The Zombies Ate My Brains

Rescuing what might remain of the grey matter.

Trolls

Click image for source

Click image for source

Weather Warnings

Tuesday’s forecast was for heavy snowfall – up to 25 cm. The bulk of the snow would hit around 7:00 in the evening. As early as last weekend, the weather network had issued “special statements” which later upgraded to watches. Tuesday, the warning map was wall-to-wall scarlet.

Every Tuesday, I volunteer at the Cobalt library. My job is to cover the circulation desk from four until closing. On Sunday, by way of a weather notice of my own, I sent a message to the librarian:

Hey there – just a heads-up regarding the weather warnings – if we get the forecasted snow dump on Tuesday, I won’t be able to get the car out. I could walk in, but walking home in the dark afterward, especially if it’s stormy… yeah, not so much.

I fought back the urge to explain myself, to make it clear what I meant about not wanting to walk home in the dark. I wanted to elaborate about how I’d have to take the long route home, because cutting through the park in a raging snow storm wasn’t an option. Also, the last half kilometer is winding and narrow. There are no street lights. One side of the road is a steep rock outcrop up and on the other, the outcrop  continues, straight down. If a snow plow came by while I was tramping homeward…

The subject of walking home in the dark has been on my mind ever since. I know what’s bothering me, and it has nothing to do with being stuck head-first in a snowdrift.

What’s bothering me is that I’ve been getting trolled lately.

“Hey, pretty lady, the celebrity in that gallery must be you!”

“Maggie, you are a beautiful woman.”

That’s all. Just two comments, on the heels of my posting a gallery of images of myself over the decades. This, in spite of my inner judges tsk-tsking and suggesting that I keep the images offline where they, and I, would be safe.

You see, this is the first time since I started blogging in 2014 that I’ve received these kinds of comments. Sure, there’s been the usual computer-generated spam, but never something like these overtures.

Do you know, I had to actually force myself to NOT reply, to NOT fall into the old habit of giving folks the benefit of the doubt, to NOT say, “Thank you, how kind,” and then see what happened. It’s either the Pollyanna in me, or it’s denial. Because if I believe that there is no harm intended, then I need not feel afraid.

Then the emotions tumbled in quick succession.

  • When I finally realized that these were trolls, instantly, I felt ashamed, and regretted that I didn’t listen to those inner tsk-tsking judges.
  • I toyed with the idea that I had brought this on myself.
  • Screw that! I was angry. What kind of person does this? What are they after? Sexting? A hook-up? Money?

Trolls I Have Known

These trolls are no different from the abusers that I encountered over the years.

When I was seven or eight, the babysitter took my brothers and me to the park to play in the wading pool. At one point, I was sitting alone on the blanket in the shade of a tree while the sitter watched my brothers in the water. An old, grizzly, drunk called to me from a few feet away. “Hey, girlie.” He approached and squatted in front of me and reached out to poke his finger into my crotch. I crab-walked backward and that was enough to discourage any further attack.

When I had a paper route, one of the homeowners would greet me in his briefs – strategically rolled up at the leg, and down at the waist to barely conceal his genitals.

Later, when I was in high school, I used to play tennis at a park about a kilometer from home. We’d play until well after dark, and I’d walk home through the cemetery and I’d cut through the high school parking lot. One night, as I descended the long winding driveway through the school property, a group of guys approached. As they got near enough, one called out, “We’d fuck you, but you’re too ugly.”

After that, I didn’t walk anywhere alone after dark. But to this day, I cannot decide whether I was more upset by the threat of rape, or the fact that they found me ugly. It’s probably both.

Clarity

In the scheme of things, these “attacks” barely meet the definition of assault. But I will argue that they were. The attackers meant to diminish me, to overpower, and to use my sex for their purpose.

The confusion, shame, and anger resonates still. Obviously.

The trolling comments, the unwelcome attention, falls into the same category – they are a prelude to attack. Lures, that on the surface are benign and complimentary, but their mission is to entrap and to harm.

I hesitated to publish this. It’s a departure from my usual fare. Why speak of something that happened decades ago?

Besides, there are countless others with brutal, horrifying abuse stories. Others who struggle to live with the devastating consequences.

