Confessions of a Racist Bitch

I got unfriended on Facebook today by someone I’ve known for less than a week.

Big fucking deal, right? Happens all the time. Means she wasn’t really my friend to begin with, blah blah blah. True, true, and sad-but-true. And yet, it still bothers me. Because it’s not so much WHAT happened, as HOW it happened that makes it so damn painful.

So, here’s what happened.

I reposted a petition from HarrassMap’s page. It seemed the right thing to do; after all, Lara Logan was viciously assaulted in the midst of just doing her job, right? What could possibly be the harm in recirculating a petition from an Egyptian women’s page dedicated to stopping sexual harassment, assault and abuse in a country that, like all of them, has seen too much bullshit heaped on the heads of its female half of the population? What’s wrong with acknowledging a problem, in solidarity, on the social networking sites?

What, indeed.

This person jumped on me for it:

Sexual harassment has become FAR less prelevant since the revolution. This article is misleading. What happened to Logan was an isolated incident and must be seen within its context.

I responded:

Well, this is an opportunity to make sure it stays isolated, and that things don’t backslide. Also, let’s bear in mind that so far, the only authoritarian thug ousted has been Mubarak himself. His successor was also his torturer-in-chief. There’s a lot of housecleaning still to do.

The reaction:

True but using new ways not the old ways. I was just looking at the page 4 ‘HarassMap’, it’s a UN initiative! If you disregard the actual context then you will not be dealing with the Real problem. Things won’t backslide. I find the term ‘housecleaning’ offensive.

That’s when my first little inner warning flag went up; I saw that she was looking to pick a fight here. She was working with a number of naïve assumptions and just plain false facts.

For starters: HarassMap is NOT “a UN initiative”. Here’s its “about” page; as you can see, it’s strictly an Egyptian women’s volunteer initiative. Maybe they’re looking to work with the UN, and maybe not, but this is hardly something imposed top-down from without. I doubt I’d support it if it were.

And sadly, the revolution has not wiped sexual harassment or abuse from the streets of Cairo or anywhere else. Eons of entrenched machismo just do not melt away overnight, or even in three weeks of sustained protest. The world is steeped in sexism, and harassment, assaults and abuse happen EVERYWHERE. Even the most enlightened, progressive western democracies aren’t immune. That’s the actual context here. And yet this person tried to lecture me about “actual context”, as though I didn’t know what I was talking about. (She went on to say as much later.)

As for whether “housecleaning” is an offensive word, I’d agree if it were only one group (or gender) being forced to do it all. That’s hardly the case in Egypt. The sheer size and diversity of the demos made that obvious. It’s a big house over there, and a lot of crap to be cleaned, but it seems that an overwhelming majority of the people is taking on the task. So there’s nothing to get offended about here, as far as I can see.

But this person was determined to get offended, be offended and stay offended. You can’t argue with someone like that; all you can do is walk away. Which I did. I figured she just needed to cool off a bit, and that later, we could talk better. Mistake.

I thought that she could see that we were both on the same side. BIG mistake. She couldn’t. Duh! On the Internet, no one knows where you stand unless you tell them.

And some people seem hell-bent on arguing where you stand even when you do tell them, and refuse to take your word for it. They always think they know everything better, and think they know where you stand, better than you yourself do. If you try to tell them that they don’t, they get all huffy.

I sensed that this was going to be one of THOSE discussions. I’ve had more than my share of them, and I hate them. I hate myself every time I get pulled into one, and I have a hard time going on liking the person who pulled me into it, too. Such arguments always tire me out. They ruin the rest of the day for me, and they ruin me for the rest of the day. All I can do to prevent having my day ruined by one of those is to walk away from it, gain some perspective, and try to deal with it later. So that’s what I did.

BIG mistake.

I got this when I finally came back:

Thanks for ignoring my comments! Stop making assumptions about what’s going on here! You have no idea what you are talking about.

And then this:

Why don’t you respond 2 me you stupid idiot Sabina?! you’re so sure you are right! Or you just can’t handle someone disagreeing with your arrogant opinions!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are not even able to respect one single person from Egypt!

