Do you dare? Do you dare to tweet?
Will anyone read it? Will anyone follow you?
You’re a woman, you have opinions; why shouldn’t you share them?
Men share their opinions all the time and everyone listens. Surely it will be the same for you.
So you tweet. Cautiously and carefully. Nothing too controversial though, just a little tweet.
You get braver.
What have women been complaining about? It’s fine on here, no one’s given you any abuse, maybe they were exaggerating.
You continue along your social media journey. Commenting here, quoting there. Sometimes joining a conversation on issues that matter to you.
You retweet those you agree with and read interesting articles.
Your interest in feminism and politics and women’s services develops as you meet and connect and engage with other women.
You debate and discuss and agree.
You gain more followers. How exciting! All these people who are interested in what you have to say. Wow.
You start to tweet more and more. You get retweeted more and more.
You read a news item which describes a women’s experience at the hands of a man. Maybe it’s a rape case. Maybe a domestic abuse case. You comment and then…..
It’s over. They swarm in.
Your mentions are full of abuse; “fucking dyke” “fucking slag” “you need raping” “I’m going to slit your throat” “fucking whore”
You sit, horrified, staring at your screen. What have you said that deserved this?
Your mentions keep filling up. You try to reply to the ones who seem less abusive but that doesn’t work. They just come back with their patronising, low level passive aggression. They tell you you’re wrong to hold the opinion you do. They tell you that you don’t understand the issues properly.
They tell you that you’re a hysterical feminazi.
And you start to block and report. You try to get the worst accounts suspended but twitter doesn’t respond, and if they do, a new account springs up in it’s place.
Egg accounts flood your mentions telling you in graphic detail what will happen to you when they find you.
They are going to find you.
You can’t keep up, you can’t cope with it all.
You desperately try to think of any information that you’ve shared which might identify you. Did you mention where you live? Your children’s names? Anything?
Who are these men?
Why are they targeting you?
Don’t you have the right to speak?
Why aren’t you entitled to an opinion?
You know men in real life. They don’t behave like this, you’re sure they don’t. Well, they’re abit sexist maybe, abit entitled. They speak louder and over you sometimes but that’s just how they are. But they wouldn’t behave like this. These men must be ill. They must be unbalanced, unhinged, mentally ill.
But they’re not. They’re just ordinary men, often with wives and families just like other men. They’re no different to the men you know. They could be a man you know.
You’re scared. Anxiety smothers you like a poisonous blanket. You shake. You jump at every noise. You dread opening your twitter account, not knowing what you might see.
You withdraw. You lock your account. You stop tweeting as much. You quieten down because you can’t go through that again.
You are silenced. They won.