Last Friday, on Real Time, Milo Yiannopoulos held himself up as a great defender of free speech, while minimizing the effects speech has.
He admitted that he got off on people’s reactions to his trolling and abusive comments, trying to get all three panelists at the end (on Overtime) to tell him to go fuck himself (Larry Wilmore got it started after Milo responded to an attempt at honest debate by saying “you [Maher] always invite such awful people on your show; they’re so stupid”).
Milo said he “hurt[s] people for a reason” and that he’s “a virtuous troll,” in between insulting female comedians and actors (Lena Dunham, Leslie Jones, etc.). He never said what the “reason” or “virtue” might be in such attacks, but he attempted to claim at one point that he actually builds bridges with his “jokes.”
Perhaps the strangest thing he said, however, was “Mean words on the internet don’t hurt anyone.” Milo then said that what he does isn’t harmful in any way, compared it to physical instances of abuse. Maher mentioned that some believe speech provokes action. Milo’s response was that those of us who believe so “would be idiots.”
There’s a reason why one form of speech that’s not protected is speech that incites violence. There’s a reason why we have laws against slander (and some against certain forms of lying).
But setting that aside, the claim that “mean words on the internet don’t hurt anyone” is insane. Luckily, I’m not famous, so I don’t get trolled very often; however, I’ve been hurt by things people have said on the internet.
And I know lots of other people have been too.
The first lady said she wants to work against teen cyberbullying–because mean words hurt.
Young people sometimes commit suicide–because mean words hurt.
I know women who are scared by rape and death threats–because mean words hurt.
Lindy West had a man pose on Twitter as her dead father to verbally abuse her. Guess what? Those mean words hurt.
I was planning to write about this before Yiannopoulos’s words finally got him in trouble with conservatives this week. There are so many more layers now, so much irony. It’s so fitting that the knee-jerk reaction to “please think of the children” is biting him in the ass after he used it against trans people.
It’s ironic that all the conservatives who said Milo should be allowed to talk have pulled him from their editorial boards and conventions.
It’s sad that they weren’t bothered by any of his racist, sexist, transphobic, white supremacist bullshit.
Yiannopoulos, for maybe the first time, apologized (partially).
“I’m partly to blame. My own experiences as a victim led me to believe I could say anything I wanted to on this subject, no matter how outrageous. But I understand that my usual blend of British sarcasm, provocation and gallows humor might have come across as flippancy, a lack of care for other victims or, worse, ‘advocacy.’ I deeply regret that. People deal with things from their past in different ways.”
He seems obtuse and stubborn, so I don’t know if he’ll get the lesson:
Words matter. Words can hurt.
That’s why free speech is important–because, as Margaret Atwood once said, “a word after a word after a word is power.”
I’m judgmental, as you know, dear readers. Countless men have told me so. They use the word mostly when I catch them in lies–about being married, about being a completely different person from their picture, etc.
Are there women who are not prone to judge those who lie to them?
Is this what guys mean when they say they want someone who’s easy going?
Or when they say they want someone without baggage?
(I admit: a lack of baggage (read: experience) would probably make me helpless in the face of the lies and toying around.)
Recently, a guy was flirty and expressed interest in a date. But then said he wouldn’t be free for a couple of weeks. A couple of weeks went by. Mostly silence.
Me: So did you actually want to set up that date sometime?
A couple of days went by.
Me: Okay. Bye, window shopper.
Him: Window shopper? Nice, that’s a little harsh and judgmental
Me: I’m judging based on the evidence I have to go on, yes.
You may have your reasons, but all I got was silence. Any outside observer who looked at this conversation would conclude that you wanted to flirt, but not really go out.
Window shopper is one of the nicer metaphors for that, really.
I hope you find what you’re looking for.
Two guys in two days with the same problem.
Both guys have the bare minimum on their profile, haven’t answered OKC questions, etc, and thus have not met the basic requirements (which you, my loyal readers, urge me to maintain).
