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?
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.
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.
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.
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:
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?