Today I learned a couple of things. I learned that I shouldn’t let myself Tweet after two glasses of wine. I learned that one very word can change the meaning of 140 characters. I learned that it’s really hard to eloquently pose your opinion in one sentence. But most importantly, I learned just how political my female body is.
Last night after watching a very anticlimactic episode of Game of Thrones, I turned on Miss USA to watch the last hour. As much as I’ve never been a fan of the philosophy of beauty pageants themselves, I’m a sucker for beautiful, confident women in stunning dresses like any other person. The part of the pageant that I watched was the Q&A, where contestants drew a judge’s name that would then ask them a question. The questions were tough, one was asked what she would tell any politician if she could (her answer was a whole other level of personal and ideological frustration I will not go in to). One contestant was asked her opinion on the view that today’s youth are exceedingly narcissistic due to the prevalence of social media (sadly, she really didn’t answer the question at all). But one question in particular, answered by the now reigning Miss USA, started a series of events that has resulted in me being verbally harassed on Twitter for the last 24 hours.
Miss Nevada, Nia Sanchez, is a beautiful Latina woman who is a fourth-degree black belt. She has a wonderful story of empowerment, having at one point in her life lived in a women’s shelter with her mother. I applaud her in her accomplishment of winning Miss USA, however her answer to Rumer Willis’s question was troubling. Rumer Willis asked Miss Sanchez about the high rate of sexual assault on American college campuses, why she thinks this epidemic is consistently being swept under the rug, and what she thinks should be done about it.
Miss Sanchez, after only lightly suggesting that bringing awareness to the issue is important, turned her answer to her status as a fourth-degree black belt, stating that women need to take it upon themselves to learn to protect themselves from sexual assault.
This response was troubling because it places the responsibility of sexual assault on the victim. If a woman hasn’t been able to take martial arts classes, does that mean she deserves to be raped? If a young person or child, who may know how to kick and punch but is much smaller and weaker than their attacker can’t hold said attacker off, does that mean it’s ok? If a married woman has been emotionally and physically abused by her husband for years is afraid that if she fights back her life will be taken, she’s responsible for letting the assault happen?
After hearing her response, I went to Twitter and haphazardly tweeted the following:
Before posting the series of attacks I have encountered today, I would like to say that I do indeed, very much believe in self-defense. I was raised in a very small town in rural Texas where I learned to shoot a gun at the same age I learned to write my name. I, as a college woman, carry a rather large knife on me at all times, for both practical and defense needs. My mother, who was a victim of sexual assault at the hands of a family member as a young girl, taught me to “kick him where it counts” when I was 7 years old. I know that bad people exist, and always will, and self-defense will probably always be a necessary tool, but we do not have to live in a world where women, and even children, have to be afraid all the time. The point of my above referenced Tweet was that women shouldn’t be told that the only way to stop sexual assault is to arm themselves with karate and guns. I was asking that Miss Nevada educate herself on the reality that is sexual assault and rape in America (not that she needed to get a college degree as I in no way think college degree = no assault. Actually the whole question that started this event was about rape on college campuses). Women are taken advantage of everyday all over the world because of the feeling of entitlement that history has presented to men. Rape and sexual assault is a power game, where the assailant uses the physical body to command an evil, perverted sense of power over another. Rape and sexual assault is an emotional traumatizing event that requires more than a fist or a fire arm to combat, it takes a paradigm shift in society to view both genders as equal power players in the world, it takes harsher punishment for offenders, and it takes fighting for those who don’t have the ability for whatever reason to fight back.
This point however was missed, the word “need” in my Tweet was largely ignored, and my words became a political statement, one in which I had not intended. My use of a hashtag sent my words to anyone who wished to read them (I am aware my account is public and I am ok with that, I typically re-tweet articles or am communicating with friends), and my Tweet was quickly screenshot by someone, reposted with the hashtag “tcot” and immediatly spread to people who would take it upon themselves to verbally harass me because they assumed my views on life to be so different from their own. Within minutes, I was receiving angry, mean, and downright disgusting tweets, mainly from men whose Twitter bios involve religious and political conservatism as well as gun rights activism.
The first attacks I received were from @FiercelyRight and @HoorayBeerz1. @FiercelyRight (never mind assuming how I would defend myself) states that “Strong women don’t become victims.” In his logic, a woman who is maybe 120 pounds that is too “weak” to defend herself against a 200 pound man deserves to be raped. @Hooray Beerz1 is right that telling someone not to murder doesn’t make them not murder, and making references to other types of crime is common in a majority of the replies I received, which only furthers my point that rape has been dehumanized and accepted as something much less than it really is. This was only the sick beginning:
The vast majority of the Tweets I received stated something along the lines of “there are bad people everywhere, women still need to learn how to defend themselves,” which is a statement that, as I said before, agree with, but I don’t think that’s an excuse to not combat the problem than just wait for it to happen.