Guy 1: Hola mami u look great
[Several hours later]
Guy 1: How come u didnt say hi
Me: As my profile says, “I’m only likely to answer if you’ve answered plenty of OKC’s questions (I don’t want to have to ask you if you’re jealous, if you’re homophobic, if you don’t believe in dinosaurs, etc. when OKC can ask you for me), if you have a picture, if you’ve said more than just “hi”/”good morning”/etc. in your message, and if you’ve filled out your profile with more than “ask me” or the equivalent.”
Guy 1: Ur taking life way too serious
Me: If you think so, then we’re obviously not a good fit.
I hope you find someone carefree and that you have a great day!
Guy 1: Uptite
Wats ur name im [his name here]
Guy 2: Hello.
Guy 2: Hmm
Really? Is it really a hmm-level mystery why I didn’t answer?
I had a nightmare last night.
I was back at my estranged ex-stepfather’s house on Bayou Tejar, which was flooding. A young woman (a student, maybe) asked me to read and comment on her script–it was a trick–it was actually a thinly veiled attempt to convince me to be pro-life. All the while, the bayou water rose–it was all the way up to the second floor, where we were, but the young woman didn’t notice.
Luckily, my PhD in lit trained me well for moments like this: the symbolism isn’t hard to decode. Most pro-life people don’t pay attention to the problems that threaten life–even unborn life. They’re too busy sticking to their script.
(The stepfather’s house thing is separate symbolism–most of my bad dreams are set there. However, I was living in that house when my town became a centerpiece in the abortion debate–when a pro-life terrorist shot an abortion provider in the back, when my friend’s father got death threats for publicly saying one can’t murder in the name of life, when my mother refused to let me wear a pro-choice shirt because she was afraid I would be attacked.)
Yesterday, the VP spoke at a pro-life rally. The pro-lifers will be marching against Planned Parenthood on 2/11. (I organized and will be performing at a benefit for Planned Parenthood that night.)
All this bullshit always reminds me of a conversation I had in 2000. I was in car full of medical students on the way to a water park (in Florida). One guy was new–an extern. Someone asked whom he was voting for.
Extern: I don’t know yet. My parents’ church gives us a list of people to vote for, based on who’s pro-life. I just use that list.
There was silence. Everyone else in the car was pro-choice.
I thought: they have to work with him. I don’t.
I asked him what he hoped to accomplish by voting that way.
Extern: We want to ban abortion, obviously.
Me: You’ve taken a medical history class by now. What happens, historically, when abortion is banned, to the abortion rate?
Extern [sheepishly]: It goes up.
Me: Everyone else here is pro-choice. Would it surprise you to know everyone here wants the abortion rate to go down?
Remaining calm, I explained that we all wished it never had to happen. But that we all knew it always would–at some rate–but that we wanted it to be very rare. And that we were doing a lot to make sure the rate went down–by advocating for comprehensive sex education, by advocating for access to birth control, by advocating for girls’ access to education.
All those things actually lower the abortion rate.
What that young extern wanted to do–what yesterday’s protesters want to do–drives the numbers up. And increases STD rates. And increases maternal mortality rates. Look at what’s happened in Texas recently, after they shut down so many women’s health providers.
The extern didn’t know about me, didn’t know I’d had my son at 17. So I told him.
And then I explained one way to look at my choice to him.
Since I chose to have my son, I altered my whole future.
The extern’s “side” of the debate had nothing to offer me. His side wouldn’t advocate for child care so I could work or go to school. His side wouldn’t advocate for me to have health care or enough to eat (although if one cares about children, one should realize that their parents being alive is kind of important). His side would, in fact, forever judge me for getting pregnant in the first place. For having a child that young.
And if I ever asked for anything, even basic dignity, I would be told that I shouldn’t have had sex (by a bunch of people who’ve also had sex at that age), and thus that I was undeserving.
“You know, I could have had an abortion. And I might have had to walk past some of you screaming at me, but when it was done, I could have avoided your scorn for the rest of my life. Have you given any thought to actually making the choice to carry an unplanned child the more desirable one?”
“We’re on the same side,” I said. “I just don’t think your strategy will work. It will just make things worse.”
The extern agreed.
