It led to a post that seemed to confirm that this was the person Nancy was writing about. Some may find this odd, but I had no interest in figuring out the mystery earlier. It didn’t matter to me who the target had been before, as it wasn’t about the individual but the issue. Yet here I was, face to face, so to speak, with the target of threats.
I know nothing about Sarah Kendzior. I don’t know her politics or ideology. I’ve never read anything else she’s written. I know nothing about her personally. She is nothing more than a disconnected name in the universe, and the only bit of information I have is that she told the twittersphere that she received rape threats.
The nature, number and details of those threats remain unknown. For my purposes, it’s more than sufficient that Kendzior says so.
When I responded to Nancy’s post, I did so with my usual sensitivity:
There are times that editorial discretion is used for exactly that purpose. That’s the risk one takes when engaging in public speech. And there are times when we have neither need nor intent to do a person harm, and can exercise the discretion to shut up, even if the person whose speech is at issue didn’t.
But editorial discretion is exercised by the republisher and is not subject to the approval of the original speaker, and if others think it was exercised poorly, then they, like Nancy, can write more words to castigate the decision. That’s how speech works.
There is an ugly dark side to the fabulousness of expressing thoughts publicly. It attracts the crazies, the angry and the disinhibited. I’ve been told that this happens far more to women than men. The lack of any reliable data for this leaves me unclear about this, but it’s also not relevant for this post. It happens. It happens to men. It happens to women.
They sell keyboards to anybody. There’s no sanity test. I see the craziness that comes my way, and I’ve read some of the craziness that comes to women. I’ve seen threats of rape made to women online that follow a track that gives rise to a fair belief that it’s a serious threat. That it may not ultimately happen doesn’t change the reasonable fear that it could be real.
Why? What causes a person to engage in threats of rape, or harm, or anything of the sort, to anyone? Do you think it’s funny? Do you think you win the argument by threatening to rape someone? Are you just insane?
These are discussions of issues and concerns on the internet. Chances are very good that you will disagree, sometimes vehemently, with another person’s opinion. That’s the nature of discussion. That’s the nature of the internet. Someone says something with which you completely disagree, that really pisses you off. Fine. Tell them they’re a blithering idiot and are WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!!!
But threaten to rape them? That’s nuts.
It’s the underbelly thing, isn’t it? Women expose their soft underbelly when it comes to rape, and while you may not be able to affect them on an intellectual level, whether because you don’t have the chops or you don’t have the goods, you can always attack the soft underbelly. Guys can shrug it off better, as we’ve grown up with other guys threatening to kick our butts and it’s nothing new. But rape strikes at a place where women can’t shrug it off, so that’s where you strike?
This is sick. To threaten a guy with a beating is infantile and warped, but it’s nowhere as sick as threatening a woman with rape.
It doesn’t matter what a woman says, or how strongly you disagree with her. It doesn’t matter how dangerous you think her ideas are, or how brilliant you think yours are. You don’t do this. Ever. Under any circumstances.
Anyone who threatens to rape a woman is a seriously disturbed, horrible human being. Anyone who bolsters someone who threatens to rape a woman is just as sick. As readers know, I am hardly inclined to embrace the notion that rape and sexual assault are whatever a woman decides they are, and feminists have done themselves and their gender no favor by disconnecting words used to describe horrible crimes from their definitions. They’ve watered down the words, and they’ve undermined the experience of other women who have suffered actual rape and sexual assault, forcing the rest of us to wonder whether they’re talking about the real things or their fantasy world when they utter rape or sexual assault.
But to attack an idea by threatening rape doesn’t implicate these collateral issues. If you hate an idea, attack it all you want, but the idea, not threaten to harm the person who expresses it.
I won’t tolerate comments from people who want to do harm here (and there are a few who constantly write comments about harming others). If you think it’s cool, smart, funny or effective to attack someone by threats of harm, especially threats of rape, I think you are sick. If you support others who do this, I think you are sick. If you see someone doing this, tell them they are sick.
As much as you may not share the feminist or neo-feminist agenda, then conduct yourself with some small measure of chivalry. So you’re a man, and proud to be one? That’s fine, but being a man doesn’t mean acting like a jerk. Anyone who threatens rape is not a man. He’s just a sick asshole. He’s not a member of my gender. We hold doors for women. We don’t threaten women.
It’s hard enough to tolerate the heat in this kitchen when there are millions of people with keyboards out there, each of whom believes they are entitled to express their deepest thought in the middle of the night with only the glow of a screen warming their face. But threats of rape are intolerable, no matter what.