Human Rights Badasses











If you haven’t heard of www.hollabacknyc.com, it’s a website (there are websites for other cities as well, but I get the feeling it started in New York) where women can post pictures they took of men who sexually harassed or assaulted them on the street or the subway and tell the story of what the men did. It’s very difficult for women to get any justice when men threaten and harass them like that, but at the very least, they refuse to be silenced and shamed, and instead reaffirm that it’s not their fault and it’s wrong and the harassers are lowlives.

Needless to say, the people who started Holla Back and the people who post are all Badasses.

And I am a Badass in training. I’m not there yet, but today I’m going to take a little tiny step towards badassdom. I’m going to publicly tell my story and just exactly what I think about it.

A few days ago I tried to sign into one of my email accounts and it didn’t work. Not only did my password not work, but sometimes it said my username didn’t exist. I knew I was using the correct information, and I thought, maybe somehow my account got deleted. So I emailed myself from another email account, to see if the email would bounce back with an error message telling me the addressee didn’t exist. But that didn’t happen. Instead, someone replied.

I was absolutely terrified. What is this person going to do with my personal information? How did he get into my account? Where else can he get into? (Pardon the male pronouns – he later indicated that he is in fact a male so I’ll use he for simplicity.) I got really paranoid. And that’s what he wanted, I’m sure. To intimidate me, to make me feel powerless, to upset me. Sort of like sexual harassers make their targets feel, although in a very different way.

He logged into my blog and changed the description to some nonsense that managed to degrade women in a couple of different ways. The phrase “greasy box” was employed. He also wrote a post demanding that I write thirty reasons why he should give me my account back. I assume that was meant to feel degrading. We emailed back and forth a little bit, and his tone towards me went from rude and sarcastic to really quite normal, almost cooperative. He changed his demand to twenty reasons, and I countered by giving him however many actual reasons I had. I guess when he saw my non-bs reasons he decided I was a human being and started being a little more respectful. He said he’d hold up his end of the bargain – just as soon as I sent him a picture of myself holding a sign that says Anonymous.

Now I don’t know about you, but I have a No Sending Pictures of Myself to Internet Harassers policy. If you don’t have one, consider instituting it. So I told him I didn’t want to and asked him what it was for. He assured me it was nothing dirty (which I pretty much believe) and that it was just for a souvenir (though I have to wonder if that souvenir is destined for the internet).

At this point I should explain why he was doing this in the first place and how I was not the only target. A few months ago, I was just beginning to explore feminism and especially whether I could be both feminist and Christian without my head exploding. I came across the forum on Women’s Space/The Margins, where someone was talking about just that topic. I wanted to get in on the conversation and ask some of the questions I had, so I registered. Somehow, though, I still couldn’t sign in, so I gave up without ever commenting.

Sometime after that, Mr. okthnxbye came across the website and eventually found enough evidence of what he considered man-bashing to get him angry enough that he wanted to wreak some havoc. He got hold of a list of all the registered users’ information, including passwords, and started breaking into our accounts to “teach us a lesson.”

Why was I “taught a lesson”? Because I registered – didn’t comment, just registered – on a feminist website. What did I learn from that lesson? Certainly not what he wanted us to learn. I imagine he wanted us to learn that it is absolutely terrible to say mean things about men (honestly, will someone tell me exactly what man-bashing is going on on that website?) and that men are wonderful and we should love and respect them and be REALLY REALLY SORRY for what we did. Well I didn’t do shit, so I am not sorry. And even if I had, how would being harassed by a man make me think more highly of men and think that I was wrong for insulting them? Mr. okthnxbye was not only hypocritical by saying a couple of not-so-pro-woman things, but he also completely undermined his cause by being so immature and unethical as to try to terrorize people into feeling differently instead of trying to communicate with them in a respectful and open forum.

I can’t quite figure him out, though. I asked him whether he was against feminism (based on a list of major feminist issues) or just against the specific instances of man-bashing he saw. He said he’s just against the man-bashing and that he believes in equal rights and respect for men and women. Here’s where I get confused (if you’re out there, Mr. okthnxbye, feel free to comment). How, exactly, does a person who doesn’t have some sort of out-of-control hatred for women think it’s ok to track down their accounts and break in and make demands on them because he doesn’t like what they said? I just don’t understand, because he didn’t sound unbalanced enough for that to be possible. It’s totally understandable to become enraged looking at some of the crap people say on the internet. To be honest, I haven’t come across a lot of man-bashing (please note the difference between disliking patriarchy, sexism, and male priviledge, and disliking men), but – and I hate to link to this, but sometimes you’ve got to make a point – look at this piece of trash. Just one example from the cesspool of woman-hate. This is a “marriage contract” that would more accurately be called a slavery contract from the same website. And in fact, there has been quite a bit of woman-bashing on Women’s Space, like this comment:

A. Friend | ie@gmail.com | IP: 66.90.103.37

Heart, this is horrible. I’m sorry that this is happening to you. These people want nothing to do but to hurt you and your cause. I feel for you.

