I always thought if I were ever to be attacked by someone I only knew from social media especially Facebook, it would be by a homophobe, biphobe, transphobe or a religious fanatic who didn’t like my LGBT rights advocacy or anti-religion posts. Never in my dreams would I have thought I would experience a physical attack and verbal abuse at an atheist event from a female Facebook friend who identifies as a feminist and an atheist!
Until now, my casual encounters with people who only knew me from Facebook have been positive. From the ones I ran into in London tubes to the ones who excitedly introduced themselves as my fb friends at social events or gave me heartfelt hugs at London pride, it has been positive experience until now. Get ready to hear the full gist, don’t forget to get your popcorn!
The Atheist event
I was invited to be a member of a panel discussion on Witchcraft belief: Murder and Misogyny in the 21st Century organised by London Black Atheists, I accepted and also promoted the event on my Facebook wall.
I arrived as the event was just about to start, and took a seat at the back of the room. Shortly after, I noticed someone was enthusiastically waving to me from the middle row, I waved back and after a quick look, I realised it was a Facebook friend.
How I knew the Facebook friend
I had not interacted with this particular Facebook friend for some time and this was a conscious decision on my part. It all began when I made a post in July 2013 and a lady commented on it showing her appreciation for the message in the post. She then informed me that she has sent me an fb friendship request and would appreciate if I accepted it. I told the lady that based on her positive comment, I was happy to accept her request.
Another lady, who happened to be a mutual friend of the one I just accepted as fb friend joined the conversation and said she had also sent me an fb request, however since I did not accept it, she has withdrawn her request. She further mentioned that unlike this other lady whose request I just accepted, she wasn’t into begging people to accept her requests. Since I had never had any interaction with her, I wondered why she felt slighted that I did not accept her FB friendship request, a request I had not even noticed amongst the bulk of pending requests. Nevertheless, the lady whom I just accepted as a fb friend chimed in that since they are friends, I should consider accepting her as a fb friend too. It struck me as odd that someone I didn’t know would hold a grudge just because I did not accept their fb request. However, when she told me she is a feminist, atheist and pro lgbt, I reconsidered and even proceeded to send her fb request to make up for not accepting her earlier request. There began a Facebook friendship that eventually made me the target of a physical attack and verbal abuse.
Why I stopped interacting with her on Facebook
In spite of my enthusiasm at finding another Nigerian female atheist who identifies as feminist and also pro lgbt rights on Facebook, the joy was short-lived. I began to notice that some of her status updates did not reflect feminism. For example, she was fond of demeaning other people especially women for the sole purpose of portraying herself as a somewhat superior, more intelligent person.
An example was a status update where she complained about her male co-worker whom she had an altercation with. She ended her tirade by announcing that she is better than the African village wife waiting for him at home for feeding money. I thought that was very ‘Unfeminist’. Since her fight was with her male colleague, why drag the status of his wife into it? What has the status of the wife got to do with the altercation? Is the wife really a jobless African village woman waiting to be fed by her husband and even if she was, why assume superiority over an African village woman? Shouldn’t she understand that being a full time housewife itself is a job albeit unpaid? Such status updates reeks of classism and as a socialist feminist, I just knew she was not someone I can get on with. I never called her out on this since it was her Facebook wall, we were new fb friends and she is entitled to her opinion. Nevertheless, I took a mental note of this.
Another example that got me wondering about her character was a series of furious status updates where she vented about a fight she just had with her best friend whom she had travelled a bit of a distance to spend the weekend with. She claimed the white boyfriend of her black female friend made a racist remark during dinner, she got angry that her friend was willing to let the remark pass, so she left the dinner table to find a hotel to pass the night. What actually got me wondering was the malicious way she publicly humiliated her supposed ‘best friend’ online. She went as far as calling her a doormat who was willing to take insults just to be with a man. As her furious status updates clogged my newsfeed, I couldn’t help but wonder that since this person was her close friend whom she was willing to spend the weekend with, why not just take some time off to calm down instead of maligning her to virtual strangers on Facebook? Why demean your friend on social media just because you had an argument with her boyfriend? I really felt that was an ugly behaviour so I simply made a mental note to keep my interaction with her to the barest minimum possible.
