Last weekend while I was at Calgary Expo, I put a picture on Twitter of a poster inside the convention hall that said “Cosplay does not equal consent” and added that I loved that these signs were everywhere, and also that one unfortunate booth was removed. Because of both of these things, the convention attendees felt safe and had a really enjoyable time. The overwhelming response was that people agreed with me, but I started receiving tweets from people who don’t even follow me that just showed up to attack me, so I muted a bunch of them and reported some to Twitter. As the days went on during the convention, and after I returned home and wrote a blog post about my awesome experience there, the angry and abusive tweets kept coming my way. I know it’s usually best to just ignore people that do this but it was escalating, and sitting back in silence felt like I was just ‘taking it.” In real life and online, I stand my ground to protect myself and anyone around me who is treated badly, so I acknowledged these actions by taking a public stand for myself and for so many women who get bullied online by complete strangers.
I have always been very open and honest about who I am. If you don’t follow me on Twitter or read my blog, then of course you wouldn’t know a single thing about me, which is the case for all of the people who came out of the woodwork to attack me. So they don’t know that I’m not a gamer, or that I’ve only been on Twitter for 3 years, or that when the internet became a “thing” in the 90s, I was raising two children so I was never on it. My Twitter bio says “Accepting that I’m more of a nerd than I thought, one piece of technology at a time” because enjoying things that one would consider a “nerd” would enjoy, whether it’s actual technology or board games, tv shows, movies, whatever, is something I’ve been slowly branching out into after years of working my ass off just to help provide a home and a life with my family. Being a nerd for something is about loving what you love, no matter what it is. We don’t all love the same things, participate in the same things, or even know all of the things other people like. The internet has definitely made it easier to be able to find others with similar interests, but there’s also a ton of stuff out there that people don’t even know exists, because it just isn’t their thing, and that’s okay. What’s not okay is treating anyone badly because you’ve decided they aren’t allowed to enjoy the same things as you, or because you expect them to know everything about what goes on within your community of interests and they don’t. That is just ridiculous.
For whatever reason, the harassment women receive online when they do share a common interest, such as gaming or comics, is out of control. Some women don’t acknowledge the harassment, some just remove themselves from that community to avoid the harassment, and some take a stand, only to have the harassment increase exponentially. I took a stand against being harassed for myself and for other women online and BOY, did they come out in droves to contribute to the very problem I was pointing out. I knew I could do this because this kind of behavior doesn’t hurt me or get to me, which I know isn’t always the case for others who get bullied online.
My first tweet acknowledging the negative comments I had been receiving from people whose Twitter profiles each said they were in GamerGate (I checked each one and continue to do so before muting them when I get their abusive tweets) was to say for every angry/abusive tweet I get from one of these GamerGate people, I would be donating money to a non-profit feminist charity called Feminist Frequency. I was attacked so quickly and so ferociously after saying that, so I then said I was going to cap my donation at $1,000. After 2 hours of nonstop abusive tweets, I made the donation to Feminist Frequency, and because of the content of so many of these tweets, I added donating $1,000 each to RAINN, an organization that helps rape and abuse victims, as well as to ACLU. I chose to do this to have something positive come out of a horribly negative thing that so many people do: bully and abuse women online.
I was called a bitch, a cunt, a whore, an autistic, retarded, a fucking idiot, a faggot, a middle-aged mom, (that one was hilarious because it’s true but I guess was an attempt at an insult) a fake geek girl, and stupid too many times to count. I was told repeatedly to kill myself, drop dead, jump off a cliff, and deserved to be killed “700 ways” as well as numerous threats of rape and other forms of violent harm. I was told over and over that no one cares about me, or what I was saying, or what I did with donating my money, yet hundreds and hundreds of people were seeking me out to bully me, threaten me, and even photoshop a fake tweet meant to look like I wrote it that said “I really want all these trolls to die. In fact I’m going to kill them all myself.” This is a hell of a lot of effort going into not caring what I have to say. And in the middle of all of these abusive tweets was a series of 4 tweets from one person claiming to be a sniper who planned to “wipe [me] the fuck out with precision.” I reported many of these people to Twitter, who were super helpful and suspended accounts (the first suspension being of this so-called “sniper” dude) and was told to contact our local police to file a harassment report, which I did.
What was crazy to me in all of this were the people coming after me to say that they “didn’t see a single threat” in my Twitter mentions and that I was lying. I guess when one lives online among a community of people who treat each other like this on a a daily basis, they think that kind of talk is perfectly fine. Like I said earlier, I haven’t been on Twitter or the internet very long, but the people who follow me and who I follow in my online community don’t treat each other this way. To justify this behavior as “it’s just a troll, get over it” or “you’re such a fucking idiot, that’s a meme from 10 years ago” and treat all of it like it isn’t a threat? Unreal. But I guess if your plan is to just blindly attack a stranger for the thrill of dog-piling on, that’s the least of your problems.
I know in every large group there’s going to be ones that make them look bad among the people who just like being part of a group. Through Twitter and through emails, I actually heard from several GamerGate people who wanted to reach out to apologize for the atrocious behavior of these other people in the GamerGate community that make the rest of them look bad, which I really appreciated. I have no qualms about anyone choosing to be part of any group, club, organization, whatever. The only issue I have, and the reason this all came up in the first place, is when people that are part of any large group, in this case it was pretty much all from GamerGate, make abusive comments and threats. It’s a huge problem that has been addressed many times. Sadly, without much change to the problem itself. I’m glad I said something about it and would gladly do it again.
You get one life. Try to use it to be kind, to be honest, and to be honorable. And if you don’t know how to do that, seek some therapy for your anger issues and leave the rest of us out of it. No one deserves to endure the shit storm of abuse you fling their way.