And finally this:

Racist Bitch

And by then, her name was unclickable. She’d blocked me.

My friends, of course, defended me–or tried to. One of them, a Korean-American, could have told her just by a glance at his profile picture that I am no racist bitch. But this person, just as I’d suspected and feared, was utterly impervious to their attempts to reason with her. Any arguments I’d have had would have been an utter waste of time and energy. She was determined from the get-go to call me that, it seems, and she got to.

I did not, however, get a chance to defend myself as I would have if I’d only had the time. And the stamina. And a little more understanding and patience from this complete stranger. That hurts.

A week or less is not long enough to get to know anyone really well, on the Internet or off. There are people I’ve known all my life whom I still can’t rightly say I understand, even when I see them almost daily in real life. I think it’s pretty fair to say that if I feel that way about my so-called intimates, others must feel the same about me. So how would a not-a-week-old Facebook friend regard me?

Not with a whole lot of understanding, I imagine.

There are so many things about me that just don’t translate well to cyberspace. For that matter, there are a lot of things about me that are easy to miss even when we’re talking face to face! There have been times in my life that I’ve walked around in a major depression, borderline suicidal, and no one but me could tell that I was deathly ill. A part of me had died and gone to hell, and no one even saw. That’s scary. I could have killed myself and they’d all have been walking around with a shell-shocked look on their faces, saying things like “I had no idea…she never said…I couldn’t tell by looking at her…she seemed all right”, etc.

So just imagine, now, that you’re me, an introvert and occasional major depressive, trying to have this conversation. Could you have done it better?

Some of you probably could. Either you’re more extroverted than I (and I’m a terrible introvert, my online persona notwithstanding), or you’re better at arguing, or you’re better at simply never being misunderstood. (Those of you in that last category, I really fucking ENVY you. Could you bottle whatever it is you’ve got, and share it around? I could use a swig right now.)

(Or maybe you’re just better at not fretting and beating yourselves up over stupid people raising stupid arguments on stupid Facebook. In which case, I also envy you. Bottle that shit and gimme some!)

But even if you’re not better than me at this sort of thing, I hope you understand what I’m trying to say here. If I really were a racist bitch at heart, I’d have to go and do what they all do: say “Aha! I knew there was something wrong with THOSE PEOPLE!” and feel vindicated and retrench myself. As I guess this person did. I hope she feels better now.

But I don’t. I feel terrible. I blame myself for having brought it on.

And you know what that makes me want to do? THIS:

Which is exactly what I know I shouldn’t do, if I want anything in this world to change for the better. And I do.

So, no right-wing nutjob retreat into cozy racist delusions for me, and no satisfaction for my projecting accuser. There’s work to be done. Maybe this will help and maybe it won’t, but at least I’ve gotten it out of me now. Sometimes, that’s all you can really do, eh?

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10 Responses to Confessions of a Racist Bitch

  1. Dr.Dawg says:

    Ah, the lovely Stalinist tendency raises its head again. Sounds like a Babble regular–or even one of the “moderators.”

    Meanwhile, another ProgBlogger just called me a “psychopath.”

    I feel your pain!

    Now, shrug it off and keep doing what you do. As William Blake once said, “Listen to the fool’s reproach! It is a kingly title!” Queenly, too. 🙂

  2. An Egyptian says:

    Well, Sabina, this is one Egyptian who would like to thank you, after the dust is starting to settle, for your support from day one of the revolution. You, like all other honest writers, journalists and bloggers have done your bit and can claim to be some sort of “one family in humanity” with Egyptians, as well as Tunisians. As far as i can figure out, your friend must have been seriously insulted by the media’s somewhat sinister attempt to focus on the “bad eggs” of the revolution like focusing on one or two S of D posters and overlooking the rest. No doubt, anxiety and tension follow the end of an era and the beginning of the next, and it’s not easy for revolutionaries to discriminate between honest people like yourself who are basically considering themselves as a part of humanity (with both males and females of the species) and between the FN staff and their ilk. In your defence, you could have easily mentioned that you stood, like other bloggers, against the rightwing portrayal of the revolution as a “MB plot” to spread extremism and violence, but you didn’t. Civil discourse, tolerance and understanding will reign in when liberal democracy and free speech (along with their safeguards) come into play after a 60 years interval of depressing dictatorship, and the peaceful good natured culture of Egypt will continue to flow like the ancient Nile. So what im basically saying is, don’t treat this incident as a stab in the back and, as i always say, carry on regardless. Your contribution to the revolution is appreciated! Cheers.(from one introvert to another!)