Prepping for the attack
So when I saw her waving to me at the London Black Atheist event, I cautiously waved back. Then I thought, maybe my distance waving and smile was not as enthusiastic as hers which might cause her to feel slighted, so I decided to remedy this. Once a short break was announced, I walked over to her and offered a handshake which turned into a hug. She even admired my pendant and when she commented that it looked really nice, I smiled and said thanks. BTW, I am conscious of people whose first reaction at meeting you is to access what you are wearing; sometimes, it is a way of pegging people into a class.
She then tried to take a jab at me, asking “Are you still active on Facebook, I don’t see you there any more?” I smiled and told her that I am still active on Facebook and suggested that maybe her Facebook settings was acting up. Of course she knew I still actively post on Facebook, it was just her petty way of saying she thought I was dead, at least dead on Facebook. I have seen enough of her status posts to understand how her mind works, so I just smiled and moved away to chat with other people. From then on, I made it a point of duty to avoid direct interaction with her at the event.
The physical Attack and Verbal assault
After the panel discussion, the event came to a close and people started mingling. A mutual friend wanted to pose for pictures with one of the speakers, so she requested that I help take the picture. As I was about to click the camera, my infamous Facebook friend suddenly came charging in and said she wanted to be in the picture. I informed her that our mutual friend requested a personal picture with the speaker but assured her that once I take the picture, I would take the three of them together. She insisted that I take the picture of the three of them together now and not after. I said no, she got angry and became aggressive. So, I said NO, I am not taking this picture and turned my back to walk away.
She started screaming “ It is not your prerogative, it t is not your prerogative” I then turned around and attempted to explain why it was my prerogative to take or not take the picture especially since I was the one holding the camera. I still thought this was just a bad joke but she started screaming and calling me names. Suddenly she aggressively touched my forehead and forcefully pushed me, I was shocked at the attack and told her not to ever touch me again. She got very aggressive and people had to hold her and tried to calm her down.
I stepped back and just started laughing because really it was just a confirmation of her character which I had long deduced from her Facebook status updates. But what was even more surprising were the words coming from her. She kept screaming expletives at me:
“You are an idiot”
“Who made you the voice of LGBTs?
“You are a low class illiterate”
“You are mentally sick”
You are fat, ugly and obese”
“You look like a whale”
I just wondered why her chosen expletives had nothing to do with the supposed reason she was angry which was basically me not taking a picture of her when she demanded it.
People were shocked at the drama unfolding, they tried to calm her down and eventually had to escort her out of the room screaming and kicking, four different times. Concerned people had to hold her to stop her from physically attacking me. I basically just made a show of laughing and running to the other side of the room every time she broke free and came charging into the room screaming my name and raining abuses at me. I retreated to the far end of the room to stay away from her because I detest violence and I won’t demean myself by engaging in physical violence just because someone provoked me. Also, I did not want to further cause commotion.
However, when she could not physically reach me from across the room, she took a swipe at my books that were on display for sale on a nearby table. She started screaming
“Why are you even selling books?
Is that your ploy to make money, you idiot. Go and find better way to make money”
For a second, I wondered why she thought my book was aimed at deceiving Europeans. For FSM’s sake, the target audience of the book are Africans! Afterall the book is titled Freedom To Love For ALL: Homosexuality is Not Un-African!” And do I now get chastised for daring to write, publish and sell an advocacy book? Of course people say some stupid things when angry and these words were that of a bitter, angry, vile woman. I guess she was just so blinded by hate she totally lost the plot.
I lost count of the number of times she called me a stupid feminist idiot. She was taken away but after a few minutes she would rush in again and charge at me. She started screaming that I have a mental problem. I calmly told her from across the room that “Using mental sickness as an abusive word is ableist. It is ableism. You are further stigmatising mental patients, I have explained this so many times on my Facebook dear, call me names if you must, but don’t be ableist”.
