Sticks and Stones

I hate that old saying “Sticks and stones will break your bones but words will never hurt me”. It is bullshit. Bones heal, but words cut you inside. Words stay with you forever. They become that little voice inside your head that undermines every single thing you do. They become that seed of doubt that makes you scared of being a failure, that makes you see everything you do through a dirty lens.  The wrong words are like parasites, burrowing their way into your brain and leaching your life of confidence, joy, esteem, laughter, sense of self.

The idea that insults, slurs, and more are not painful or not worth noticing has to do with our society’s idea that emotions are worthless. That emotions exist on a binary scale with rationality and that one who experiences one cannot participate in the other. Emotions are not irrational. They exist for a reason. They let you know what your boundaries are. My boundaries might not be yours but that doesn’t make them any less valid. If I say that doing this thing is something I am willing to unfriend for, you DO NOT FUCKING ARGUE WITH THAT. If you care to be my friend you listen to it, and if not then leave me the fuck alone. Or better yet, do us both a favour and unfriend me.

Emotions are a “sixth sense”. Not in the colloquial sense having to do with some sort of predictive power, but rather like touch, smell, feel, they are a way that we navigate and experience the world. Without emotion we lose a way we relate to the world and it is as much a disability as losing one’s sense of hearing or sight.

Words do not have just the power that I give to them. Words have power all on their own. They do not exist in a vacuum. If someone calls me fat, yes in that one instance I can choose to decide not to be upset, but that isn’t going to change the fact that I live in the world where people can treat me differently and badly because of that word. It doesn’t stop becoming a word that can be applied to me just because I choose not to be upset. If you grew up being told that gay people are evil, sinful, going to hell. If you live in a society that feels like they can refuse you your rights because you are gay, that gives the word “F*ggot” power regardless whether or not you choose to be offended by that word.

Words have a history that is not irrelevant. Being called a “r*tard” carries with it every single punch, every single instance of being discriminated against for having a mental illness. It carries with it a memory of every single person that has been called a retard. Every child that was killed for being autistic or being sick in some way. It may be just one time thing or it may something you are called every single day. It doesn’t matter. Those words will hurt, and they will stay with you.

The power of words is not just negative however. Words can also do great good. Those familiar with the anti-communist movement Solidarnoscknow that words played an important role. One of the main things they did was read all the literature that was banned by the Soviet government. And that’s the point. If ever you doubt the power of words, all one needs to do is look at the fact that all of the most authoritative and corrupt powers are so afraid of words, that they spend countless hours and resources on censorship. Words matter.

Sticks and Stones

Rant: Internet Harassment is a Big Fucking Deal

I just don’t have the energy to be eloquent anymore. I don’t have the energy to come up with ways to make what should be self-evident arguments sound polished.
I am so sick and tired of this bullshit argument that the internet doesn’t matter. That the harassment people face online is somehow not as bad as if it were happening through some other medium. That it is less dangerous, less personal, just less. What’s worse, is when I defend the validity of the paint and terror felt by victims of internet harassment, I am accused of somehow saying that stalking is somehow less serious or even not serious at all.

Frankly I am fucking sick of it.

To ignore the importance to the internet in our society is essentially to ignore our society. Our entire lives are dictated by the internet. It is where most of us get our news, how we keep in touch with friends and family, most of our work involves the internet in some way.

When I was working for law firms, and real estate agents, people’s cases, closings, purchases, sales, depended on my ability to access the internet. On my ability to be able to check my email, to be able to send emails.  While working, a significant majority of my day on the computer and most of that on the internet (if only with my email open and frequently refreshing).

When I came home I would also spend the majority of my time back home on the computer, talking to my friends,  writing on my blog and promoting my writing to help build my writing career, promoting my businesses which took place almost entirely online.

Since having to give up work due to disability, I still spend close to 12 hours a day either on the internet directly or connected to it in some way. Especially when my ability to interact with people in person and go out is hindered, the internet can be my only connection to the outside world. When (as it is now) my ability to pay my bills and buy groceries was hindered by my ability to work, it was the internet that came to my aid by donating money. When I needed help funding the ability to write my book it was the internet that did so. My connections with other writers who will introduce me to publishers happened entirely through the internet.

We rely on the internet, but it can be a tool against us as well. When harassment occurs through the internet it can feel more personal. The barrage happens in your own home, in your place of business, anywhere and everywhere where you have an internet connection. Even if you block everyone at the first hint of harassing behaviour, that first hint still has to occur. With the ease of creating accounts, your harassers can keep coming after you even after you have blocked them 3, 4 even 20 times.

If your harassers have access to your email, you have no choice but to browse through the endless tirades and hate messages. Even if you never open and read the emails, the previews give you an indication of their content. If they are using your work email, you may not even have the option to read and delete those emails.

When harassers doxx their victims, they are revealing private and identifying information. They give perfect strangers information about your phone number, your address, your place of business, and a variety of other identifying information.  They release this information on public sites where the information is accessible by strangers. This information is a where and when guide to stalking you.

You don’t even need to be in the same city to stalk someone anymore. With access to their information you can call their work, their home, you can email them, leave comments on their blogs or pages they frequent.

If like me, you operate online businesses, harassers can destroy your business without ever leaving their home; or worse, from their phones. Fake reviews, reporting false violations, all of these are simple for anyone of a mind to destroy someone.

Imagine everyday finding endless threats of bodily harm, of life, of safety, or of one’s ability to support oneself. Imagine these messages coming at you through your twitter, through your Facebook, through your email, left as comments on your blog, sent to your friends and coworkers when they cannot reach you. Imagine that the same people who harass you and/or your friends show up at conferences that you help organize or at which you are speaking. Imagine that your harassers donate money to the legal defence of another harasser who is suing his victim for speaking out about her harassment.

Imagine that your harassers make trouble for you with your online store, or through your websites.

Imagine that the companies you work for facilitate that harassment by siding with the harassers in public statements. Imagine that when you speak out about the devastating psychological impact that the constant harassment has had on you that people demand, DEMAND, that you release your private medical information to prove that the psychological consequences are real. That when you rightfully don’t want to release your private medical information to complete strangers that they accuse you of lying. That they make up lies about you and claim you are a professional victim.

Imagine that after releasing private information, or making you the target of their harassment, that they claim no responsibility when someone who is a stranger to you decides to assault you while knowing your name.

If you still think that internet harassment doesn’t matter or is no big deal, you can seriously fuck the fuck off.

*The scenarios presented are a composite or several different occurrences and not targeted or related to any one specific event.

** I have no interest in debating this or tolerating any abuse on this post or anywhere else. If I don’t like what you have to say I will block you and you can complain about how your rights to Freeze peach were violated by some big bad feminist on her personal feeds.

Rant: Internet Harassment is a Big Fucking Deal