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The Way Men Online Responded to This Comedian's Joke Will Disgust You
Alison Leiby is a comedian. Sometimes, she tweets jokes, and they are funny.
Unfortunately, because she is a woman who writes on the Internet, sometimes her jokes are met with misogyny, harassment, and abusive language. Leiby recently tweeted this:
She wrote at Vox that it's a "snoozefest. It's not a particularly exciting joke. It's not even that original, really," but I beg to differ. I think this is a totally fine, good joke.
Anyway, say you don't like the joke. What would you do? How would you respond? If you are like me, you'd scroll through Twitter and ignore it. Maybe you'd unfollow Leiby; her humor is just not your cup of tea. Then you move on with your life.
However, there were many men who saw that tweet and did not like it and then decided to try to degrade her and make her feel subhuman for writing it. Leiby wrote about the online harassment on Vox:
Last Monday evening, however, the replies went from annoying and insulting to violent and threatening. Men were replying to me and taking my joke to a horrific new place. Some said they wanted to ban me from public places and silence me. Others said they wanted to lock me in their closet when they're done with me. A few choice gentlemen suggested I, like their gun, have a "rough brush clean my holes."If you want a tour of how hateful and negative humanity can be about women, just scroll through the replies to my original joke. It's kind of like the It's A Small World ride, but instead of different countries you just see different expressions of misogyny.One complete stranger even found me on Facebook and sent an unsolicited message saying, "I hope you lose ALL of your rights. Dirty feminist." He searched me out on a social media platform that isn't even where the original joke appears. A group of men harassed a young woman who agreed with my tweet, celebrating each time she blocked one of them. One truly standout nightmare found the Twitter handle of my writing partner and harassed her just for being associated with me.
There is no great way to deal with the trolls. You can ignore them, but unless you admit defeat and step away from the Internet, they are waiting for you and they will find you and they will continue to harass you. Eventually, it takes a toll:
I tried not to take any of these new, aggressive replies to my joke personally. You just can't take every angry reaction from a stranger to heart. I have the thick skin of a comic and someone who doesn't moisturize nearly enough, but I'm still a human being. It wore me down, seeing tweet after tweet tell me that women are objects, that we're valueless, that we don't even deserve the care and respect that people give lethal inanimate objects. Try not internalizing that a bit. Try not letting those words start to get to you.
Here's the shittiest part — when people harass you, it affects your work and messes with what you love, no matter how hard you try to shield yourself from it. "It's really hard to generate material when you start second-guessing jokes because you're scared of being harassed for your stupid female opinions," Leiby writes.
If you let it get to you, you'll quit (which is what the trolls want). But if you keep doing your thing and try to ignore them, part of you starts to accept that this is just a part of life. If you accept that this is a part of life, parts of you will slowly withdraw:
Reading a barrage of violent comments and threats doesn't make me want to retaliate. It doesn't make me want to fire back at those guys with the same hate and rage that they spewed my direction about me and the rest of my gender. It makes me want to censor myself. It makes me hesitant to write certain jokes. Could this tweet make hundreds of men tell me I belong locked in their closet? Will this idea I'm putting out there also end in threats of rape or murder?Women are taught from an early age to try not to cause a scene. We're not supposed to garner attention or make waves or do anything that might upset anyone. You know what happens when women don't want to make a scene? They stop talking. And writing. And performing. And creating.I want to make incisive, sharp comedy. That's the goal. It's really hard to generate that material when you start second-guessing jokes because you're scared of being harassed for your stupid female opinions ... I was even hesitant to write this essay at all. I thought about all the cruel and crude things men felt comfortable saying to me.
Leiby's point is not that life on the Internet is tough for women (which it is). It's a message for men:
My point is for men: Stop doing this. The only thing gained from you saying disgusting, aggressive, sexual, violent, and threatening things on the internet is that we now know that you're part of the problem.
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