Discover more from An Irritable Métis
There's Nothing the Internet Hates More
Than a woman who doesn't hate herself
Welcome to the midweek(ish) version of An Irritable Métis. This is where things are usually a little more random, a little less … irritable. Except for this week, as you’ll see. If you forgot what all this is even about, you may remind yourself here. If you want to help me keep me from ever taking up a post behind a register somewhere in front of the slavering multitudes again, well….
It’s only been about seven years since there was so much buzz accompanying the imminent release of Jon Krakauer’s Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, though it seems it’s been decades. In this one Krakauer investigates “a spate of campus rapes that occurred in Missoula over a four-year period” and focuses significantly on the UM football team and the community’s relationship to it. To say I have any personal connection to the book would be a gross overstatement but I did have a smidge of behind-the-scenes insight because the primary Missoulian reporter documenting the cases Krakauer was writing about is my good friend Gwen Florio. At the time I was in a little writing groupwith Gwen, another reporter, and another writer, all women, and their collective experiences did more to dawn my realization at the time of how the world is to people who aren’t white (or look it), male, and of imposing physique or demeanor than anything else. I am all of those things to varying degrees, and my friends taught me so much about how their world contrasts mine. Conversations about being careful about where the car is parked, where the safe places to run are, all of it. Things that never really crossed my mind, at least not for the same reasons. Things more than half of the population have to worry about all the time.
I was particularly stunned by the descriptions of harassment Gwen matter-of-factly related that originated from the heart of “Griz Nation,”the diehard fans of the stupid university football team. This wasn’t exactly pre-social media, but it wasn’t the social media we see today either. Much of the vitriol and doxxing – as in posting Gwen’s address – stayed largely off camera on specific message boards. But it was still awful, and it made me angry. Gwen’s stories of the garbage she endured for having the audacity to report negatively on The Football Team are bedrock to my ultimate conclusion that big-time sports, football in particular, are perfect microcosms for everything horrible about our culture. Nor is it a case of that “one bad apple” bullshit. It sucks.
Content Advisory: This essay contains images of graphic language, racial and homophobic and transphobic slurs, and references to sexual violence.
I’m thinking of Gwen today because of all this. The preceding advisory warning opens an essay by the writer Aubrey Hirsch, a recent guest contributor to Lyz Lenz’s “Men Yell At Me” newsletter. The essay is called, “That’s How It Works When You’re a Woman on the Internet” and it will make you sick to your stomach, the harassment she has received. It is harrowing, but I can’t urge you enough to click over and read it, then think long and hard about it. For example, in the essay she shares a screenshot of a pretty innocuous tweet she posted, and then writes:
“People actually threatened to kill me for tweeting that. For weeks. So many people, in fact, that it never occurred to me that there might be a contemporaneous, but entirely unique, source for some of the threats I was getting. But that’s how it works when you’re a woman on the internet.”
Read the piece. For real.
While you’re at it, read this piece from Lenz herself about some of the harassment she’s also received called, “When the Mob Comes.” Describing an experience live-tweeting the Iowa caucus of 2016, Lenz writes:
“During the process, things got tense between the Sanders and the Clinton supporters, and a Sanders supporter yelled at me that I was voting with my vagina. ‘So, America’s voted with its dick for the past 240 years,’ I said. I tweeted part of that exchange. And the tweet got picked up by national news outlets, and I quickly became the center of a social media storm. In the middle of the usual, you’re-an-ugly bitch-no-one-would-even-rape-you kind of stuff, I received DMs telling me that I should die from cancer because my kids would be better off without me. I received emails saying my kids were going to be taken away.”
In this act of “thinking about it” you may wonder who these people — almost exclusively men, especially white men, but not always — being so vicious and hateful even are. Where do they come from? The thing is, I guarantee each and every one of us knows more than our share. It might even be you, or someone being enabled by you.
I’ve been there. I’ve been so angry and disgusted with some of these people on the right that I have been tempted to respond horribly to their bleatings on the internet. I’ve probably written a book’s-worth of responses on Twitter that I deleted without posting. I can’t remember specifics but I’m sure I’ve even posted a few. That’s awful and I’ve spent a large part of the day feeling shitty about it. It just fuels the sordid nature of it all and spurs on the people driven most deeply by their hate. As much as anything else it is the sort of nonsense that will ultimately see me leave social media entirely. It brings out the worst in me. It brings out the worst in all of us.
It’s easy to think that it’s just the people on the right, spurred-on by the dog whistling of the Trump years (which, frankly, have yet to end). But there is plenty of it on both sides of the discussion. The freedom to be awful has been capitalized on by just about everyone. Say what you want about Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter and their ilk and the terrible things they say and do, but there is an army of dudes ready to unleash the same horrific vitriol and hate on them too and those dudes — it’s almost always dudes, isn’t it? — probably didn’t vote for Trump. Or maybe they did. Given that something like 57% of white people voted for the guy means it’s a pretty good chance they might have, whether they admit to it or not.
A town like Missoula that prides itself on being so progressive certainly contributes to the problem. When Krakauer’s book came out, there was a loud chorus of grumbling from people who were offended at its title, the idea being that, “Missoula isn’t like that.” Isn’t it? Where are those Griz football fans from, then? There is strong “Griz Nation” representation in the city, and even the guys who don’t participate in the verbal assault probably have friends who do, have heard them talk their shit, all of it. The idea being that if you don’t stand against it, you are tacitly supporting it, right?
“Missoula isn’t like that.” “This isn’t America.” “Not all men.” “All lives matter.” “I’m not a racist, I have friends who are Black.”
Hate takes seed in these little pockets, then grows, and before long, for example, you have a fascist like Trump calling the media the “enemy of the people” and then the next thing you know you have the tortured corpses of journalists turning up in the streets. Or in the alley behind their house. Exaggeration? I don’t think so. We are not special. It can happen here. It is happening here. We’re so close to the brink that we can all see it from our houses. Maybe this is the final push, when “ordinary citizens” threaten women over the internet for no other reason than that they can, without fear of reprisal, because who is going to stop them?
Really. Who is?
"Writing group” is a bit of a misnomer. It was more of a social gathering with whiskey and indignation and it was fun. As for our group at that time, Gwen is now a celebrated fiction writer with a bunch of novels under her belt; my friend Keila is still kicking ass as a reporter only now as the Deputy Editor with the Daily Montanan; and my other friend Jen was just recently elected to Missoula’s city council. What an inspiring group of women I remain fortunate to still cross paths with on occasion, if not nearly often enough! We should put the band back together again sometime….
To clarify: “Griz” is short for “Grizzlies”; the team is the Montana Grizzlies, for those who are blessed enough not to know