Trolling Behind the mask of anonymity

For a couple of years, we have seen the Troll slowly become more and more powerful in our daily society. This year, especially seems to be the year of the Troll. People have become emboldened to hurt others because they see it yields results.

When I wrote this piece a couple years ago I didn’t truly understand teh depths of cyber bullying and trolling and how brutal it can be.   There is something altogether sinister about trolling , the person who is attacked ceases to be anything other than a target to do harm.  Armed with an army of trolls, together they can try to bring down entire population of people. They hack into websites, telephones, steal privacy, find phone numbers, and try to find the biggest underbelly of their vulnerability.

And the question is… why? I’ve been livestreaming for a year and  ever since I started  I have noticed the high toll of trolls come my way. As more and more people became attracted to watching my Periscope, so came the trolls in droves. Initially it flabbergasted me, and it saddened me not for myself but for the young kids I knew they were targeting as well.

The Troll is consumed by jealousy, of seeing the world in Black and White and trotting the world with their own personal agenda. There have been several different kind of ” trolls” that invade my space, and as a writer and an observer of human nature I found it all really fascinating… What made these people waste their time trying to bring others down? Did they feel empowered by their anonymity? Did they feel stronger by doing so?

 

The Mean Girls

These trolls baffle me the most. These girls are beautiful, skinny, young… they have everything going for them so why do they come into my livestream to call me ” an overstuffed pig” when I am doing makeup? What compells them to take time out of their day to do this?  They are still young, and believe that their beauty makes them invincible.  Perhaps they do this as an attention tactic, as a way to get views for themselves. Perhaps they do it for a reaction. There is something to be said about young female millenials who have been born with a smartphone attached to themselves. All they know is social media, and external validation. But this is a crumbling facade, filled with pink tinged filters and flawless makeup skills. Underneath, in the dark when all the lights have gone out you cannot deny the loneliness that creeps inside you. There is an anger that comes in the way they lash out on me. Sometimes they bring their friends, a posse of mean girls to say things and point and laugh. We live in a society that makes memes out of fat people, who takes photographs of people without them knowing in Wal Mart stores. There is a message ” She’s not me. ” Once, a young girl came in when we were dancing salsa. She was fat herself and she had invited her friends to make fun of me. This truly flabbergasted me, but I wondered if she herself was being bullied… if somehow she turned on me so she would not be the focus for once.

Trolls rarely are original either. Most of them say the same phrases over and over, or try things on for shock value.  I have seen these type of ” Mean Girls’ from every country imaginable : Mexico, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Russia, El Salvador , England, United States…  They are also secretly, the ones I believe eventually are curious and become your follower ( most of the time through a different username). In the end, they are curious : How is it that a fat girl is confident enough to show her face in front of hundreds of people? Why isn’t she hiding away in the shadows? I hope they learn something from it  and I can give away the secret : Real confidence comes from who you are and not what you look like.

The Political Trolls

Everyone has an agenda, especially in today’s political climate. It’s a messy world, one that contains a lot of people who are invested in being ” right”. With the rise of the Alt Right and White Nationalists, this has become even more apparent. When I was livestreaming from El Salvador I would get an onslaught of people telling me that ” All Mexicans should be burned”… that I was a ” traitor to the white race” and that ” multiculturalism is death”.

They basically repeat the same talking points over and over. They bring in their army to try intimidate you. What’s scary is that this behavior is now being rewarded.  These people live in willful ignorance, and while as a Bahai I tried to reason with them that unity in diversity, that all immigrants are not the cause of the problems in America, that women aren’t crazy SJW’s… but the truth is they don’t want to change. They are hanging unto the change of the river and choosing to stay there. I refuse to believe they will win in the end. I am not a political person, but as you all have read throughout the years I believe in social justice. This is the one type of troll that can truly affect me . Not for me, but for all the poor people listening to their hate. When I decided to livestream about what to do for immigrants who might be deported in America, I had 13k people come into my Periscope, many of which were spewing out the worst amount of hate speech imagineable.  With this type of people it’s best to not engage at all.

 

The predator trolls.
These trolls are concerned with one thing and one thing only, trying to get women naked objectify and humiliate women . They feel empowered by saying the most disgusting things imagineable because they hide behind a veil of anonymity. What is baffling is that there are tons of places these people can go for that, but it’s almost as if they feel emboldened by people’s refusal.

 

The Trolls who do it out of Boredom

These trolls are the most baffling : they truly take glee on making others people hurt. There’s a disconnect behind what they do in real life and the fact that people are real behind the screen.  All the rage , frustration and hurt is vented on people they don’t know and they won’t ever know. The dichotomy of a life which embodies people who readily have jobs, children, school, mothers and sisters yet say the most heinous things imagineable is only a testament to a society which gleefully engages in the humiliation of others. Is this not an extension of an audience who gleefully watches Reality shows and sees peoples suffer? This has been going on for centuries, ever since the Romans watched the Christians being consumed by lions.

 

Words have power only if you give it power.  I choose not to engage with these trolls or to become enraged by them. When I die, I want to have died and led a meaningful life. I want to see the people who made my life give me purpose. I want to be a light in the darkness , a tiny speck in  the evening sky ready to fly with other lights. I don’t want to embrace a darkness, to humiliate, to give in to rage or hurt. These words are not mine but theirs. They are hurt human beings who choose to live a life where they think hurting others is a source of entertainment. They hold no place in my life.

