I’d like to open today’s column up a bit to your thoughts as I ask the question “Is it worth it?”
And when I say “it” I mean, is speaking out online and trying to move the needle on issues that are sometimes unpopular worth it in the end? We’ve had an excellent (and rather extreme) example lately in the case of Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes vs. Women in Video Games Kickstarter, which I visited relatively early on and was weighing whether or not to fund (I was leaning toward yes when her Kickstarter went viral). But Sarkeesian’s project went viral and earned an unprecedented $158k+ (against her original $6k goal) primarily because the haters, misogynists, creeps, “ole boys club”, and trolls came out in force against her to a staggering (and frankly, horribly alarming) degree. Thus Sarkeesian’s project became a big news item, earned a lot more coverage, and a whole lotta people (nearly 7k) cried foul in the form of support – and cold hard cash.
In some ways completely unrelated and yet somehow also nearly identical Karen Klein now has a vacation fund” of close to $700k after the abuse she took from kids she monitored on a bus went viral and Max Sidirov set up an Indiegogo account to give her some financial (and emotional) support in the form of funds for a vacation.
So, is the – quite frankly insane (but awesome) – level of support we’re seeing in reaction to these horrible offenses and behaviors worth the original horror? And perhaps more importantly does the very fact that we’re seeing this play out in this way mean anything?
Surely not only will Sarkeesian’s video series be better and “more” since she’s funded at 2,648% of her original goal. Even if she takes a hefty profit, I expect she’ll do even more good with that money – even if it’s just to keep herself and Feminist Frequency funded as she continues to try to move the needle on these issues.
Of course NOBODY should have to go through this. You shouldn’t be tortured, slandered, harassed, and threatened for any reason, let alone because you tried to use crowdsourcing to fund a feminist leaning project – but this is the reality we’re living in. But the reality also seems to have become that for all the hate that emerges, there’s also this response from so many people that it will not be tolerated. It’s fascinating.
I have been through nothing like what either Sarkeesian or Klein have been subjected to, but writing this feminist learning column (and a slew of other things I do) has certainly brought me plenty of haters and trolls. I’ve been threatened on many an occasion and my name has been slandered across the web (in the most bizarre of places). I’ve been repeatedly threatened with rape, and everything in between from the rather benign “shut up and get back in the kitchen” to stunningly horrible “I hope your family dies.”
I blame nobody getting harassed in such a way for deciding to throw in the towel on whatever it is they were trying to do/have/say/etc. It is mentally exhausting to put up with abuse from total strangers for doing absolutely nothing wrong. I’ve considered throwing in said towel on many occasions, but for me, for now, this is where the “worth it” comes in. For now at least I don’t feel I’m done talking and so if they make me go away before I feel I’m finished and that I’ve done all I can and want to do, then it feels like letting them win. And that’s not acceptable to me. Not now at least. And I feel like what we’re seeing of late with these very public showings of massive financial support against a small but very vocal group of haters is similar. The – “this is unacceptable and you will not shut us up simply because you’re used to winning” – is coming through loud and clear in a way that is innately understandable to everyone – MONEY.
The Kickstarter I’m running now for my own project has been very fortunate to be both successful and well supported without a lot of trolling or hate, but I’ll be honest that it was fear of that very thing that almost kept me from doing it at all. Not only that, but when deciding how to package my book I hemmed and hawed over using the word feminist or not. My book is undoubtably feminist, not because it preaches anything (it’s not that kind of book) but just because I’m a feminist and it’s something I believe in and so of course it seeps into much of what I write (the same way it does here). Ultimately, I fully embraced calling my book feminist, because though it is (inexplicably to me) a “bad word” to so many people, if I, a card-carrying member can’t use the word to describe something accurately then I’m not only not “moving the needle” but I’m not even really trying.
In truth, though nobody enjoys being harassed (and I’m certainly not trying to encourage it) I’ve almost come to a point where I’m happy to see trolls show up on something I’ve written because they generally prove my point better than I ever could. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not made of stone, none of us are, and I don’t speak for others, only myself, and sometimes it hurts no matter how thick my skin has become, but there is some value in seeing your point proved so effortlessly. Not unlike what happened with Sarkeesian’s experience, my most popular/trolled/commented on column in over three years of doing She Has No Head!, was for something that to many people seemed obvious, seemed like something that didn’t even need to be discussed it was so obvious. Prior to the misogynistic outbursts, many, both trolls (and the genuinely confused) openly wonder why a study or article is even necessary or relevant – “we’ve already conquered this thing you’re bitching about” is something I frequently hear. But judging from the hateful responses – the one Sarkeesian and countless others have received – it becomes pretty easy to point to that reaction and say, “No. No, we have clearly NOT conquered the thing I’m bitching about.”
But go ahead, bring on the hate. Every time you do it you convince more and more people to join my side. Every time you do it you convince more and more people that there IS something worthy of discussion. Every time you do it you convince more and more people to donate bucketloads of cash to see that the discussions DO in fact continue, that the positive projects find their audience, and get the support they deserve.
I think you can all tell where I stand from the above, but I’d be interested to hear what you all think? Is the response we’re seeing to these things indicative of a sea change? Does it matter? Does it mean anything? Or is it just the nature of social media and a good study of what happens when anything goes viral?