This only got her further enraged, she screamed “You are a fat, ugly, obese whale, you stupid feminist idiot”. In fact at that point, she was basically chanting “You are a fat, ugly obese whale!” I smiled and told her “That is fatphobia, babe.”
I knew my laughter was getting her angrier but hey, it was all I could do to keep my sanity in a situation where my safety was truly threatened. When she couldn’t reach me, she started swatting at my books. As they took her away again, she screamed that she would give me her number and her card so I could sue her. I just laughed and said “Don’t flatter yourself babe, you aren’t worth it.”
Making sense of it all
I couldn’t help but think that if I had been so attacked by a man, I most probably would have physically retaliated, not that i am proud of this possibility but my defence mechanism would probably had kicked in reflexively. Maybe her being a fellow woman also contributed to my restraint. I surely wouldn’t like to provide a reference point for the “Women don’t get along” brigade.
Also, I think if it was a man that physically attacked me the way she did and used those expletives, the situation would have been more strictly handled than it was. People kept asking me if we had a previous disagreement. They just could not believe I was meeting her for the first time. I had no physical contact with her prior to the event and we had actually never exchanged angry words on Facebook which was the only place we ever interacted.
Why such anger at a virtual stranger?
She does not like my brand of feminism, hence her constant shouts of “You stupid feminist idiot”.
She does not like the fact that I call out mutual friends on their ableism and fatphobia.
She thinks I am arrogant and obviously felt slighted because I ignored her on Facebook.
When people flare up over otherwise insignificant arguments and sometimes end up causing serious bodily harm, we wonder how such a trivial argument could lead to a major catastrophe which could sometimes be fatal.
In her case, she was so ready to harm me, she was that angry. She physically attacked me. Kept heaping insults at me and had to be escorted out four different times. I could not even leave the room until they made sure she has left the premises, and fearing that she might be waiting to attack on the street, I had to wait for the organisers to pack up and walk with me just to be safe.
All that drama just because I refused to take a photograph of her? Surely it wasn’t just about the photograph.
It was about her pent-up anger and perception of me.
To her, my refusal to take the picture reminded her of my ‘arrogance’ on Facebook.
To her, it was me arguing again and gaining the upper hand.
To her, it was me trying to call her out.
It was no longer just about my refusal to take the picture, it was a trigger that let lose so many pent up resentments. And, that could be dangerous. I had never felt so much hate directed at me from someone I was meeting for the first time. Her eyes were darting red hot flames of hatred.
This also highlights the importance of privacy and security online. After seeing the blazing hate in my attacker’s eyes, I really would be worried if someone like her knows where I live. Hate is ugly, hate is violent. Hate is irrational, hate has no ethics or decency. Hates consumes and like ignorance, it fuels violence.
Seriously, everyone it is just Facebook! If you don’t like someone, just delete them, block them. Life is too short to waste over people you hate so much. If you don’t like me, delete me, unfriend me or better still, block me. All that pent up hate is not good for anyone. I wished someone recorded the whole drama, maybe she would feel ashamed of her behaviour. Like someone said, “She called you a low class illiterate, but in all, she showed herself to be the low class illiterate thug.” I couldn’t agree more.
Actually I pity her, it must be a living hell to be that insecure, jealous, bitter and angry. She epitomised my suspicion that people who are so eager to put others down are often a bunch of insecure people suffering from inferiority complex. A friend wondered aloud why she kept calling me ugly, “But you are not ugly”, she said. I explained that even if i was, it wouldn’t matter, she sees only what she wants to see. She wanted to hurt me in every way possible and calling me ugly was her pathetic way of trying to hurt my feelings. For some people, looks and the cost of your clothes defines who you are. People who value looks and appearances above all else would be crushed if they were called ugly, especially in public. To them, “You are ugly” ranks at the very top of the insult ladder. Personally, I consider it a useless insult with no sting. But for someone who is all about appearances, it is the highest insult they can attack a woman with. It is their vengeful way of trying to break another woman’s confidence.
