From Fark to Rant and Back Again

5 Sep

Earlier this week I had a post published on Her Blueprint, the blog associated with the Global Fund for Women.  I am going to be writing monthly, and perhaps eventually twice monthly, so stay tuned!  I will try and post links here on FranklyRebekah for the few readers among you who are not my friends IRL (that shorthand makes me laugh, don’t judge me).  Anywho, I am incredibly excited and humbled by the opportunity to write in the company of so many talented women.  You should read all their blog posts. Such diversity of topic and perspective. I don’t know. It’s cool. I’m gushing.

For my first post, I wrote about a change in commenting policies recently announced by Drew Curtis, the founder of Fark.  For those of you who don’t know Fark, it’s a link-aggregator, allowing people around the Internet to post links, with funny headlines, to articles they find online.  The result is kind of hilarious.  I actually feel totally in the know about this particular site because back in the day my brother, Aaron, used to send stuff into Fark and I always thought it was really awesome when his article, with his very own title, went on the homepage.  My brother, the Internet-famous title-writer. Over the years, the comment section on Fark has sort of devolved into more of a bro-culture, with people making all sorts of disparaging comments about all sorts of individuals and groups of people, most commonly women. (My brother is not a part of these sorts of things because he is a nice and awesome guy.) As a result, Crutis announced that the mods over at Fark would start deleting comments if they belonged to one of the following three categories:

1. Rape jokes;

2. Calling women as a group sluts, whores or some other derogatory name;

3. Making jokes that say that women who were the victim of a crime were somehow deserving it.

Personally, I think this is a great move.  I know there are some people who are going to go on and on about their right to opinion and personal expression and all that other stuff and, okay, I see your point.  But I think it’s dumb.  There, I said it.  I think that going online and saying mean things about people for no reason other than your own amusement and the amusement of those you hang out with in cyberspace is dumb.  I think that intentionally, and oftentimes anonymously, going online to express thoughts, jokes and feelings that many people would never actually make if forced to do so face-to-face with someone else with the express purpose of getting a rise out of someone else is dumb.  And I think that people who believe this is an important part of the internet are, surprise surprise, dumb. I think I just insulted about half the internet.  Good thing those people don’t read my blog.

Maybe I should be a little more nuanced, and a little less childish, here.  I apologize to all the people who I just called dumb, that was not nice of me.  It also is not the way I like to carry myself as a Responsible Adult on the Internet.  So let me give this another go.  We have this attitude online that anything goes.  That is is a bastion of free speech.  That, quite literally, you can say whatever the fuck you want.  Honestly, in my mind, that is how the Amanda Todd tragedy happened.  Just a word to the wise, if you don’t want to spend the rest of the day thoroughly depressed, don’t read about Amanda Todd.  Also, definitely don’t watch the video she posted on YouTube about a year before she died.  I watched it once and cried for like an hour.  And another thing:  do not read the fucking comments under the video because I just read 3 of them and actually want to throw my computer.  Seriously, this is what I am talking about!

Cue the rant.

Amanda Todd committed suicide because of the degree to which she suffered from online bullying, which was then expanded to real life bullying as photos of her inevitably got shared by her tormenter with the student body of every school she went to.  She posted a video about her experience.  A year later she killed herself because the bullying didn’t stop.  And the people on the YouTube page, a page that could potentially be used to help avert others from following the same path, use the comment section to say she deserved it, that she is going to hell for killing herself, that obviously she was a slut.  And there is no thought about the fact that another young person who might be having a similarly terrible time of it could go on this page, watch the video in order to understand that someone else went through it, might read the comments to find some support and instead find people saying that this 15-year-old girl deserved to die and that she brought it upon herself.  I can’t even imagine how that must feel. Why would people kill themselves? Maybe partially because people online tell them that they, and people going through similar experiences, deserve what they get. It hurts my heart to think about the people, especially young people, who look online for support and help and are faced with a massive amount of just…I don’t know…hate. And anger. And victim-blaming.

So here’s the thing. I have been online bullied recently. I have the benefit of having this experience, if I have to have it at all, at 31-years-old. I also consider myself lucky in that I have a healthy dose of self-confidence. I don’t think I’m perfect, but I think I am a positive contributor to the world and most people like me. And the people that don’t like me? Fuck ’em. I don’t really care.  For that reason, when I get essentially called a loser online, it does not bother me. I laugh.  Because it reflects more on the person saying it than it does on me. But again, I am an adult. I have had life experiences. I have a supportive group of friends and a wonderful family. I have this blog, which I love writing. And I have my readers, who I appreciate immensely. For a lot of people, these things are not true. For young people, and especially young women, these unkind words can have a real and permanent impact. People are mean. Some of them do it for sport. Most of those that do are online. And the thing about it is that it is like a crowd mentality. Once one person starts, others follow. And all of a sudden everyone is spewing rape jokes, calling someone a slut, telling a young woman looking for help that the world would be better without her and once it is without her, that she is going to hell for her actions.

So, yea, back to Fark. Start moderating that shit. The Internet, as Drew Curtis said, has a real problem with women. The whole world, in my opinion, has a real problem with women. Just look at this clip from Jon Stewart about sexual harassment in the government if you don’t believe me. Oh, and also this one about catcalling. I think at this point that real life, and internet life, reinforce one another. If we are more respectful in real life, perhaps we’ll be more respectful online, and vice versa. So, thumbs up to Drew Curtis and for those of you who think this is a slippery slope into censorship? I say whatever. There are some things that simply shouldn’t be supported by web moderators and cruelty for sport is, in my mind, one of those things. It’s great that we can say (almost) whatever we want on the internet, but that doesn’t mean that we should. And until people get a fucking brain and stop being assholes and devaluing others, then someone should tell them to stop. Because, honestly, it is mean, and cruel, and inhuman, and entirely unnecessary.

Rant over.

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