If you are or ever have been a woman, you may know a little something about sexual harassment. You may have seen a little sexual assault. You may have experienced a little Economic, Sexual, Physical, Verbal, Emotional, or Psychological Abuse (list source). And by “may” I mean definitely and by “a little” I mean at minimum a little but more likely a lot.
Not to say that abuse is for women only but I know men who have no idea what I’m talking about. I do not know any women that ignorant of reality.
The point is that it seems having experienced these things can shrink a person. It can make their voices smaller. It can make them try to take up less physical space. It can rob them of ambition. And that’s without having tried to take a stand. A lot of times, the people who try to fight back are beaten down even harder.
I don’t speak for Leslie Jones but girl got a beatdown without even trying. And while I am thoroughly inspired by her response, I’m also scared.
“Stop letting the ignorant people be the loud ones. … Be louder.” Leslie Jones
That doesn’t mean I won’t do anything. It doesn’t mean that I’ve lost my voice–obviously, because I’m here blogging about it–but when I think about the extent to which I want to get involved, a large part of what holds me back is fear. Because as much as I’d hate to lose Twitter followers or derail my efforts to be a writer or bring about some criticism, that’s not the worst that can happen. And women, far more so than men, know that to be true.
I’ve never received a death threat but I imagine it’s terrifying. For famous people, who are so often out in public, in the company of strangers, and often relying on strangers (assistants, interns, pages, production assistants) to do their jobs, the truth is that anyone could get to them if they were truly motivated.
As a paranoid person, this idea scares the hell out of me. As a fairly newish mother who still can’t bring herself to fully engage world news because it will most assuredly send me into a spiral of anxiety and depression, this idea has been firmly planted in a compartment of my brain that I don’t access unless I’m feeling extra safe. And mind you, I am not so much a public person. I have a short list of the places I go on a regular basis, I talk to very few people I don’t already know, and I always heed Sam Hanna’s advice on tradecraft.
“What was he thinking? Leaving at the same time every day? Running the same route. Buying coffee at the same store. Every day.”
But the threat of violence from someone who vigorously disagrees with my stand against the isms of the world is REAL to me, not because I’ve experienced it personally but because I’ve seen it happen to others So Many Times.
I love what Leslie said with my whole heart. I want to be louder. I want to shout down the horrible hate-fueled trolls… but I’m scared. I’m scared for my safety, for my family, for my livelihood. Hell, I’m scared for my mental health because after a day like Leslie had, retweeting her hate messages, I would surely crawl into a hole and never come out.
And that’s why the haters win. Because the good people are too scared to expose themselves.
(That’s not so much a problem for the haters since many of them are so very good at hiding behind fake social media accounts.)
So what do we do? What do good people do to help when they’re too scared to make themselves a target? When they feel like they have too much to lose in defending themselves, never mind someone else?
Small acts and diligent effort. That’s my answer to What Can You Do To Make The World Better. I’ve never been a protester so much as an educator. I’ve never been one to yell my opinions to a group when I can have a quiet conversation with an individual. It’s not revolutionary on a large scale but it’s not nothin’ either. It allows me to contribute without risking my safety or sanity. It’s a way for good people to get involved without having to be so scared.
God bless the loudmouths who can stand in front of a crowd (literally or digitally) and call bullshit when they see it. The world needs people like that. But for those of us who can’t do the same, there’s still work to do: small acts and diligent effort to make the world a better place.