If only she knew that calling me fat, ugly, obese and a whale was the least way anyone could insult me. For goodness sake, I moonlight as a plus size model! I have participated in plus size pageants and was the first runner up in Miss Figure 8 contest. I was never ashamed of my curves, if anything, I use every opportunity to flaunt my curves. So, calling me fat, ugly, obese was simply childish.
Also, because I call people out on their fatpbobia does not mean I am obese. The fact that some people advocate for LGBT rights does not mean they are LGBT, just same way speaking against deforestation does not make me a tree!
I did wonder why she kept screaming “You low class illiterate”. Considering my degrees, economic background, social and political achievements, calling me “a low class illiterate” seems so way off mark. The only assumption I could make is that she probably thinks people who organise political protests on the streets and hold rallies to demand for their human rights are low-class illiterates. I guess to her, this qualifies me as a low-class illiterate, plus the fact that I don’t speak English through my nose! Oh, she did say I have a headache inducing, banshee screeching voice in the comments she left on my Facebook wall after attacking me.
You have got to be the most uncouth, illiterate low class person I have met in a very long time. Look and learn how to be a part of a panel. Your screeching, angry voice gave everyone a headache, you were communicating with only one person- yourself, screeching like a banshee that even the dead would wake up to. Ugly inside and outside. Feminist indeed. If you’re a feminist, I’ll renounce my feminism. Now go and write a blog about me.”
“Oh and go and get a proper job. There’s a reason your books are not shifting.”
As expected, I got home to realise she had posted angry comments on my Facebook wall where she further called me ugly, made fun of my voice, told me I suck as a panel member and according to her, I couldn’t shift my book. I don’t know how she arrived at that last conclusion, because I am sure she does not have my book’s sales records.
Why I made this public
If the attack was carried out by a religious fanatic, I would no doubt write a blogpost about it. So why not mention this encounter with a self-identified atheist and feminist?
It was a sad, negative experience and I wish to put it behind me, however I am now aware that I must protect myself from such encounters.
I have learnt once again not to welcome people into my space simply because of the tags they wear. I welcomed my attacker into my space simply based on her identity as an atheist, feminist and pro lgbt. This same person with all her tags, physically and verbally attacked me and posted hate comments on my wall. Character is what defines a person, not their beliefs or tags.
A friend at the event wondered if her erratic behaviour was down to some underlying health issues we are unaware of. While this might be a possibility, the fact remains that people are capable of being vile and hateful without suffering from any mental health issues. She had it in for me, an opportunity came for her to lash out and she did. Hate is a dangerous trigger.
Also, she did request that I blog about it. So girl, here is your five minutes of fame, bask in the ignominy.
Final remarks to my attacker
Seriously babe, chill out, it is only Facebook.
And dear, you really have no inkling what feminism is about.
Your violent behaviour was despicable, it would be despicable anywhere but even more so at an atheist event.
You kept screaming that I was a low class illiterate but you must remember that:
YOU were the one that had to be restrained like a dog to prevent you from physically attacking me.
YOU were the one who kept calling another woman a “fat, ugly, obese, mentally ill, stupid feminist idiot”
YOU were the one who threw an unwarranted tantrum and perpetrated violence at a public event, not me.
Girl, you aren’t no feminist. I knew this just after a few interactions with you on Facebook. And your violent attacks aimed at me proved to everyone who witnessed your rant of shame that you are nothing but a low life thug.
You are one very ugly woman inside. Hate by its very nature is ugly and no amount of cosmetics can hide the ugliness that is Hate.
Hate leads to violence. Control that hate, violence does no one no good.
Hate is ugly. You don’t do yourself any favours by allowing hate to take over your whole being.
If you hate someone you only met on Facebook so much that you were willing to physically attack them, your real life must really suck.
BTW, I hope you won’t make it a habit to stalk me at atheists/humanists events.