I never had much interest in Twitter. I had Facebook and Instagram accounts and I had decided to draw the line there. Looking at this now I can see that it is a typical human response to something we don’t understand. There is this thing that happens to us as we age–we either decide there is no reason for us to waste our time keeping up with the new ways people are communicating, or we make a concerted effort to keep up because we recognize the need to be aware of and a part of the world around us.
I am very much in the latter camp, which is why I am now on Twitter. That and because Twitter is a great way to promote our podcast and to connect with the indie podcasting community (THE BEST COMMUNITY).
Of course, being on Twitter (or facebook, or instagram) also means that I will witness offensive shit and I will have to make a decision: ignore, or speak up. Last week a fellow podcaster, a transgender person, tweeted about being very hurt by an anti-trans tweet, re-tweeted by someone they respected. To back them up and in an attempt to take on some of the emotional labor this person was dealing with, I made a comment. The actual substance of the original tweet and my comment are not important here and don’t need to be re-hashed in full, but the basic premise was that these dudes were arguing that Rachel Dolezal identifying as black is the same thing as a “man identifying as a woman.” Otherwise known as a transgender person identifying as the gender they actually are.
I take partial blame for what came next, because I should’ve just stopped engaging with these dick-for-brains trolls, but I couldn’t help myself. I kept trying to make arguments in new ways, to help them understand what I meant when I said that if you are a “cis white man” your opinion on this topic is irrelevant. A pointless act. Trolls are not going to come around or see the light. Although, maybe someone observing our conversation learned something or might reflect back on it in a new way. Let’s hope.
Long story short, some of the tweets directed at me included these gems:
“No wonder no one takes you seriously.”
“You have a vagina, so all of your opinions should be taken with a giant grain of salt.” (yup, seriously.)
“You are an embarrassment.”
Who knew Twitter was such a hellhole?? Oh, everyone did.
There were many more of course, but you get the idea. The worst “insult” I contributed was “cis white man,” which these people just CANNOT abide. One of them said the term “cis” set his teeth on edge. It’s a typical game these right-wing assholes like to play–make the other person out to be the “intolerant” one. Fox News has mastered this ploy. Just look at the “War on Christmas.” Their whole argument is that by being inclusive we are discriminating against the dominant culture. This is not how discrimination works.
I blocked these assholes and moved on, feeling discouraged but also powerful. I could shut down their voices by the click of a button.
Yesterday, I responded to a comment on Ijeoma Oluo’s Instagram page, again attempting to speak up and take on some of the emotional labor she was shouldering when an asshat decided he must tell her how wrong she was about her own experience.
This dude argued, like they do, that she was a racist for calling white people racist. Aaaaand, my eyes are stuck in the back of my head. He was making the “reverse racism” argument (not a thing, nor is reverse sexism), and being incredibly condescending, dismissive, and insulting even as his ignorance was on full display. Ironic, no? A lot of mediocre straight white men seem to assume this kind of confidence.
Blah blah blah, I said that maybe he should learn what racism actually is, and he made several comments in response, one of which included the suggestion that I “sit down and learn,” and that he wasn’t going to listen to some “middle-aged woman” whose generation took part in oppression when his generation is fighting for equality. Clearly, denying what oppression actually is is a powerful way to fight for equality. Can someone call the optometrist because my eyes are gone, they rolled so hard. They have fallen out of the back of my head. OH GOD MY EYES
Wait, back up. Did this douche canoe just say that he was justified in dismissing my thoughts because I am a “middle-aged woman?” Now this was new to me. This was the first time I had been dismissed due to my age that wasn’t a dismissal of my youth. He was arguing that I was too old to have a valid opinion.
This one stung, I’m not going to lie to you. I sat with it for a while, trying to figure out why it stung. Was it just a reminder of the fact that my life is in fact halfway over, of my ongoing existential crisis? Sure, that’s the obvious part.
Upon further reflection, though, I have realized that the sting of this dickweed’s comment was actually the sting of tired old sexism. It was of course also ageism, but a type reserved for women.
Let me womansplain this to you. Women are continually dismissed, throughout their lives. When we are little girls we are cute and pretty or we are nothing. When we are young adults, we are hot or we are nothing. Our thoughts and opinions are often met with a sort of pat on the head from the men in our lives. An “OK, honey.” When we enter the work force, if we are ambitious we are bitches, if we decide to have children we are worthless (and on and on).
Please understand that this is not as simple as I’m making it out to be here. And I also do believe things are changing in this respect. But these are the feelings that many of us have dealt with for our entire lives, so when this one troll called me a middle-aged woman as a way of dismissing me, I got fucking angry. I got angry because there has always been a reason to dismiss me in the minds of men, and age is an easy excuse. I’m either too young or too old for my opinion to count. If a man would’ve been the one making the comments I made, this jagweed wouldn’t have even thought to make age an issue.
The amazing thing about both of these situations was that sexism wasn’t even the topic at hand. It was just the tool used to shut me down. We were arguing about transgender identity and racism. I don’t deal with either. I am a cisgender white woman in a society run by white supremacy. I am not straight, but I am married to a man, so the world sees me as straight. In other words, to the outside world, my gender is the only weapon to use against me.
Can you imagine how exhausting it must be to defend your very right to exist as a trans person or a black person or a person of color? Imagine being a black trans woman and having to defend all three of your intersecting identities? To constantly be trying to prove to the world that you are valid and that your experiences are real? The topics I was originally commenting on are matters of life and death for a lot of people.
Know when to stop engaging with trolls, but also know that if you are a white person you have a tremendous amount of privilege in this country and this world. Know that if you are a cisgender person you have a tremendous amount of privilege in this country and this world. Know that if you are a man, you have a tremendous amount of privilege in this country and this world.
Use it for good, and don’t let the assholes, asshats, douche canoes, dick-for-brains or jagweeds silence you.