Few people know this, but Dan Hull is a sensitive guy. Deeply sensitive. He cries when he watches Bambi. Every time. Sure, he may come off as a devil-may-care aficionado of Ernest Hemingway, with images of him running from the bulls in Pamplona, but he is more likely to try to talk to the bulls, to explain his feelings, to empathize with the fact that they’re about to be slaughtered.
Dan is sensitive. And he knows it.
Listen. I’m a man. I’m sensitive.
Men. There are 3.6 billion of us on Earth. And both studies and anecdotal evidence confirm that, every day, thousands of men are being publicly “harassed” on Twitter. This news item, a post by the Women, Action and Media (WAM!) appeared on my Zite feed this morning: “Harassment of Women on Twitter? We’re ON IT“. But who will stand up for men when Public Online Real Life Unpleasantness (a/k/a Twitter PORLU) happens?
It would be trite to point out that a group formed to defend men from harassment on Twitter — or Instagram for that matter — would be met with derision. We’re deluged with claims that women suffer disproportionately from social media harassment, even though the statistics amply demonstrate that this is false. But just as it’s wrong to quibble over numbers when there’s empathy at stake, gender reactions are far more important than reality. Plus, it serves to galvanize the besmirched to rise up and demand the special treatment they truly believe they deserve.
And so Women, Action & The Media is there to bring social media to its knees.
We are so excited to announce our latest project: an unprecedented collaboration with Twitter to address the online harassment of women.
The vicious targeting of women who speak up online has reached crisis levels. Examples of the impact these attacks are having on women’s lives are everywhere. Women of color, queer women, trans women, fat women, and other oppressed groups of women are especially targeted and abused. A recent Pew research study found that fully 25 percent of young women online have been sexually harassed online and 26 percent have experienced stalking. What’s more, Pew found that women overall are disproportionately targeted by the most severe forms of online abuse.*
That’s why, starting today, WAM! is running a pilot project to support all Twitter users experiencing gendered harassment and abuse on the platform, including abuse that intersects with racial, lgbt and other kinds of oppression users face on Twitter.
Women. Race. Sexual Orientation and “other kids of oppression.” But not men. What about Dan?
Twitter PORLU affects everyone–every family, company, congregation, locker room, biker club, crack house, man cave, bath house, saloon and bowling team on the planet. Public Online Real Life Unpleasantness on Twitter. It respects no gender. Let us all–men, women, “others”–find a way to put our bodies on the Twitter Machine and stop it.
Isn’t it time?
Some of you, the haters if you will, may ask, but what the hell are you talking about, “harassment,” “oppression”? What’s with all these meaningless words that characterize any social media interaction that doesn’t boost your self-esteem and make you feel loved and supported? Where do you come off thinking you’re entitled to a world that pleases you?
Before all you macho men shrug this off, bear in mind that little boys can be every bit as overly sensitive as little girls to mean things on the internet. Just consider Hull’s feelings, ever since the tragic kiln explosion.
To be sure, there is some truly nasty, awful crap that gets posted on social media.
I reject the “suggestion” that his is a reflection of pervasive misogyny and racism, and contend instead that this is just a truly sick individual. The internet has plenty of such crazies, and they aren’t limited to a gender or race. They sell keyboards to anyone. I’ve been stalked and attacked by males and females, colors unknown. The difference for me, at least, is that I choose not to react like Dan in his delicate flower stage, but rather accept the fact that sick people exist and move on.
The alternative, crying about the things crazies write, or whining about the lesser offenses of people who just don’t adore me as much as I think they should, leaves me two options. I can either demand that voices I deem harsh be censored, whether by private companies or government, or I can stiffen my upper lip and persist in speaking my mind.
The only censorship accomplishes is removing the din; it doesn’t make the crazies disappear. To think otherwise is delusional. But I’m not suggesting that sensitive men like Hull should have to suffer the harassment of mean people even though WAM doesn’t care. I care. While I may not have plans to mount a campaign to silence the internet by trying to spin this into a Cyber Civil Rights issue, I will give Hull a tummy rub whenever the mean people on Twitter hurt his feelings.
Of course, I may also suggest that if he doesn’t want people to call him dumbass, he might want to be a bit more circumspect in what he twits. Not to victim-blame (or slut-shame, as Hull has suffered throughout his adult life), but just as a reminder that even the most sensitive male among us isn’t entitled to world where no one ever says anything that hurts his feelings.
* Note that I include a link to the Pew Survey. WAM does not. There’s a reason for this.