In fact, I want to feel you now. I’d like to tie you down, take a knife, and slit your throat. I’d penetrate you over and over in all orifices, and create some of my own to stick myself in.

Not Spam — Aug 4, 1:57 AM — [ View Post ]

But as much as that makes my blood boil – and believe me, if I let myself really think about it, I would probably go insane, or just sink into a very deep depression – it would never cross my mind to break the law and all sense of common decency and harass and violate the misogynists who run and use that site, especially not for no reason except to mess with them. If anything, I would send them emails about how they were wrong – not a bunch of expletives, but actually how they were wrong – which is much different from commandeering their email and blogs. But personally I don’t even do that, mostly because I know they wouldn’t listen to me. Just like if someone actually hates men, she’s not going to listen to a man, especially when he’s violating her privacy, not to mention the law. (To be fair, he said he didn’t look through my emails, and appears to have left everything in order. As internet harassers go, he wasn’t very bad – but then, what does that really mean?)

I’m still afraid that he will come across this and somehow still be able to do something to get revenge, and that he will still not see that revenge wouldn’t do any good. But thanks to the Badasses of the world, I have decided that it’s worth it to speak up instead of letting him make me feel powerless and scared.

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Call me cynical, but I kinda laughed when I read the first line in this article from In These Times: “For all of its trappings of money, fame, and corruption, professional sports has a lot to do with character.” But believe it or not, I’ve got good news from the sports world, in terms of treating people like actual human beings. Michael Daniel Penner was a male sports writer who wrote for the Los Angeles Times. She’s now Christine Michelle Daniels, who still writes on sports for the Los Angeles Times. Not only that, but she wrote about her transition for the paper. No hiding, no shame, just honesty and badassery.

I can only imagine how terrifying that was. “Responses to the revelation came in three distinct flavors: kudos from sports fans, effusive thanks from other transsexuals and rants from bible-thumpers.” haha. I’ll settle for the kudos from sports fans. That’s a lot better than I would have expected. Really vitriolic homophobia and sexism come out online (this quote was talking about online comments), and for people in a hypermasculinized field to be congratulatory of a transsexual is huge. I mean, there are places where even a woman from birth can’t be a sportscaster (I tried to google this to find the article I’m vaguely remembering and half the results on the first page were about how hot different female sportscasters are. I want to bang my head against a wall. This is why I have to write a blog on the positive things).

Does this mean all the problems are over and we can all live happily ever after in the sex and gender in which we feel at home? Ha. No. But I think what this accomplished was to make people deal with sex reassignment. Not that all of these fans went and deeply pondered the issue and joined the HRC, but this is out there, in public, in the mainstream, in your space. Your options are: 1) be a jerk about it, or 2) accept it. If you accept it, yeah, you still might make a funny face if you find out someone you know is a transsexual, there’s still room for improvement, but you’re at least acknowledging that this happens and that the people who do it are human beings, not freaks or demons.

The article I linked to mentioned another sports writer, Christina Kahrl, who transitioned (from being Chris) in 2003, and no one said anything about it. They quoted Kahrl as saying that sports is a bridge for Americans, everyone can come together via sports. I’m happy that Kahrl had such a smooth experience, but I’m not that optimistic about the fans; I think a lot of people probably just decided to ignore it because it made them uncomfortable. Daniels didn’t give people that option, or at least made it harder to pull that off.

Christine’s boss actually told her to write the article, but I still give her b/a points for doing it, because she was the one on the line here. Her boss gets points for tolerance though – some people fire transsexuals (speaking of which, please help end workplace discrimination). And of course there were negative responses, and if I wasn’t writing a happy blog I would have a lot to say about them. But overall it sounds like it has gone well. Read about if for yourself at her blog, A Woman in Progress. Even if you think transsexuals are going to hell, it couldn’t hurt to find out what it’s like from their point of view. The rest of the original article has lots of info on sex reassignment as well.



et cetera