I’m not really all that upset, I’m fine, actually. As a matter of fact, I must have been fine back then, because I never told anyone about the walk through the high school parking lot.

And right there, that’s the reason I am going to speak up. I was NOT fine. Today, I speak out. I am outraged at that attack. I’m going to retroactively take myself by the hand and tell myself that I need not feel shame. That my anger is justified.

Point, click, delete – trolls be gone!

If only it were that easy offline.

***   ***   ***

Inspired by Alice who says she likes to “write about sex and bodies and minds and violence. In that process, I also think I write about hope.”

Plus, she likes arugula. My kinda gal.

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Categories: Personal Growth

Tags: ,

59 replies

  1. Very weird! Not your post but those comments.

    We all have a few of those in our background. Things that made us feel “icky” but we didn’t report. I was grabbed in the boob by a carnie when I was around puberty. I didn’t even have proper boobs but it spoiled my night. I felt so dirty. I don’t know why I didn’t yell at him and embarrass him publicly. Maybe it’s my generation. I hope today’s young girls would yell at anyone who was inappropriate. WP may have done some changes to broaden readership. In the past 6 months I have gotten a lot of followers, many of them strange. They don’t comment or “like” but have their own blog about things that are so foreign to my interests (at least by the sound of the title). I have no idea why they have any interest in following my blog. I loved your collage of pictures. I also love Alice.

    Liked by 4 people

    • If it had been me and the carnie, I would have felt the same – shocked, confused, and sullied. And I would most certainly have NOT yelled or called attention to his abuse.

      I’ve gotten used to the folks with marketing sites who follow my blog – they’re looking for traffic. They’re looking in the wrong place if they think I’m going to follow them in return, but you don’t get if you don’t ask, I suppose.

      Which makes me wonder if that particular saying isn’t the motivation behind these trolls. They’re looking for a little somethin-somethin’ and if they don’t make the first move, how will they learn if I’m up for the challenge?

      Nah, that’s just me trying to dampen the nastiness of the whole trolling biz.

      Ick.

      Thanks for your words of support.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I remember the legendary trolls under the bridge…don’t we all wish they had stayed there ??? Sadly, we all have a few stories like this one in life, but luckily, not so many here on WP. Or have I just been lucky so far ??

    I missed your lovely photo gallery (something about a football event here ), but I’m glad you went back to delete the comments. No one should put up with that.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Why do we, the victims of unwanted attention, crude remarks, or outright assault, feel ashamed? It should be the perpetrators – those trolls, the emboldened strangers, the criminals – who feel shamed. It’s bad enough that there are those who feel perfectly comfortable remarking on, let alone touching, another person without their permission, but now they can do so virtually, behind a cloak of anonymity. Thank you for sharing your story, Maggie. I would imagine most women have similar stories, and similar reactions. You are right… it’s not fine.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Years and years ago, I remember reading that 3 in 4 women experienced sexual abuse. I read those figures and heaved a sigh of relief and muttered a prayer of thanks that I had managed to dodge it.

      But of course, I hadn’t.

      If you were to ask me, I’d say the percentage of women who have experienced abuse is 100.

      Thanks for your support and kindness, Janis.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. YES! And there is a fist bump aimed right at your hand Maggie. Speak out, we have to speak out when we are ready (and I am using the collective we as in all women) who are the target, always the target, of sexist, misogynistic, patriarchal fools who believe they have a right based on the appendages they carry in their pants.
    And…that Alice is a wonder isn’t she. She is the driving force behind much of my days right now 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you! Fist bump! 😀

      Sometimes I try to play devils advocate, or arm chair analyst, or at the very least, examine an episode without judgement. I try to understand the act from the abuser’s point of view. Is it just a misguided attempt to connect? To find love?

      But then that whole exercise comes crashing down because I’m about to vomit. I conclude that that there are those who walk among us who clearly haven’t advanced beyond the cave.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. We speak of things that happened long ago because those things become part of who we are. At least online trolling, stalking, comments, are not immediate threats to our physical well being, although that does not make them okay. No one should be treated as if they are an object. Of any kind.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thanks Maggie. I’m guessing that virtually all of us have stories buried from our past that we never, just never, talk about. Shame is a powerful emotion.

