When someone first told me there was a tumblr hate blog about me I didn’t think much of it. I find hate blogs disturbing but they seem to be an unavoidable facet of online life at this juncture. There’s one about pretty much every person and every website, given that they are in any way well known (and even sometimes when they’re not.)
I’ve spent most of my online life believing that you should not respond to hatred publicly. I’ve watched friends targeted by hate blogs do everything they could to appease the hatred, but I’ve never seen it work. I’ve never seen any form of engagement with faceless online hatred work, so I’ve always believed in not engaging.
I get a huge amount of email from young girls and women, who make up the bulk of my readership, who are the target of a very specific kind of online cyberbullying. It is a bullying that crops up in the form of girls receiving messages, usually anonymous or pseudonymous, that tell them that they are ugly, that they are fat, that they are stupid, and that the things they like are stupid, that they are sluts, and that they should hurt or kill themselves. And the hate bloggers use a lot of the hateful gendered attack language that I see so often terrorizing my readers, and I worried that my readers would see me not reacting to it, or seeming to not care, and think that there was something wrong with them for caring, for being hurt — that the fact that this language gets under their skin makes them, as the hate bloggers call me, “whiny little bitches.”
I just want you to know — and I say this, knowing how thrilled it will make the hate bloggers to hear this, but I am saying it anyway because you need to know it — of course, this stuff hurts me too.
I have never talked to the hate bloggers, and have no plans to ever talk about the them again, but I refuse to be shamed or silenced by them. After taking a hiatus, I decided that I am going to go right on doing what I was doing before : interacting with you guys, posting snippets, and answering your questions.
There are many reasons why I enjoy having you as a friend. You’re hilarious, you’re interesting, you’re willing to sit down with me for 7 hours (I counted!) and talk about writing and narrative structure and muses and outlining. You’re great company, a generous and kind friend, and you’re an extremely intelligent woman who takes nothing for granted.
You are also one of the very strongest women I’ve ever met. Because this kind of online torment doesn’t make you bitter. It’s amazing, actually…it’s remarkable. You don’t let the nonsense and lies limit you, which is always its goal. You calmly and quietly take the bad with the good, and, stunningly, it doesn’t colour your belief that there are kind people on the internet, and that online communities can also do good things.
Posting this today was the right thing to do. Because it’s true: you’re expected to pretend that you’re superhuman, because bullies like this decided it was their job to dehumanize you.
We know that countless teens and pre-teens get bullied like this, too. Bullies push them to the brink and watch them fall over it. It happens all the time. It happens to the fabulous and famous, and it happens to young girls known only to a small circle of people in tiny towns. It happens everywhere.
It’s a horrible experience, being bullied. It freezes you in place in some kind of terror, like you’re being shot at. It’s deeply embarrassing, and it’s really hard not to internalize it and believe that you deserve to be treated this way. It’s shaming and silencing, it makes you feel incredibly lonely. And the way you respond to it, your reactions at your very weakest moment, will be weighed and judged by a peanut gallery. It’s hard to know what to do when all your instincts tell you to scream.
But you know that you aren’t their punching bag; you’re a human being with a gift for storytelling and for long, winding conversations. You are a beautiful person with bright ideas and a lot to share with the world. You have fought against this bullying in the only way you can: by being yourself, and by never backing down.
I think you’re the best role model you could possibly be. You show the rest of us a way to cope: you keep on going, and you do more, and you succeed. Because the bullies are all wrong; they always are. You have friends who love you, you have remarkable talent, and you’ll never stop doing better. And today, just like any other day, you won’t let these jerks stop you from being the human being you are.
In sum: you are remarkable, and I’m honoured to know you. <3
Your friend Ives