I stared into the eyes of inevitability today: men’s rights activists discovered my existence.
For a good chunk of my evening, my Twitter mentions were filled with weird internet creeps telling me how stupid and unfuckable I am. Getting trolled by pathetic misogynists is essentially a rite of passage for outspoken women on the Internet, and I see it as an honor that my mere existence is perceived as such an immediate threat.
Today’s incident started when I deliberately viewed an article on Return Of Kings, a site that describes its editorial direction as a “return to masculinity.” Return Of Kings had weighed in on controversy surrounding Jezebel’s decision to hire a young, white woman from outside the company (kinda) over a tenured woman of color. I’ve heard the opinions of hundreds of women, but I thought it’d be amusing to see how a site notorious for its misogynistic views would position itself in the debate.
The article was whatever, but I noticed the list of top posts on a sidebar. You’ll notice the headlines get more absurd and dangerous as they go on. In case you’re curious (it’s fine) about the female circumcision piece, it claims filthy sluts contract HPV and then pass it on to kind, brave men during oral sex. Their solution, or what they call a “modest proposal,” is female genital mutilation. Got it?
Anyway, I tweeted this screenshot and another follow-up sentiment about how this line of thinking mostly makes me sad. The former found its way via retweet into weird, leftist Twitter and received quite a bit of attention. I figured it had mostly reached a niche audience, one with names like IronyWatcher and SuddenlyFeminist Dad, but a couple hours later I learned I was mistaken.
Return Of Kings tweeted that an intern (me!) had mistaken their kind souls for Men’s Rights Activists. They also falsely accused me (heh, irony watch) of having my bills paid by “mommy & daddy.” Honestly, of all things they could have accused me of, this is the one claim I can say with 100 percent certainty is total bullshit. I’m not even in contact with my family, but why the hell should I explain that to some internet creeps?
Their followers seemed hellbent on claiming I’d mislabelied them as MRAs. I find it hilarious that a group for men who label sexually enlightened women as conniving sluts would want to bicker over semantics. I’m not here for it, though I did tell one tweeter that I’d just refer to him as a pathetic misogynist if it put his pedantic mind at ease.
The worst tweets came when Return Of Kings tweeted, “Who would you rather bang: @lahlahlindsey or @[redacted]?” A couple choice responses:
1) “is banging eachother an option?? #scissorsisters”
2) “Gonna have to go with the Niners fan.” [Betrayed by my own kind.]
3) You think I cant come up with a thousand NeoFem memes? Suck a dick and die.
And by far the most elaborate, deranged response:
4) “Tell both of em that a webcam in the bathroom & a PayPal account no longer constitutes a profitable business in 2014 #leeches [SECOND TWEET] They’re both worth ~$75/hour @ Miami market-rate for Backpage escorts. *If* they do PIV & Oral.”
I probably could have avoided agitating the situation by just ignoring these confused creeps, but I linked to the tweets from Return Of Kings in a deliberate attempt to draw attention to it. Though these people are behind screens, I did not want to feel isolated by them and you know what they say about safety in numbers.
When I tweet about things like street harassment or being trolled by misogynists, I do it mostly to relate to other women, but also to make it clear to men that this is an everyday occurrence. My theory is that if I speak out about it as often as it happens, maybe women will be seen as credible witnesses to their own experiences.
The strange thing about recounting personal tales about types of incidents that mostly affect women is that most of the replies come from men. Women typically favorite in solidarity, then discuss the issue in private conversation. Men jump in to be heroic or to position themselves as Not Like That Guy. Their replies are often astoundingly ignorant, though in good faith. I appreciate the men who attempt to stand in solidarity, but it very frequently appears they are worried more about how misogyny hurts my perception of men, rather than the violence against women this dangerous mentality perpetuates.
Ultimately, what I’d say this experience taught me is to never tweet at all. I should delete my account and call my internet provider tomorrow and ask them to cancel my service. I’ll move to a cabin in the woods where the only emotional violence I’ll face is from the depths of my own mind.
What I already knew is that there are a lot of sad people in this world who are looking for any solution to emotional instability. The fact that sites like Return Of Kings or A Voice For Men prey on that and introduce seriously twisted ideas like female genital mutilation as a way to feel better than another human is criminal. Never once while under attack did I think that I should repent for being the myriad of misogynistic labels I was called.
In fact, I went on about my day and had a lovely evening out with great friends. Those hurling the insults are the ones who could stand to use some fresh air and fresh perspectives, because who is really the one hurting when a person dedicate so many of their waking hours to acting vitriolic on the Internet?
Lindsey Adler is a sensitive sports fan living in Brooklyn. You can follow her on Twitter at @lahlahlindsey.