    As we know, nothing much has changed … women are still questioned and deemed responsible for how they contributed to the troll-ish behaviour. The trial of Jian Ghomeshi is a case in point.

    I think it’s a rare woman who doesn’t feel uncomfortable – at best – or afraid. And that’s where the real shame should be.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. You should have thrown all those ruined (RUINED, I tell ya!) tomatoes at your trolls.

    The anonymity of the ‘net has a tendency to bring out the worst in some people – take my sister, for example. In person, she’s sweet and kind and funny and such…but get her behind a computer screen, and she gets aggravating, opinionated, and downright hostile.

    I had to delete her from my friends list in Facebook to save our in-person relationship a couple of years back.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. The legal definition of assault is: “an intentional act by one person that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent harmful or offensive contact.” So I agree with you–these are episodes of assault. It’s disturbing how many of us women have these types of quick incidents in our pasts and how long they stay with us. That’s how harmful they can be.

    Liked by 6 people

  9. Those are some weird comments you received on your blog post. I can see why they caught your eye– and your mind. I’ll never truly understand why anyone would want to cause fear and apprehension in another person, but it happens often enough for me to realize that it’s universal. Sorry it happened to you, but glad you worked out how to deal with it. Trolls be gone.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Good for you, Maggie. That comment at the school was abuse. It was meant to hurt you, that’s a good enough definition for me. When people go out of their way to hurt you, hurt your feelings, make you feel bad, or any combination, they are abusers. If nothing else, they are abusing the freedom we all have, and the responsibilities that come with it. Delete the trolls.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. It’s important that you talk about these experiences, so that others know it’s OK to talk about their experiences…and so that we all know it’s not OK for men (or anyone) to do these kinds of things. Not OK to leave those kinds of comments either. It’s not OK that we have to think about our route walking home. Or that we don’t walk alone after dark. But stay safe. You don’t have to explain yourself to the library for not wanting to work during a blizzard. You’re a volunteer, not a paid employee. They are grateful you’re there when you can be. Hugs.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Never apologize about being afraid. We all have fears others may not understand but they are valid.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Wow Maggie. This was a powerful post and the comments are so good & thoughtful. I have a lot of thoughts on this subject but to say just some… I think when these things happen to women we feel such a mixed response: afraid, hurt, angry, helpless. And as others have said, most all women have these kinds of things happen and so many of us were never taught how to respond. We want to be understanding and not make the other person feel bad but our kindly sentiments are misplaced. Learning how best to respond is so tricky because antagonizing someone can make things worse for ourselves even though we have every right to call out men on these bad behaviors. I’m afraid younger women still aren’t being taught to spot danger and stand up for themselves.

    I’m pissed off on you’re behalf but I think you’ve got the right attitude. Really glad you posted this.

    Liked by 3 people

    • So many good things in your comments, thank you.

      I was a good girl, daughter of an authoritarian father, and I was a devoted Lutheran. Gimme a set of commandments, and I’d obey, sir, yes sir! The end result being, I didn’t speak, and I put others’ needs before mine.

      Not having children, nor many young women in my circle, I am out of touch with what they are being taught. I worry like you, though, that any meaningful lessons they receive are being superseded by marketing and social media and the promotion of ego and image,

      Liked by 2 people

      • I was raised much the same and it has cost me. Predators count on women being that way. We don’t live in a culture that is protective of young women (or women generally but older ones are more likely to have developed better radar and defenses).

        Liked by 2 people

  14. “But to this day, I cannot decide whether I was more upset by the threat of rape, or the fact that they found me ugly. It’s probably both.”

    THIS. So much this. This not-knowing — this confounding of fear-of-violence with fear-of-not-being-worthy-of-violence — is part and parcel of the poisonous web rape culture wraps around us all. And no one is immune, or left untouched. You are certainly not alone in having such stories, nor in never having told them. Never having been sure if they “qualified” even, as incidents where there was anything to tell. And I so badly want us to do better by our children today, young people of all genders, because these dynamics pollute and infiltrate so much. They limit all our humanity.