@Linzer_Torte has a different opinion on feminism than I do, and while I agree that some people will still rape, I’m actually a very logical human being:
@Rogertvandamme (who’s pleasant photo is a demon looking figure giving everyone the finger) told me (sarcastically) to make sure to tell my rapist I’m on my period and then surely he’d back away (he was also typing so furiously he apparently messed up his sarcasm). Peeing and being on my period seemed to be the two most popular ways for me to defend myself throughout this event:
@Davidml24 completely confused what I meant. He also really loves question marks. No ladies, I do not prefer that you become a victim, quite the opposite actually:
@warpfactorbanjo offered some nice advice. At this point I was convinced some people really actually wanted me to be in a bad scenario in which I would come back to them telling them how right they are:
I tried to tell @SweetieWalker that I agreed with her, but that wasn’t good enough for her. She also go really philosophical on me.
Plenty of people tried to reason with me by relating it to other types of crime. I was countlessly asked if I lock my car and my house, wear a seatbelt (or drive for that matter), look both ways before crossing the street, etc. Because all of these things are on the same level of horrendous as sexual assault and rape:
@BloodCarnage whose picture is also of a demon like figure, told me I’m a rapists dream come true, which was enough to give someone nightmares.
@Unkleskillz whose picture is of the Marlboro man (I’m choosing to not go on a public health rant) finally brought politics into it by assuming that my statement meant that all liberal women can’t and won’t defend themselves. I really wasn’t quite sure how I all of a sudden became an extremely liberal woman that needed to be attacked (until I found the tcot viral post of mine and a few other women’s tweets):
@DanNumbers (whose picture is of himself pointing a gun at the camera) sarcastically told me to be a victim, while ensuring that the only way a man can learn that rape is wrong is to “have their ass kicked.”
@JwShark70, whose bio says he likes animal meat and women with foreign accents, got creative with his wording, also assuming political roles. He also told me that I don’t understand common sense, and spelled my name wrong, sigh:
@stephHausherr, whose bio says she loves God, is anti-Muslim, and anti-Islam, just decided to tell my and a few other women what she thought of our mental capacity. In other posts she liked the term “mental midget fucktard.” I refrained from posting those here:
@Mobilesitz, a company that really wants to build your website, spends its days tweeting at people like me. I really hope they’re doing well in their business.
And more metaphors curtesy of @MichaelMare, @AndrewOlding, and @Tetsujin_Z8:
@Snake78902 likes using memes to prove his point (later he tweeted about how confusing Twitter is):
@PolitiKellyRite, who from her bio is a self proclaimed “Constitutionalist Snarky Bitch,” got really creative with her words. Being called a “libtard femenazi” was probably one of my favorites:
Speaking of being called a “libtard,” I found it really interested that “retarded” and derivatives of the word thereof were common favorites among the self proclaimed Tea Partiers that were so offended by my post. That just seems like a whole other cultural insensitivity that should be addressed.
@daniel_the_scot, and a few others, decided to reference my “pretty head.” How is that not contributing to rape culture?
@alexacarolinaa with two a’s at least recognized my level of education, but really didn’t understand what I meant at all.
@AbrahamDoodle (who won a lot of things in his high school track meet recently) also loved to use the word “retarded” to get his point across. He also doesn’t like when people use words the wrong way (ironic right?):
Again, @DoomRulz2 (whose bio says he’s all for gender equality) with the use of “retard.” Such a classy crowd:
Probably one of the mots disturbing responses was from @AgnesphAgnes:
@StevenRettig, whose bio explains that his is anti-feminist and anti-chivalry, added an extra level of creepy by sending me a screenshot of my own tweet:
@HerschelRoths at first thought it would be funny to tell people I was spam, but then changed his mind and assumed I am racist (I really honestly have no idea where he could have come up with that):
@Cbro1958 just plain ran out of creativity:
@hope_and_chains (aka Dat’s Racis’ who is a self-proclaimed racist Tea Partier according to his bio), had many words for me. I’m still not sure how I’m waging war on my own gender, maybe he should talk to @Cbro1958 about misogyny:
@Latinadesign, who is a “combat photographer” (pretty cool actually), called me ignorant, but at least tried to offer me some classes to take on self defense (I’ve actually taken one here at UF called Rape Aggression Defense and it’s good stuff, I know shocking since I’m so apparently against self-defense):
@_Barack_Obozo_ uses fancy words, and then went on to tweet a LOT of pictures of naked females:
I understand that many people felt that I was truly against self-defense. I repeat, I am not. I have taken the time to learn self-defense and I encourage it for my peers. The people that spoke to me on twitter today, and there were many more than I posted here and my phone continues to chime notifications nearly 24 hours later, are the people that are perpetuating rape culture. They believe that if a person does not successfully fight off a assailant, they deserve to be attacked.
I had not intended for my words to be a politically charged statement, causing such anger from a political ideology that obviously believes I have no right to my body unless I carry a gun. I considered replying to some, I even considered making my account private, but replying would have just engaged more and going private felt like running from people who would have enjoyed my flee (and I couldn’t give that satisfaction).
I was once told that if I dedicate my life to social justice, I will never truly be happy. I felt the weight of that statement today. Today I learned that no matter how much I combat rape culture, encourage my friends to do the same and take care of themselves, no matter how many hours a day I dedicate to medicine, policy, and human rights, there will always be people like the ones who attacked me today, but I can work so that my words and actions have a positive effect on others in everything I do.