  3. Slave Revolt says:

    Wow, her reaction was off the charts psycho. Definitely nothing gained from wading into these waters.

    Like what is unfolding in Egypt, human relations are a messy game.

    Sane and healthy allies will see who is more compelling, and you will win the hearts and minds. That is what most matters in these affairs.

    I am seen as a crank for pointing out the continuing ecological degradation, for speaking against the space shuttle, for example, but my daily work and projects are what gives me a degree of credibility–how I treat people, and my core instincts and beliefs.

    What matters is how our ideas and actions resonate over the long-term.

    Don’t worry about the delusions and pathologies of particular people–even when they ostensibly appear to be aligned with you ideologically.

  4. C4SR says:

    One of the things that I’ve learned online – as if I didn’t know it before – is that some people are jerks. And we’re not going to change them.

    I like your stuff. I don’t always agree with it, but I like it. That’s good enough for me.

  5. Slave Revolt says:

    By the way, you do realize you haven’t responded to any of my comments since I exposed my anti-shuttle missive.

    It anti easy being green, as Kermit says.

    But Slave takes shit to another level. I try to live my shit, head high and without hypocrisy.

    I’ve been in the swamps as the shuttle explodes into space, I’ve seen the effects from the thunderous penis on the wildlife.

    Nations are fictions, but as human, I don’t need a firey phallic symbol to bolster my sense of self worth. And it’s kinda cool guaging the reactions of people when I tell them about my opposition to the shuttle, and my experience seeing the effects on the animals in the swamps.

  6. Kingoldby says:

    Don’t be so sensitive.

    The world is full of morons. Letting them get to you is a mistake, whatever you do or say, they will remain morons. Just try to ignore them.

  7. Ben Gruagach says:

    You did the right thing ‘Bina. Trust your instincts.

    Hugs.

  8. Jim Hadstate says:

    ‘Bina, I think that you had ‘friended’ her on Facebook which is a WHOLE lot different than being friends with someone. You of all people should know that there are trolls out there who are playing hit and run nasty and do so for as long as they can get away with it. You have dealt with so many of them on this website.
    This person might just have been one of those trolls who do that. Some of them are even PAID to do their disgusting things.
    On Facebook, one of my favorite pages (besides yours, of course) has two wingnut trolls who spew all over the page with repetitive wingnut blather and, more often than not, ad hominem attacks against the page owner and any progressive who tries to comment. I have learned to simply read their blather, the Eric’s defenses and then make my comment, usually pithy (Well, more than pithy. More like pithy said by a Spaniard’s use or the “th” sound).
    I don’t bother going back to see what they have to say because I know what they are going to say and I have heard it all before. That sound like what you had here. As you said, she wanted to argue for the sake of arguing, hoping to draw you into ever more degrading responses to her ever more degrading attacks.
    You know that I am a fellow depressive. One of the hardest things I had to learn was to walk away from things and not feel bad about it. My therapist worked for nearly 10 years (I guess I’m a slow learner) to get it through my head that some arguments are not worth fighting and, more than that, aren’t worth giving any of your precious life to thinking about.
    You did right, although you don’t need me or anyone else to tell you that. On a visceral level you know you did. As far as her final accusation, as my therapist would say, “That is a classic case of transference.”
    C’mon out. The sun is shining and we need you pithy remarks. Remember, it’s Festive Friday day and Chavecito picture of the week day. Shake of the funk and have some fun.
    The Racist Bitch ain’t worth it.

  9. Corinne Ciofalo says:

    Her loss not yours.

  10. Polaris says:

    My impression is that this worthless antagonist has no sincere beliefs and she just enjoys trying to cause trouble.

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