(I didn’t realize then that I was using Rogerian argument strategy, but I now use this conversation as an example when I teach it.)
It’s many years later. I know more.
I know more about what happens when people push abstinence, when they try to block birth control, when they attack Planned Parenthood, when they push gag rules.
Pro-lifers, it’s not that we pro-choicers are pro-abortion.
But your script (“Ban abortion” “Defund Planned Parenthood”) WILL RESULT IN MORE.
This entire conversation was awful, but see if you can spot the line that most made me go, “eww . . . what?! . . . eww!”
Him: Did you cry when Trump won?
Me: Yes. Many times. What about you?
Him: It didn’t really matter to me which pig got voted into the farm house.
[I decide not to answer. Two days later.]
Him: Feel like wine and a movie tonight?
Me: No, thanks.
I have to confess: I’m very sensitive about the election. I know too many people who are a lot more vulnerable right now. Thus, the pig reference just didn’t sit well with me.
I hope you find someone more carefree and that you have a great evening!
Him: You don’t see Animal Farm going on before your eyes?
Me: I think a lot of absurd things happen in politics, but I don’t at all think Clinton as President vs. Trump as President is any kind of equal threat to me, to the environment, to my students, etc.
Him: Keep thinking that. But in the meantime, there’s this warm man over here who would like to pur his arms around you if you change your mind.
Me: I’m not going to change my mind. I cried with the trans student I mentor after the election. I’m working with my department to take action to protect our muslim students and our dreamers. I’m fighting for my students to have access to birth control and abortions. I’m fighting for free speech and scientific literacy. A few years ago, I moved my disabled aunt to California so she could get access to care because she was literally dying in a Republican state that rejected the part of Obamacare that would cover her. I could go on, but I’ve got way too many papers to grade today.
Look, I’m sure you’re a decent person, but you’re not the person for me. And I’m not at all desperate, so I don’t have to settle for just a warm body. 🙂
I hope you find someone beautifully suited to you and wish you all the best.
Him: Ok, good luck to you too
[Eight days later]
Him: Surprised you haven’t left the country yet
Me: It’s not going to get fixed that way.
Him: Ok, so you’re going to fix it?
Me: Are you meaning to be hostile right now? Since I don’t know you, I’m not sure how to read this conversation.
Him: Nope…remember, I’m an INTJ [he’d mentioned that in his profile, and was counting on me to have assigned meaning to it]
[I decide not to answer. Several hours go by. This next one gets sent in the middle of the night:]
Him: I want you to connect and bond with me.
Me: I’m not interested in that.
Him: That’s really unfortunatw
Okay, reader. You saw the whole thing. Which part icked you out most?
A 37 year old guy from Illinois (Rock Island, where a couple of my friends live) tried to strike up something with me. This is the full conversation.
Him: Sorry to say are you really 41?
Me: Yup. Why would I lie about that?
Him: You dont look it a bit?
Could u date someone younger?
Me: You’re only a couple of years younger than I am–that’s not why we can’t date. We can’t date because you’re in Rock Island and we aren’t compatible in what we want and what’s important to us.
can u make it more clear
Me: Have you looked at our compatibility and our questions? Your questions say you’re looking for someone to have children with–I’m not having another child. You think jealousy is healthy in a relationship–I don’t date jealous people (especially jealous people with guns). Your profile says your Christianity is important to you–it doesn’t make any sense to partner with an atheist.
Him: Hmmm okay
So I pulled up outside my office building, got my bag out of my trunk, and then checked to make sure my car was locked.
There was a van parked beside me, with a guy unloading it.
“Hey,” I said.
“Checking that you locked your door, huh? Well, you have a nice day.”
I walked into my building, confused.
Why was he making fun of me–does something about me just scream that I always double check my car, that I always double check my house door, that I always make sure the oven is off before I leave for work (sometimes even if I haven’t used the oven)?
How did he know? And why was he teasing me about it?
And then it hit me–he thought I was checking the car because of him.
I was already inside.
And there’s just no way to put that right.
If I’d gone running outside to try to explain, it would have made it worse.
