Last week my column on old white men triggered a man who has been trolling me for the last few months to escalate his menace. He created a meme with a picture of me with ‘confirmed racist’ on my head, declaring The Echo is an anti-white newspaper and should be boycotted. BTW, white people don’t experience racism – we are the dominant culture. The troll went to the trouble of creating personalised memes to threaten every business and every community organisation who advertises with us, or supports us to prompt withdrawal of their support, lest they be seen to be in cahoots with my, and The Echo’s, supposed anti-white agenda. They were posted to their business Facebook pages. This entire attack would have taken days. The content was ludicrous, but the intended harm was a reminder that the alt right aren’t just in America. They are here too, in the Byron Shire.
It would have taken days to create the memes and methodically go through The Echo to create personalised images for every supporter. There were a lot of targets. I know because The Echo had to ring everyone and explain to them how to delete and block the sender. To the big brave white supremacist who sends from a fake account; at least have the courage to author your own madness. If you believe in what you say, then why do you need to hide behind an anonymous account? You may not always like what I say, but at least I put my face to it.
It makes me a target. I am well aware of that. It takes a certain courage to have a strong opinion, or to express something that provokes reaction – I knew that my piece last week was going to stir up the angst of some white men who feel targeted by feminists like me. I knew that they’d misinterpret a piece on white male privilege as a personal attack. I knew that the thesis underpinning my piece would be missed by those who find strong women’s voices repellent. That kind of man still doesn’t want to share space. Most don’t get what it’s like to be a person of colour, a woman or a gender diverse person. I get that, and while I find their responses a bit predictable, I appreciate it when they exercise a level of decorum.
My topic last week was the underlying violence and destructiveness of white male power and how it has created a history of wars and conflict, and now environmental Armageddon. The irony is, the menace of the man who is clearly sharpening his axe for me and for The Echo, just confirms my previous editorial. There was a certain violence in his behaviour. He meant to cause harm. People like him don’t want to share space, and they will go to any lengths to safeguard the status quo; to shut the rest of us up. But I won’t shut up, and fortunately I work for a kick arse little paper that publishes stories most mainstream papers wouldn’t.
It intrigues me that when those who posses the most privilege in our society i.e. white men, are called to account, they adopt the language that has been used by those on the margins when trying to call them to account. And they take on the victim role. When I dialogue about feminism and what needs changing people say ‘she’s banging on again’. As though we are only allowed to have that conversation once a year. When I call some men’s behaviour to account, when I write passionately about domestic violence and the death of women at men’s hands it gets called ‘man bashing’. That is meant to discredit the dialogue, to negate the narrative. Women are not permitted to critique the system that oppresses us. We can be killed in our homes, at the rate of two women a week, but if we talk about it, we are man bashers.
In a world dominated by social media it has become dangerous to speak out against the old school values of the dominant culture. As an opinion writer for an independent newspaper I have the unique opportunity to speak to such issues and give a perspective that doesn’t align with most mainstream media’s philosophy. I see it as my duty to say uncomfortable things, to be disruptive, to start conversations. I am a feminist. I am a leftie. I am an environmentalist. I am a pacifist. I am in support of a Treaty with Indigenous Australians. I don’t believe people should have guns. I believe our country should welcome refugees and give land back to Indigenous owners. I would like to see a more equitable social system. I am anti-capitalist. I am against coal mining and old school polluting technologies. I believe in every person’s right to access safety, food, education and housing.
I have never understood how my values are considered ‘radical’ – because they seem like common sense to me. In fact, they seem to reflect what I understood of the bible from my Catholic schooling. While I no longer believe in that god, I have always thought the Jesus they speak of in the new testament to be of a similar mindset. If Jesus had a Facebook account I can guarantee he would be trolled by angry alt right Christians. Jesus would also be a ‘confirmed racist’. Jesus wouldn’t like guns. Jesus would be a feminist.
And btw, I understand that there are good men out there. Smart men. Men who understand exactly what I am saying and are as hungry for change as I am.
In the world we live in, to speak out, or to speak up, comes with consequences. As a woman, as someone who lives as the ‘Other’ in patriarchal culture, I am aware of the mechanisms that shut down dissent; abuse, attack, threats. Social media has provided an elegant platform for abusive personalities to practise trolling and to menace – seemingly without consequence. It’s happened to me regularly over the years, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t frighten me. It does. It just doesn’t silence me – or The Echo.
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