After reading Sarah Kendzior’s post last night, I trawled through the tweets regarding her situation. I recommend doing the same before leaping into the discussion, because enough hurt has been done by people typing before they’ve thought.
Although I originally planned this without direct references, my point is based on Kendzior’s experience and the examples I have linked to throughout are from the discussion of her situation. I hope that the point of this article outweighs any further attention drawn to the issue, but it comes with many apologies to her and her family.
One tweet stuck with me.
Well, actually, two.
Their point was underlined by the awful comments on Matt Bruenig’s equally awful little article, which leap straight from denying that online abuse intensifies once you draw attention to it, to asking the man who was arguing that point why he was drawing attention to it. In other words, they refuse entirely to admit awareness of, or take responsibility for, the effects they and their words might be having. Instead they point outwards, and criticize others.
It’s fine to have opinions. It’s excellent. It’s equally excellent to have discussions about those opinions.
But your opinions do not exempt you from morality. Even if you believe those opinions are morally right, the way you’re expressing them might not be.
We need to have a discussion about ethics.
We need to have a discussion that makes it clear that regardless of the point you are making, you need to think about the effects of how you are making it. Outside of your own argument.
You need to be aware that even though you’re decrying the systems of oppression and abuse, those systems still exist.
And as part of opposing them, you need to ensure that your actions don’t contribute to them.
You need to ensure that you do not objectify, do not dehumanise, do not diminish others to a flippant example.
You need to accept the effects of your actions, and accept that you caused them. Even if they’re not the ones you intended.
Note that no-one criticising Sarah’s reaction, save for one man who claimed that it couldn’t really be frightening, has acknowledged that the abuse has intensified greatly because of Jacobin’s article, and the rest of the criticism of Kendzior.
If an example drew attention, offhandedly, to rape threats you received, you would object. If you received even more when you objected to it, and so did your family, you would be upset.
More importantly, we shouldn’t have to resort to “treat others how you would like to be treated” in order to defend a woman’s objection to abuse, or to denial of that abuse. This is a very current issue, as anyone aware of #yesallwomen will know.
If we want an equal and fair world, we need to treat people like we care.
You’re over-reacting, says a woman who is not the one being abused. You’re a moron, says a man who has wilfully ignored the very cogent explanations of Kendzior’s reaction on her twitter feed. (See particularly the latest retweets from caulkthewagon.)
You can’t advocate social and political awareness, and then refuse to display it.
This isn’t the only example of this issue, just the latest one.
We need to have this discussion.