“Hi, umm, I think you think I’m racist. Or maybe classist, or something. I am just a little neurotic. We could call my son right now–he will tell you that I’m unable to leave the car or house without saying, “did I lock it?” Please don’t think I’m a bad person.”
I just hope I’ve been more time being neurotic about this conversation than he has.
The Spock of my childhood embraced his human side in small ways over the course of many years. Some episodes would end with Dr. McCoy commenting on how Spock’s green blood might have a little red in it, only for Spock to raise an eyebrow, unconvinced–and insulted.
We were told, of course, that Vulcans had deep emotions in their past and that contemporary Vulcans learned to keep the vestiges in check (except when time traveling and when in heat, of course).
Our modern Spock in the movie reboots can certainly raise an eyebrow. And we’re told his emotions are buried deeply, but what we see is a Spock barely able to control his emotions, getting in fistfights the second someone mentions his mom or is mean to his friend. In fact, this Spock’s brand of emotional control seems only to apply to difficulties in communicating with this girlfriend (women are from Earth, men are from Vulcan).
These recent years have also given us a new Sherlock, one that contemporary understandings of science might allow us to see as not only “a high functioning sociopath” but a high functioning person on the autism spectrum.
I’ll be intentionally vague to avoid spoilers, but the last episode seemed to indicate that this diagnosis might be wrong or incomplete–that PTSD from childhood might have made Sherlock what he is.
In any case, he shares with our new Spock barely hidden emotional currents, including a deep and abiding bromance, especially since he too has violent emotional outbursts.
Spock and Sherlock (Khan) fighting
Even though I find these men often behaving out of character (in my childhood definitions of them), what interests me more now is why so many women–myself included–are interested in them (and in men like them–like our Doctor Whos).
So many geeky girls have wet Wonder Woman panties for guys who are largely incapable of human emotion.
I think our secret fantasy is that these men can only be un(sher)locked by us–that their deep passions could only be spurred by us–the passions both intellectual and romantic–we would be their John/Kirk and Irene/Uhura combined. They would find us “fascinating” and throw their powerful punches when we’re in danger.
That’s not usually how it works.
Many years ago, I was in a relationship with someone I loved very much–it was our third time trying to make it work. My hopes were bolstered one evening–we went to see Star Trek–the reboot. When Spock’s father tells Spock that he married for love, I felt my partner shift in his seat. And I knew that he would finally tell me–after a decade and a half being mostly off and occasionally on–that he loved me.
Later that night he did.
Spock’s dad had given him permission.
Not surprisingly, it was empathy, that thing Spock and Sherlock lack, that finally drove us apart.
He said he had too much–that it upset him for me to be upset. Thus, I was not allowed to be upset–not even about losing my job in the 2009 recession. I suggested that perhaps he should control his being upset rather than telling me I wasn’t allowed to be–but that was dismissed as illogical.
(Other men I’ve been with think it’s hilarious that this man thought I was overly emotional, especially the few on the far other end of the emotional spectrum who’ve found me cold.)
The irony is that what I needed most was empathy–the trait he believed so strongly he had.
I needed him to understand that my life had been very different from his–that there’s a reason I’m a worrier, for example–it’s a logical consequence of growing up with alcoholics–children who feel unsafe often try to control things–to organize, to worry, to plan for the worst.
One of our very worst moments came when he (a fiscal conservative) told me he didn’t understand how I hadn’t caught up with him financially, especially since I worked so hard. (This was 2010–four years out from my degree.)
He grew up in a stable upper middle class home. His parents put him through college, and his dad paid off his student loans for his Masters in business. He had never been married, never had children, and worked in the private sector. He’s healthy.
I grew up very differently, was a single mother starting at 17, and put myself all the way through a PhD, taking out student loans along the way. My stupid body had its first back surgery when I was 25; out of pocket co-pays and therapies were a third of the 18,000 I made that year–and I’ve been working hard to get ahead ever since. I have a job that I love, but it’s in academia, and because of my job title, I can’t even get the raises I deserve. I am proud to have pulled myself up from where I started. I am proud that I can pay my bills, but I’ll never be in the financial place where he is.