One person told me I was a rhinoceros . I told him he was right. Rhinos are big , beautiful with thick skin who charge head first into the wilderness. There is nothing painful about being called an animal,  animals would never treat anything the way trolls do. Embrace who you are and rise above like the sun .

 

Breasts, Cleavage and Feminism

The other day, Emma Watson was under fire for a picture she had posed for were she showed quite a bit of cleavage. As the interview stated, she could not be a feminist if she was wearing something like this.  This was her response:

 

It’s an odd paradox. Feminism is surely something that is supposed to bring people together especially women, and celebrate sisterhood but why is it so often something we use to judge others and be criticize of HOW we try for this to happen?

Females are judged on a separate scale to men. Men can happily run around in running shorts bare chested and no one will blink an eye, but women are immediately judged by their appearance because it is the very thing they are defined by.

As a girl with big breasts, the subject resonates especially hard for me. I feel constantly judged and slut shamed for wearing any outfit especially if it shows cleavage. A couple of years back I had a facebook photograph of myself that I liked my smile. However people thought it was ” Slutty” and were ” Shocked” at it and asked for me to take it down.

me march

On another occasion I had a photograph of myself at the beach in a dress.  Someone joked at how ” booby” I looked and tried to mock it, despite the fact that there are countless pictures of them in tiny bikinis. It seems the double standard is clear : If you have big breasts you aren’t allowed to show in a dress, you should never run and you should be cognizant at all times of how to sit stand lean or bend down.

I am constantly finding that women are ” Horrified” if I wear a dress with cleavage, or if I bend down or even stand a certain way. Often when I was younger I would make sure I would disappear in my shirts and wear as many scarves as possible. I would purposely look unflattering so as not to offend. It took me a long time to realize that what I wear does not mean I am not responsible of how others feel about it and in many ways this is a direct result of the rape culture we live in.

Last summer I was talking to a friend of mine and I came out in a jumpsuit I was particularly proud of since it cost me seven dollars. We were talking about assault, as I told her some of my painful stories of men following me in the streets. She told me ” Well maybe it was what you were wearing or the vibe you gave out … I mean after all that gives attention”. The idea that, somehow what I wear makes me responsible of a man harrassing me and stalking me, calling me names and even grabbing me and making me fear for my safety is ludicrous. What we should wonder more is WHY this happens to so many women, why so many men think this behavior is acceptable.

Breasts are a topic that make people uncomfortable , which is absurd because the very reason they exist are not even for sexual reasons but for lifegiving ones that celebrates motherhood. We distort this ideal to think that breasts are not only just sexual, but somehow belong to others. Having big breasts mean you get a lot of unwarranted attention, or made to feel guilty because somehow you want to feel nice. It makes you feel defensive that someone who is genuinely interested in you might have ulterior motives to do with your chest. The problem is not that it’s a nice feature to have, the problem is that it is something we are taught to be ashamed of and worse, it is not something that belongs to us. Somehow , because one has big breasts, we have to be judged by some other insane standard.

As the BBC article states

Ms Smethers says: “The real issue about all of this is the pressure on young women to look a certain way, to be judged on their appearance so if we are going to focus on anything that’s what I would be more concerned to be prioritised.”

Dr Mackay questions why the debate has been reduced to a celebrity exposing her breasts rather than issues such as women’s economic positions and cuts to women’s services

One time I was temping where I had to proctor a police entrance  exam. They told us to go in our best possible dress, as it was winter I went in a basic sweater dress. I had a jacket in my ammunition as well as a scarf in case it was needed. The other temp was a man who came in a rumpled shirt and khaki pants with a coffee stain on it. The first hour at 6 am I went with the woman in charge to take out the exams. She too was wearing a sweater dress. I went to the bathroom and by then most of the men were there to take the exam. There was another woman there and she was giving me a dirty look. The first woman said  ” I need to talk to you, you need to leave…” . I was perplexed. What had I done? SHe told me ” Please you know what you are doing”. When I told her if my dress was too insulting I had a scarf I could wear to cover myself up if that was necessary. She said ” Just leave you are making a scene”. Meanwhile the man who came in completely unkempt was allowed to stay, later on they accused me of not ” being professional”.  I sent a photograph of what I was wearing as proof that there was nothing much wrong with it. I got my check. Here’s the dress I wore:

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The point of that story is to say that somehow someone’s standard is different just because you are built differently.  Instead of focusing on what we wear we should focus on someone’s character, their personality and who they are as a person. There are plenty of issues we have to fight for including wage gap, lack of education, rape culture, violence against women among many other topics. Yet, somehow, it’s easier to focus on what we can control which is what someone wears and how they conduct themselves. Meanwhile, women throughout the world are going through horrific abuse and the very real issue of male privilege is still altogether prevalent. What women wear is the least of our worries.

While we all have standards of modesty, judging others and belittling them is not acceptable either. We waste far too much time focusing on externalized notions of what it means to be a woman and not enough time focusing on educating everyone on redefining womanhood.  Ultimately, having the freedom to make decisions- even bad ones- is what freedom of choice is. I’m not going to be ashamed of what I look like, and I am done feel responsible for other’s judgement or aggression. What matters to me is that I feel comfortable in my own skin, the only one who can truly judge is God and myself and that I am doing my utmost to help younger girls in low income situations become the best person they can be .I want them to look up to me not because of what I wear or who I am with but how we can all become active agents of change.