My friend is being harassed online. Earlier, as I was going through the routine of blocking and reporting the harassers (and unfortunately this happens often enough that it is a routine), my science brain kicked on.
I got to thinking that it might be interesting to study the language of online harassers. I’ve already been reading up on online insults in gendered discourse for another paper I’m writing. Heck, maybe I can make a career out of studying this.
I caught myself. What was I thinking? I didn’t decide to get a PhD so that I could read a bunch of comments from internet trolls and say “Yep, they sure are sexist (and racist and homophobic and abelist and anti-Semitic)!” But that’s exactly what I did last semester. I spent hours and hour and hours analyzing sexist YouTube comments.
How did I end up neck deep in this line or research? I didn’t want this. I wanted to study literacy and reading acquisition. I wanted to help create programs that would close education gaps between privileged and underprivileged demographics.
So how in the world did I end up studying feminist language theories?
When I started my study on YouTube comments, a lot of people said they could pretty well guess what I was going to find (though I don’t think anybody, myself included, fully comprehended the extent of the toxicity and awfulness). Sure enough, I now have a lot of numbers to back up what most people already knew; the internet is really super sexist.
Not only am I wading through a field of study I never expected to find myself in, I’m getting results that are really just confirming what people already know.
What’s really sad about this is that the results are still relevant. Because while most people I talked to are aware that the internet is sexist, there are still some people who feel the need to argue why it isn’t sexist or why it isn’t that bad or that actually, men have it bad too. Beyond that, there are a lot of people who are really content to ignore it.
Basically, I’m spending lots of time and energy developing research that demonstrates the existence and prevalence of internet sexism. And I’m doing this because PEOPLE CAN’T BE BOTHERED TO LISTEN WHEN WOMEN SAY THIS IS A PROBLEM. Because the problem isn’t serious enough if we just say it’s an issue; some grad student has to go actually verify what women have already said is a problem. Just to make sure we aren’t overreacting. And I’m the person doing this at the expense of studying what I really want to study.
I guess this is why it baffles me when people say that feminists are out for attention or that we’re looking for reasons to be triggered.
I didn’t want this. I didn’t want any of this. I don’t want to write papers about the horrible things people say to women on the Internet when I could be writing about promoting vocabulary growth instead. I don’t want to get angry over things people post on FaceBook when I could be focusing on my ThrowbackThursdays. I don’t want to write blog posts about feminism when I could be writing about funny dating stories instead.
Every minute I devote to feminism is a minute I could be devoting to something else that I would probably enjoy more.
I don’t want to spend my time doing these things. But more importantly, I don’t want the women in my life to be belittled or harassed. I don’t want the next generation to have to put up with the stuff me and my generation have put up with. I don’t want the little girls I know to be taught to hate themselves. Because honestly, I can’t remember the last time I went a full week without one of my friend’s telling me that they had been harassed.
I’m not doing this for me. I’m not doing this because I need attention. I’m not doing this because I like to argue. I’m not doing this because I need a hobby. It’s not about me.
I’m doing this for them.
In fact, I’m not even doing this because I think it’s effective. I’m not convinced I’ve ever managed to change anybody’s mind with the things I’ve written. Regardless, I hope when women read what I write they know I’m fighting for them. They know that in a world that’s eager to tear them down, I’ve got their back.
I’ve got YOUR back.
You’re worth the time I spend. You’re worth the energy I spend. You’re worth all of it and more. You’re worth so much more than I could ever give to you.
And I will keep screaming until you can no longer hear those who would hurt you. Because I care about you more than I care about the criticism I receive for taking a stand.
You are worth every bit of it. And I will never let you forget it.