But I work really hard.
I agree with him on that, but I needed him to be able to understand, both in terms of economic realities and in terms of empathy, why I hadn’t “caught up.”
I’m probably just too emotional, too human.
And that’s why we’ll always try and fail with those ever so attractive men.
Two guys have been trying to set up dates with me. Both have been annoying because they keep insisting on me going to Sacramento for a first date, leading me to think they’re not really that interested.
Today’s thrilling updates:
I’ve been turning down Guy 1 for a while. I explained to him that I couldn’t see him this weekend because my car is acting up and I don’t want to cross the causeway until I can get it to the shop.
I thought he might propose coming here.
Guy 1: Hi, any car update how about tonight?
Me: I’m not going to be able to make it in to the mechanic until Wednesday.
I’m sensing a great reluctance to come to Davis. 😉
Do you not have a car?
Guy 1: Yea no car these days ..:9
Me: Ah. Wish you’d just told me that in the beginning–I was confused by you asking me out a lot but not seeming willing to cross the causeway for a date.
Now, I’ve gone out on dates with Sacramento guys who didn’t have cars. However, they were upfront about it, rather than skirting the issue until pressed.
Guy 2 has been coming off as strange in a couple of ways–there seems to be an arrogance/control thing, though I could be wrong–there haven’t been all that many messages. He might just seem that way because he only wants to do the minimum to get a date.
At any rate, he kept pushing for Sac, which isn’t always easy for me (and sometimes annoying because if I have a doc appt in Sac during the day, I really don’t want to head back there for a first date, esp for someone who isn’t exactly smooth in his courting).
Guy 2 [a while ago]: When can u come to sac
I thought I should signal my displeasure:
Me: I’m not sure. I’ll be in Sac later this week, but I’ll have my son with me–we’re going to a show.
Neither of us seems too eager/able to make a special trip across the causeway to see the other person.
[Many days pass. Cut to today.]
Guy 2: Hey u. Would u like to meet
Me: I’d meet if you wanted to come to Davis, especially since my car is acting up and I would want to take it to the mechanic before I took it across the causeway. But my impression is that you aren’t keen on heading this way.
And then I postulate to myself that two guys are having the same underlying issue, so I send another message.
Me: Or is it that you don’t have a car?
Guy 2: Lol no i do have a car
I have a bad headache today, but is there some pattern I’m missing?
Perhaps understanding human behavior is futile.
Also, on this headache day, I would like to say I didn’t send a message meant for car Guy 1 to car Guy 2.
I guess we can’t always live our dreams.
Recently, a guy struck up a conversation with me on OKC. He then mentioned he was going to try Zoosk.
I pointed him to my column on how much that site sucks.
A few days later, I got this:
I had a few strange responses on Zoosk, so I read your blog, which may be the first blog I’ve actually completed. I had no idea you speak Spanish ( que bueno). Yeah guys suck at chatting, and we are from mars. I have said or chatted “how was your day”, simply because I’m lazy, and most likely will never receive a reply.
Well back to my situation, I had two responses that were almost identical.
“I’m really busy now packing”. I’m thinking “So”, packing isn’t a 24/7 job.
Maybe something is fishy with Zoosk.
30 bucks down but not the end of the world.
[his name here]
For a guy to even write more than 2 words is an honest attempt at communication.
I wrote a long answer about how he and other men were causing their own problem–we don’t answer, because they’re lazy. They justify being lazy cause we don’t answer.
(I didn’t bother with the Mars bullshit. I don’t think men are incapable of writing a profile of a message or that all women are master communicators, but it didn’t seem worthwhile to enter into that particular debate here.)
I’d say for the most part, picture is all I look at, and attraction dictates effort. Second thing I look at is body type. Then determine how old the pictures could be. If the profile is too long, I just skip it. I have no desire to be a therapist.
I’ve never seen a long profile and thought a guy wanted free therapy, but then again, I have read more than one blog post in its entirety.
This only strengthens my prejudice against those lazy messages. And now this guy’s conversation with me is over. Sigh.