My goodness, free speech is hard. Just this morning, I was reading a REALLY REALLY EXCELLENT PIECE by the really really excellent blogger Amanda Hess, which drove home to me precisely how hard it can be! It concerns a young blogger named M@ (no, really: he is named M@), who, on the blog Why I Hate D.C., wrote the following:
*** TRIGGER WARNING, TRIGGER WARNING, A THOUSAND TIMES TRIGGER WARNING ***
As I continue along the bridge, a young woman, too, comes straight at me and I think of Ralph Ellison and his Invisible Man and wonder why they cannot see my white skin gleaming under the towering lights. She comes straight at me in a game of chicken I cannot now lose... she’s just my type: thin, pretty, white with brown hair. A feeling arises in me hitherto fore unknown. I want to rape her.Okay. Raping a lady? Check. Killing a lady after you've raped her? Check. Rape framed as compliment (she is just his type!), and also as totally impersonal way for dude to work out his aggression? Check! Young white man citing his "gleaming white skin" as evidence of his kinship with RALPH ELLISON?!? Check-mate, my friends. Yes, we have determined, on a highly scientific basis, that this blog post is Very Offensive. The scale goes, 0 (Not Offensive), 5 (Kind of a Tool), 10 (What the Hell is Wrong With You?), 20,073 (M@). Oh, and did I mention that he included A DIAGRAM? He did! He included A DIAGRAM!
In my animal mind, I force her against the railing and push into her, afterward tossing her over the side, burying her in the cold and the wet and the deep—satiating, for now, my love for the city, my hatred.
This is the diagram! See if you can spot the lady he wanted to rape! I know, I know: it's subtle and complicated, like all the art that flows from M@'s fertile brain.
Say, you know what is just as offensive as the rape fantasy described above? All of the graphic rape and death threats M@ has received since then! I'm not printing them here, because they're gross and even more super triggering (there is stuff about entrails and things going into other things that they're pretty much anatomically designed not to have things go into). Amanda Hess has covered many of them, if you are curious. M@ has responded with rape jokes and comments about "feminazis," of course! ("I’ve read my feminist literature and I know my shit better than most women on that subject," also, is a thing he wrote, because HA HAHAHAHAHA ohhhhhhhhh, shit, I can't even finish that sentence, HAHAHAHA, ohhhhhhhhh, we have fun.) Because he is such a grown-up!
What I will say, after much careful reflection, is this: sending a man who writes publicly about his rape fantasies YOUR rape and/or murder fantasies, starring Rape Fantasy Writer Dude, is wrong. It is wrong even though there is some poetic justice to it: these comments may actually prove to him, better than anything else could, that words (especially words about raping!) matter and can be scary and upsetting. HOWEVER. Framing rape as an appropriate punishment, for anyone, is very bad. So are death threats.
Fortunately, I am a professional Insulter of People on the Internet! I have, like, a Ph.D. in that! (DISCLOSURE: I do not actually have a Ph.D. It is a metaphor!) Therefore, I will share with you several more appropriate - yet still insulting! - things that you can write to M@.
- As I read "Why I Hate DC," I come across M@'s graphic rape fantasy. It's just my type: poorly written and pretentious. It contains a reference to Ralph Ellison right next to an allusion to his "gleaming white skin." I want to make him take a literature course in which he actually reads The Invisible Man. The required term paper will be very long. He will not like it. Afterwards, I will give him an F, because he is a bad writer.
- While I peruse various blog posts, written by people with various screen names and pseudonyms, I come across "M@." It's just my type: stupid beyond the point of comprehension. I imagine pushing him up to his laptop and forcing him to edit his profile so that there are actual letters in his name. As he weeps gently for the loss of what he no doubt believes to be a clever pun, I will personally delete that fucking "@" symbol. "Your name is Matt. We get it," I will say, showing no remorse whatsoever. He will be surprised that I have figured it out.
- As I skim my blog reader, noting and enjoying blogs by many intelligent and funny feminists, I come across Amanda Hess's article about, and interview with, M@. He's just my type: an entitled, self-absorbed, narcissistic dickweed with no self-awareness, who will continue defending himself, no matter how wrong he is. A hitherto well-known desire overcomes me: I want to take him to a rape crisis center. I also want to take him to a women's shelter. The women will come forth to tell him their stories, one by one, speaking softly and simply: about the attacks, about their injuries, about what went through their minds, what their attackers said, how hard they have to work each day not to be overcome by the shame and guilt and terror this world seems happy to thrust upon them. They will speak of the failures of the criminal justice system to prosecute and convict their attackers, the failure of communities and families and friends to support them or to understand that they did not "bring this upon themselves" somehow, the failure of us all, as citizens, to notice and care about and refuse to trivialize the huge numbers of women who are made subject to violence, this violence, this intimate violence, this betrayal which befalls our gender so disproportionately. As they speak, M@ will slowly, but surely, come to know what many of us know already: that there is much suffering in this world, that his concerns and troubles are petty and insignificant compared to theirs, and that his tiny, trivial, privileged existence is not the most important one on the planet. He will not be able to handle this, as it invalidates his entire worldview, so his head will explode. Whoops.
- As I read the Internet, I come across M@. He's just my type: the sort of dude who writes graphic fantasies about raping and killing women, then is surprised and petulant when people are angry about that. I want to lure him to my matriarchal bee colony. I imagine arranging a ridiculous series of coincidences through my chicanery, which will inevitably end with him in a bear suit, screaming about "BITCHES!" I will then sacrifice him to my pagan nature gods. "Killing me won't bring back your goddamn honey," he will exclaim! No matter. The drone must die. The drone must die. The drone must die, satiating my love for bees, my hatred (for M@).