“Seeing the aggro writers with a big platform get on Twitter (even from people on their own ‘side’) has made me seriously not want it.”
I tweeted the above to a buddy earlier, and then wrote a post about online/Twitter abuse, misogyny and how aspects of online media culture had put me off ever wanting a big media platform or being a commentator, especially around politics. It was long but it basically boiled down to this: I’m not thick-skinned enough. I don’t think anyone really is (other than the ones who openly set out to provoke), but I’m certainly not. To be fair, I think part of me already knew this at 17, when I designed business websites for women with minor public profiles and had to explain to a man why signing a stranger’s guestbook with: “I’d give your arse a good pounding” wasn’t flattering and why I was repeatedly deleting it. But the way media and the internet have developed since, especially in recent years, has cemented my views.
I don’t want to receive rape threats and sexism daily. I don’t want to be told off for being a feminist, or the wrong sort of feminist. I don’t want my or my family’s background or past dug into. I don’t want any of my (very meagre) number of ex-somethings to feel tempted to blab about me. I don’t want the assumptions about my background that have already been made from certain pieces I’ve written to be repeated on a much grander scale. I don’t want to have to justify everything about myself from my name to my photo to my family’s lives and choices. I don’t want to be called racist, homophobic, transphobic or disablist by people on my own side (I’m not, but I’d mess up somewhere down the line because I’m human, and someone somewhere would think I am by default assumption, because, obviously, white people of dual heritage, bisexuals and non-physical disabilities don’t exist. And, obviously, believing that a bum deal in life isn’t an indefinite licence to be obnoxious makes me an oppressor).
I know that all these things happen because I’ve seen them do to others. In short, I haven’t been through twelve years of sporadic depression, poverty and trying to build a career in order to be rained on by the public. I would much rather make my name as a fiction writer and within the areas I already specialise in than as a columnist. And true, the world isn’t exactly bereft of people who look and sound like me, but if we’re losing other, really good voices because of people feeling the same way that I do then that’s very sad indeed.