After a little more than four years of blogging, last night is the first time I got called a c-word online. And then it happened again. And then again.
What provoked this? These two tweets:
Not going back to the convenience store on the corner after clerk aggressively asked for my number (but not my name) #YesAllWomen
I really don’t like that sketchy clerks, etc can de facto bar me from places, since it’s imprudent to return & keep saying no #YesAllWomen
It was medium-unpleasant encounter, since I was on the way back to my temporary housing (which isn’t in the best part of town). These kinds of pick-up moves make me uncomfortable for two reasons:
1) When a clerk or a cabbie (which has happened to me a lot) pulls this kind of stunt, I not only have to demur politely, but to do so in a way that results in my credit card being returned to me at the end of a transaction. One cabbie didn’t hand it back until I wrote down a series of random digits on the receipt he was proffering.
2) In order to be prudent, I have to be thinking defensively, just in case the come on spirals into something dangerous when I say no, and figuring out which krav moves appropriately balance averting danger with not harming the assailant too much is an unpleasant way to think.
3) If I kept going to the store, and kept having to politely fend off passes, and anything bad happened as a result, I’d have a limited ability to ask for help or sympathy without people saying I’d been irresponsible to return to a place that had made me feel unsafe.
The in-person encounter made me feel uncomfortable, but the c-word laden tweets I started getting made me unhappy.
Not for the reasons their authors may have expected (or hoped). Seeing someone tweet that “Having to look at [my] ugly face does make the world unpleasant” is just kind of ridiculous. I’d like to reply with something like “May that be the worst thing that happens to you today!” but the New York accent I usually deliver that line with doesn’t carry over the internet.
The real problem, for me, is that the people who are tweeting this kind of thing at me seem to be stuck in one of the “small circles” that G.K. Chesterton describes in Orthodoxy, and I don’t have a good way of letting them out or saying, as Chesterton did:
Is there really no life fuller and no love more marvellous than yours; and is it really in your small and painful pity that all flesh must put its faith? How much happier you would be, how much more of you there would be, if the hammer of a higher God could smash your small cosmos, scattering the stars like spangles, and leave you in the open, free like other men to look up as well as down!
Try playing the ideological LARPing game with the kind of people who set up alerts for the #YesAllWomen hashtag so they can fire back insults and threats, and it’s pretty clear that they believe that they’re stuck in a dystopia, one very far to the ‘Survive’ side of the “Survive-Thrive” spectrum.
Their world is literally smaller than the one I think we’re both living in; it has fewer people in it. For the people who are tweeting at me, most women are a little like zombies, or maybe Buffy-style vampires. They look human, but there’s no possibility of fellowship or joy with them, just maybe some sex. They’re honeypots, that lure you in and hurt you — maybe out of malice, maybe because your evo psych theory says they can’t help it. The only safe way to operate is on a constant war footing.
That’s exhausting. It’s a really horrible world to live in; one in which it is genuinely hard to avoid sinking into anger or despair.
And the mistake that this is the real world is a little self-perpetuating — when you reply to people like me with what seems like an appropriate level of anger or defensiveness, you’re not going to encounter a lot of love and kindness, because, from the point of view of our world, you’re behaving bizarrely and dangerously. The prudent folks ignore you, and other folks try and to return to you a little of what you’re dishing out.
Sometimes, the people on the far edge of the “Survive” spectrum pose a real-world threat. Some women have been doxxed (had their personal addresses, etc published) and received detailed, credible threats (the kind that get the police involved). I’m lucky enough to have never had that happen.
What I’d really like to do is to bop people on the internet over the head with something, so that their eyes cross and uncross in a cartoonish way and then, vision restored, they can enjoy the world they’ve been living in this whole time. Since I don’t have a magical head-bopper, I do like this prayer from the Orthodox tradition:
Lord Jesus Christ, Who didst command us to love our enemies, and those who defame and injure us, and to pray for them and forgive them; Who Thyself didst pray for Thine enemies, who crucified thee: grant us, we pray, the spirit of Christian reconciliation and meekness, that we may heartily forgive every injury and be reconciled with our enemies. Grant us to overcome the malevolence and offences of people with Christian meekness and true love of our neighbor. We further beseech Thee, O Lord, to grant to our enemies true peace and forgiveness of sins; and do not allow them to leave this life without true faith and sincere conversion. And help us repay evil with goodness, and to remain safe from the temptations of the devil and from all the perils which threaten us, in the form of visible and invisible enemies. Amen.
Please don’t go through my tweets and try to find the unpleasant replies so that you can reply to them yourself. Figuring out a good reply to these kinds of things is hard, and, absent something that will be fruitful for the person I’m talking to, I’d rather not reply than fuel a sense that the tweeter is locked in a Hobbesian battle with me and other feminists.