So, last night was full of incredible amusement at the response of twitter to some causal racism and an attempt at using humor to describe, you know, the deaths of literally hundreds of thousands of adults and children due to an illness affecting millions of people in South Africa.
The offending tweet:
So, we’ve done this dance before. Someone tweets something insufferably demeaning and stupid and all hell is unleashed. And yeah, I’m very much down with that.
Framing what happened, in its entirety, as twitter “turned ugly” is ignoring how satisfying it is to make someone accountable for insulting and belittling the suffering of others; and ignoring how many people turned the anger into a positive force.
It wasn’t “ugly” – it was pretty damned brilliant.
Well – for the most part.
To me – the sting of her comment was not real. One of my students, long ago, recounted her experiences in South Africa as a volunteer working with populations devastated by HIV/AIDS. That’s as close as I get.
I have the privilege of being able to look at her tweet with an academic detachment; knowing that I do not live with a constant fear of violence, that I have valid information concerning my health, and that I have access to (and am literally blocks from) the best health care on earth.
I realize that frame of mind makes it easier for me to view these responses as inappropriate.
So, I wonder. How would I react? What would I say if someone just made a smug joke about the suffering of my community – the deaths of my family – possibly my own children?
(I’m also not the person receiving rape and death threats over a tweet, am I?)
I can wrap my brain around these statements being made from a profound sense of loss and anger – but there are limits – and the supposed “mindless twitter mob” was making that clear.
There is also this thing that happens when a woman is targeted – rightly or wrongly. The misogynist assholes see blood in the water and come out to play. It doesn’t matter the nature of the infraction, the subject at hand, or what the hell is going on – only that she is a woman. They must take this opportunity to eviscerate her and let everyone know that the status of women is less-than.
And yeah, I don’t know Eric here – for all I know he’s a *Really Great Guy* who simply uses belittling sexist language occasionally. It happens.
Tell me again, how rape culture doesn’t exist.
[Update: This post is being linked by others to show samples of the types of threats that Justine received. Here is a comment I made on one of those blogs:
Seriously – that wasn’t the half of it. I went through to put a bunch of accounts on the Bot; and had to quit at some point because it was making me feel uncomfortable reading all that shit.
I can only imagine what it may have felt like for Justine.
And yes, this does have to do with her gender. This would not happen to a man.
Because she is an affluent white woman; there is this license to be awful due to the concept that the mob is “punching up”, but at the same time, because she is a woman, there is a deep seeded social imperative to humiliate her and put her in her place.
FFS there were people out-and-out calling for rape to re-establish the male-female social order; fucking pieces of shit.
Bringing her to task for being so flippant – that was honestly amusing. But yeah, apparently we can’t do that without violent rapist assholes showing up and being violent rapist assholes.]