    On a happier, more arugula-friendly note: I am so touched to be cited here! Gonna tell you what I told RetirementallyChallenged, when she bopped over through your link to say hi and to commend your recommendations: “Maggie and I only recently connected with each other’s work, but are already becoming strong mutual fans. I expect us to start braiding each other’s hair or possibly building a club house any day now…”

    So, y’know. Now you have that to look forward to! 😉
    cheers, Alice

    Liked by 5 people

    • It was around the time of the high-school thing – there was something on the news or a TV show or something, where the teenage girl comes home and announces that she is pregnant. This is in the early 70’s and it was a scandal in those days.

      Anyway, my dear old Dad, used this as a teaching moment. He, you will understand, who NEVER turned his attention away from the tube. My adolescence must have been worrying him something awful for him to blurt out, angry eyes and pointing finger, “Don’t you EVER come home pregnant!”

      I burst into tears of self-pity and loathing. How could I get pregnant, if i was too ugly to be raped?

      [composing myself] Huh. Did realize that I was holding onto THAT little bit of pain.

      Thank you, Alice. I’m so glad that readers here have found your site. What you write, and how you write it – it deserves wide readership.

      Liked by 3 people

  15. This had to have been hard to write about…..but I love the roll you got on and got it out. We do suppress the ick things that happened long ago but you are a better person for saying this, Maggie. Like Dawn said, you are a volunteer. No need to explain the fact that you want, and need, to be safe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Lois – Surprisingly, it almost wrote itself. But it was difficult to publish.

      As for the library thing, my compunction to explain myself, I think, was more about feeling guilty that I haven’t got the courage to walk out alone. So, I go to great lengths to explain to justify my decision. How nutsy is that? It’s not safe, so I should protect myself, right? But still, I somehow feel that it’s a flaw in my makeup, my character.

      [shaking my head]

      Liked by 2 people

      • Probably because you know some people – even women people – might mock you for it and/or give you a hard time about it. I say this from experience… Now I don’t care what anyone thinks when I make decisions about how to protect myself and stay safe on a regular basis. After all I figure THEY won’t be the one there when I get into a jam.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Maggie, I’ve read the comments and have liked many! Your comment here made me think about the need to protect ourselves as women today. The abuse inflicted as we grew up stays in the back of our minds, and surfaces when sparked by events. For you walking in the dark. I’d say your convictions stand. About the library thing, there’s no need to explain yourself, to justify why you don’t want to walk alone at night. It’s not a character flaw! It’s not lack of courage to walk out alone in the dark, it’s common sense! It’s just NOT safe, in any kind of weather. Even pepper-spray may not be enough in today’s world! Enough said. Huge hugs. 💛🎶 Christine

        Liked by 2 people

  16. It definitely isn’t okay, and it’s so telling of our society that we all have these stories, usually only shared with those closest to us, as if we should be ashamed of how others have violated us.
    I remember posting about my blog trolls, lascivious or otherwise, and how you’d made the comment that these things hadn’t happened to you. I really didn’t believe you, but I see now. You’ve posted pictures where your face is larger, being pretty and happy and that’s all they need… and now, it happens to you too.
    I relate entirely to the walking home in the dark bit. I relate to whether or not to explain yourself. I encounter that a lot in my life, and I’ve learned not to offer one, best to wait until asked. No matter the reason, your safety is first.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Sorry you are getting trolled. I moderate my comments and comments I don’t think are appropriate don’t show up. They get trashed. That’s about you can do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Don. I appreciate your kindness.
      I moderate first time comments, too. Here’s hoping I don’t need to moderate ALL comments.
      For these two instances, I trashed the comments and blocked.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Though I moderate the comments, I approve almost all of them. Doesn’t matter if they are positive or negative. I only check for trolling or for people trying to sell things. Occasionally I will get a weird comment that doesn’t make sense. Out the door it goes. Thus far I have been fortunate. I haven’t had too many issues. For that, I am thankful.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. Yes, they’re attacks. And never feel ashamed to call them that. They’re never okay; never jokes, never harmless, never a bit of fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Wow. Really shocking to think about the real life trolls likened to the ones who hide behind their anonymity online. All of them real life cowards. Very difficult but extremely enlightening post, Maggie.

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