A comics creator harassed me for months on Twitter and I don’t want to say his name.
It wasn’t even that bad, is what I’ve always told myself; more an endless stream of Well Actually and gaslighting than threats of harm. It wasn’t even that bad, is what I tell myself, wishing I hadn’t let it/him touch me.
This is how it was: I, a pseudonymous, female nobody, disagreed with his storied, much more experienced self, and I kept disagreeing long enough to raise his ire. I annoyed him, ignored him, publicly dismissed him and his opinion, and that was enough for him to search me out, day after day, for months. He was there, uninvited, for every joke, every grumpy morning, every late night goodbye. He was there, questioning me, my every observation, every opinion, every idea. “Well actually” “have you considered” “the so-called study” “ignores men” “and you call yourself a feminist?” “Do you even READ comics?”
I don’t even remember what started it.
This was back when I first got on Twitter, fresh off a stint of moderating a handful of pre-Tumblr, girl-oriented fan communities and blogs. When I came up in comics fandom, it was with women, mostly, but plenty of men too. Many of the girls and women in my communities were scared of the comics fandom of “out there,” dreading visitors from other sites and forums, and ignoring the whole of their discourse with extreme and justified prejudice. One community recruited moderators based on timezones, connectivity, and decisiveness — that’s what the daily deluge of rape jokes, misogynistic and racist harassment, and general fuckery demanded. Every other month there was a new raid or harassment campaign; members would gear up, and the community would go into lockdown. When we weren’t being actively harassed, a blogger or comics journalist, always always always a boy or man, was trying to incite something.
I have been told that I am trash, unfit for society, deluded, crazy, and a dumb cunt. I have had threatening GIFs jammed into my eyeballs until I became numb to them. I have had comics drawn of me in which I commit terrible crimes against men, and comics drawn of me in which I come to terrible harm at the hands of those same men. All for the privilege of expending volunteer labour on a clubhouse for my friends. But, you know, it wasn’t that bad. (It could have been worse.)
In the thick of it, I constantly underestimated the effect this all had on me. Underestimated it as my grades dropped and I spiralled back into a depression that I’d only just gotten out of. Underestimated it as I was reminded daily of the ex who stalked me both online and in person, cut me up emotionally because I didn’t need him enough, want him enough, and turned my back on him in the end. (What else threatens a man so well?) Underestimated it even as we, my colleagues, were harassed relentlessly, accused variously of harbouring violent hatred for men or just not caring about their every passing thought and emotion. (How could we?) Underestimated it as men in positions of power and authority called fire down on us and we could only lock arms and hold fast.
I slipped it into the middle of that paragraph: I have a history with stalking, or rather, stalking has a history with me. He couldn’t have known that, our unnamed comic creator, when he decided to make my Twitter life as miserable as his own pathetic heart. He couldn’t have known much about me, or what hurts me, besides the obvious things that hurt all of us. But equally, he couldn’t have known that I DIDN’T have a stalker, a past that, like so many women, includes abuse. He did know, you know, that I am human. That every. Last. Person. You interact with on the internet, is human too.
Here is the thing about it all, the thing that makes me squirm with shame: I don’t want to say his name; I’m not going to. Not out of fear of him. No, he’s not who makes my throat close up, my muscles clench till they cramp, my breath come up short. He just reminds me of him, the reason for so much of my silence.
Here is the other thing about it, the one that should make you worry: no one but me and my close friends told him to stop. Not when he was harassing me, not when he was harassing countless other women. He was just “talking” with some probably fake comics fans on the internet.
And here is the last thing, the one that satisfies me even as it makes me mad: not one of my harassers from back then knows who I am, and so very many of them, the ones with influence, treat me very differently these days. I am, named, established, with some power, worth being polite to, at the very least. (Except when we aren’t.) They don’t know my measure but I do know theirs.