March 04, 2014

Charlotte Dawson

Charlotte Dawson

Because, you see, “Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet.” So says Amanda Hess at the Pacific Standard. She relates some of the higher profile examples of frenzied vitriol that “uppity” female writers at all levels of fame seem to attract. “I just want to rape her with a traffic cone””€”directed at a blogger”€”is typical, if rather more creative than usual.

“[L]ike any good journalist,” Hess writes, “I keep a running file documenting the most deranged cases.”

That makes me a bad one (but I knew that anyhow). I maintain no such file. My attitude toward this “bullying” is more in line with Julie Burchill’s, who responded to Charlotte Dawson’s death by celebrating the “€œjoy of online hatred.”€

Burchill finds Internet name-calling bracing. “Like brass-rubbing and anal sex,” she admits, “online scrapping is not for everyone.” (Don’t tell Claire Dederer.) Only “articulate, secure types” such as herself, she warns, can and should fight back when threatened with lawsuits, a policeman’s knock at the door, death by rape, rape after death, or”€”in Burchill’s most recent, and gleefully recounted, (virtual) experience, a beating by someone’s Hell’s Angels boyfriend.

Like all these women”€”like most writers I know, male and female”€”I’ve been insulted and threatened by angry readers, mostly (but not exclusively) male. Like Burchill, I’ve learned to welcome these comments and emails, but for a different reason. Each instance has built up my tolerance to the point where they have to be particularly pointed to so much as sting slightly.

I don’t bother reporting death threats to the police, because the police are incompetent at best and corrupt at their worst. My response to rape threats is to simply reply, “I doubt you could manage it.”

So while Hess’s reaction is to file restraining orders and Burchill’s is to waste hours “debating” her opponents, I ignore this “bullying” (almost) completely and carry on writing. Occasionally, I’ll post a particularly pathetic message on my blog along with my critic’s email address and let my readers play pit bull in my stead.

And while I’m sure it’s a coincidence, the number of threatening messages of all kinds dropped off dramatically about three years ago, right after I posted a photograph of my shotgun.



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