Oh god, I could tell exactly how this was going to turn out. A woman did an experiment: when she received abuse on Twitter, she tried being nice and asking them politely if they wanted to talk about it. I’m sure you can guess how it went. She boiled the results down to 6 observations/conclusions.
1. None of these people considered themselves misogynists. Yeah, I’ve noticed. They can spew out the most horrific sex-based insults, but they’ll insist to the end that they really love women.
2. They later doubled-down on the sexist insults. It only escalates. I’ve never seen a troll realize that what they’re doing is disgusting.
3. According to them, all of this was my fault. They think they can avoid all blame/guilt by shifting responsibility for their actions to the target.
4. This wasn’t harassment; I’m just too sensitive. This is part of #3. The real problem, they think, is that everyone else is too thin-skinned.
5. They accused me of harassing them. You want to see an affronted yawp? Block ’em. They react as if their rights have been abridged by your callous action.
6. This was about power. Exactly! It’s always about silencing someone with harassment.
And then the wrap-up:
There’s a lot of discussion about how we need to reach out and talk to people who disagree with us – how we need to extend an olive branch and find common ground – and that’s a lovely sentiment, but in order for that to work, the other party needs to be … well, not a raging asshole. Insisting that people continue to reach out to their abusers in hopes that they will change suggests that the abuse is somehow in the victim’s hands to control. This puts a ridiculously unfair onus on marginalized groups – in particular, women of color, who are the group most likely to be harassed online. (For more on this topic, read about how Ijeoma Oluo spent a day replying to the racists in her feed with MLK quotes – and after enduring hideous insults and threats, she finally got exactly one apology from a 14-year-old kid. People later pointed to the exercise as proof that victims of racism just need to try harder to get white people to like them. Which is some serious bullshit.)
I spent days trying to talk to the people in my mentions who insulted and attacked me. I’d have been better off just remembering that when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first tweet.
Yeah, I’ve seen that: my first reaction has been to block, because I’ve learned that there is no point in trying to engage with someone who shows you that they are an asshole with their first words.