the owner of the house she lives in, his social privilege, etc—trying to get her to live her life according to his standards and desires. He has done this even knowing that they don’t have the kind of relationship where this interference is welcomed or appropriate, that their blood-bond doesn’t mean he’s magically someone who understands his daughter well or is someone she trusts or confides in. Full speed ahead, damn the torpedoes has been Charlie’s approach to interfering in Bella’s life and choices.
Ana, sweetie, honey. Charlie has House Privilege and Parent Privilege because he is the parent who owns the house. That’s not privilege. That’s being a father and house owner with a teenager daughter who is hanging out with some sketch people.
Let’s be clear here. THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS WRONG WITH TWILIGHT, don’t go looking for more.
I knew, before I ever posted my first blog post, that I would eventually shutter whatever blog I managed to build because of harassment. I knew because I had seen it happen dozens of times with other feminist blogs and forums I'd followed. I knew going into all this that being a woman online, and a feminist online, means that harassers will find you and tear at you until they can convince you that it's simply not worth it to continue--that whatever you're giving of yourself for the sake or your activism has become too much to give any more.
And I cannot stress enough that this kind of harassment is not a compliment. Waking up to field drive-by trolls whose comment history reminds me that there's yet another post up about me at That Site is a bad, a very bad start to my morning. This negative attention doesn't have a silver lining for me where I console myself that I'm doing good work or that trolls always come after the strong women or that we are defined by the people we piss off when we do activism. This isn't a compliment to me. It hurts. It hurts every day, knowing that every word I write will be used in an attempt to hurt my friend Liss. It hurts knowing that people are knowingly fostering harassment against me in an attempt to cause me harm. This shit hurts.
I'm still here for right now. I haven't quit yet. But there have been so many days that I've considered it; just walking away from the constant abuse. There are days when I can't check my email because I can't deal with the vitriol that I know is waiting there for me. And if I do need to walk away, I want to be honest with my online friends and readers about why: that the harassment became too much for me to bear.
And for the people who are reading along from That Site, I want you to know that your behavior towards me hurts me. I am going to ask that you stop posting about me, that you stop tagging posts at your site with my name, that you stop leaving phony reviews on my transcript, that you stop emailing hatred to me, that you stop fostering a community that calls me heifer and endlessly speculates about my mental health. You are hurting me. I am asking you to stop.
If you think it's feminist to continue to harass a woman--an infertile woman with a lifelong disability that causes her chronic pain and who daily struggles with depression--simply because you don't like that she writes about Twilight and Narnia and Ross Geller, then obviously I can't stop you from continuing to hurt me. But you can't continue to claim ignorance or that you believe in your heart that you're "helping" me somehow, because you are not. You are causing harm.