CN: sexism, ableism, internet harassment
Today, I cried. It didn’t last long, but it finally got to me, and I cried.
Three weeks ago, I was participating in a discussion on a site I regularly go to, where I felt comfortable saying the a-word and the s-word, and the thread was stated to be closely moderated for things like the s-word, and harassment and.
I was, pretty much immediately, told that other people were allowed to have opinions too and if I couldn’t handle that I didn’t belong on the Internet. My actual post wasn’t referenced in any way; it was just a personal attack. I pointed out as much. The poster went off at me, calling me various names, outright stating that they didn’t think I was worth talking to as they’d decided I had a mental health condition, said it was weird I called them out because they didn’t actually say anything relevant anyway (you know, what I pointed out), claimed that the harassment was actually them sharing their privilege and I was silencing them by calling them out for it, and for the last two and a half weeks, it’s been the same comment, over and over.
Now, since the post was meant to be closely monitored for such things, naturally I assumed that reporting it would result in some kind of mod action, and in the meantime, kept explaining. I ran it past my mum, past people on Facebook, and I was both sure and reassured that he had actually screwed up. My mum pointed out that if I stopped replying, it looked like I ‘lost’, and asked where the mods were.
So it’s been three weeks of me receiving multiple comments a day where my mental health was called into question for standing up for myself, and then painting themselves as a victim (did I mention that they called social justice irrelevant?).
Today, I napped for an hour and came back to find another one, accompanied with a mod comment.
The mod comment boiled down to ‘I’m not saying he’s right, but I think he set up a bot to harass you so you should just move on because you probably have better things to do!’
And that’s why I cried.
Instead of taking action to stop or prevent the harassment of people like me, the mod position is ‘let it go’.
Because, of course, instead of speaking out when people deliberately act to hurt us, we should just take it, since they’ll be allowed to set up bots to harass us anyway (nvm that it’s apparently a bot that’s only online when he is, and has no regular scraping interval).
I don’t even have words for how wrong this feels, and that’s why I keep starting to cry.
Firstly, that it was allowed to go on so long, in a post where they explicitly said they were policing such things.
Secondly, being told to move on places the burden of dealing with this firmly on the victim (which is me). It says there’s a threshold for how much these things are allowed to hurt us, and a correct way of dealing with it. It minimises how these things affect us. Someone designs a bot specifically to harass you? Move on. Never mind that you can’t go anywhere online without it telling you you’re insane, feeding those little dark anxiety monsters in your head. However, that’s not the point. The mod requesting action from me to end this, instead of taking action against the person who is hurting me, is displacing the burden of their actions on to me – it says they’re allowed to harass me, but I’m not allowed to show that it hurts me or explain why.
Thirdly, ‘lol it’s a bot it’s pointless because he moved on’. It’s a bot specifically designed to harass me. They didn’t move on. They explicitly took action to minimise the amount of effort to put into harassing me because that’s how much they cared about the effect of what they were doing. The mod is like ‘it’s pointless because he’s not reading it’. But that’s part of the point – that they can casually and simply harass people, and have a large impact from a small effort. It strengthens the already normalised and internalised structural inequality. It’s saying ‘lol it won’t work anyway so why try?’.
The mod’s actions here have compounded and crystallised the hurt I felt from the initial reply and subsequent harassment – by trivialising the ease with which the harassment was allowed, and placing the burden on me to deal with it in a way they feel is appropriate, they are tacitly approving of it.
Did I mention this is a gaming forum? Post-Gamergate?
The only words I had for the mod were ‘If that’s allowed here then I can’t stay anyway.’ Because after three weeks of someone targeting me specifically because I dared to be open about how I was being treated, I’m all out of words. I have spent my life being harassed, for various reasons. I started ignoring it sometimes around high school, and it became a game to them, to get worse and worse just to see if they could make me react. I learned that the only way to stop harassment is to make people understand what they’re doing is wrong; that’s not done by telling them directly, because they get offended and defensive, but by creating an environment where it’s not okay, where people are allowed to stand up for themselves and are made to feel safe about doing so. If people see that someone who is sexist, or ableist, gets called out, they will, eventually learn that is the consequence of hurting someone that way. People who don’t want to do that will learn not to do it; in this case, the person hurting me didn’t care, and they got away with it because I was the one being told to move on, to behave appropriately.
Because, you know, when someone hurts you, you’re meant to act the right way so as not to upset anyone else.
I can’t even make this make sense or adequately explain why this is the action that is so hurtful. I’ve said that it comes across as allowing the harassment, that it’s placing the burden on me to behave the acceptable way instead of expressing my hurt and saying why it hurt me, that it reinforces the privilege that lets people think they can do this instead of making a safer environment for everyone.
But this has hurt me, and if I can’t say it there, I’ll say it here: it’s not okay. It is not okay for a privileged person to dismiss my opinion as emotional because I am not male and therefore subject to such things. It is not okay for a privileged person to (repeatedly!) tell me that my opinions are not valid or worthy because they decided I have a mental health issue (that’s right, I’m not out there as neurodivergent, they just… came up with it on their own…). It is not okay for them to repeatedly dismiss and hurt me for pointing out that they hurt me.
It is not okay for the mod to choose to behave the same way instead of taking action against them. It is not okay to allow them to continue at the cost of hurting me.
‘You know, he doesn’t even have to put effort into how he’s hurting you! Just move on!” is how structural inequality is reinforced.