Fire-Breathing Dragon

fire-breathing-dragon-1

This is on several wallpaper sites. I’d love to credit the original artist if anyone knows who it is.

Recently I took down a blog post due to some threatening messages I received that, in part, excoriated me for being an “SJW.” They were not the first threatening messages I had ever received in that vein– not the 100th. I am a woman who writes on the internet, after all, and men send us threatening messages every single day. But these were, for reasons I will not disclose, particularly disturbing. One post about Disney casting (of all things) was, I felt, not worth it. I took it down.
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Recently a local actor– a real life acquaintance– announced in a discussion of a racially-charged topic he was hosting on facebook that everyone should ignore my comments because I’m “one of those women who hates white men. If a white man cured cancer, she’d say it was oppressive to Black people.” And more foolishness. I skimmed it, rolled my eyes, and then blocked him, so I’m sure the quote is inexact.
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I am struggling with the fact that I blocked him. I am struggling with the fact that I took the post down.
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Ordinarily, I would delete and ignore random threats from lonely, angry men looking for someone to attack, someone to blame for their loneliness and anger. “Someone needs to rape some sense into you.” “You’re a stupid cunt who should keep her mouth shut.” “You will be crushed, like all SJWs will be crushed” something something glorious right-wing takeover goosestepping blah. If you are not ready for these, you are not ready to be a woman writing on the internet. These are the songs of the manbabies, sung into monitors lighting up otherwise dim rooms, dim minds, dim souls. They will sing songs of hate, anger, and loneliness until they die. Or until Mom comes downstairs and asks if they’ve done their Algebra II homework.
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And ordinarily, I would take “ignore her” as a gauntlet thrown down, a challenge to demolish foolery in a war of words that I would– perhaps too greatly– relish. My brother long ago described me as a “fire-breathing dragon” in debates, an accurate depiction. Debating is as close as I will ever come to dominating a sports field.
DnD Poster2

Artist: Kekai Kotaki for Wizards of the Coast

Long ago I made a vow to engage with racism wherever I found it. That, I believe, is my duty as a white person, the basic entrance fee to “good person.” Yet twice in one week I walked away.
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To say– We, as white people, need to be better, need to listen more, need to work hard to dismantle the systems of oppression in our culture, about which we have literal mountains of data proving both their existence and their impact– to say this, according to far too many white people, is “hating white men.” I do not “hate white men.” I recognize the existence of systems of oppression in our culture and I want us all to do better. I very much include myself in that. Yet I did not respond with any of this. I walked away because I’m having a “stressful week.”
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I am a white woman and I can choose to recognize my privilege or ignore it as I go through my day. But I have seen the results of my privilege and the oppression of white supremacy and I can’t just walk away from that injustice. If the sacrifice I have to make is the good opinion of a handful of white people who refuse to look at this issue with sincerity and honesty, then so be it, because while we live under these systems of oppression, our brothers and sisters of color are being forced to sacrifice so much more.
And yet I walked away, twice in one week. I can’t decide whether to congratulate myself for my “excellent self-care” or kick my own ass for being a white feminist.
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I know that I can’t fight every white supremacist I come across. I know I must “exercise self-care” and “recharge my batteries” and “take time for myself” and whatever else you’ve seen plastered across a blurry image of a waterfall on your aunt’s facebook. I know these things. So why am I cringing at my own behavior?
balrog

Fly, you fools

I’m not asking my readership to hand me cookies labeled “You Already Do So Much” and “Excellent White Person.” I am not excellent, at all, and I’m a writer, educator, and theatremaker, so I don’t know if “so much” describes what I do. I put words into the world and hope they find their way into someone’s brain. You can only fight with the weapons you’ve been given and these are mine. But I do not do enough. There is no such thing as “enough.”
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And I walked away. Twice.
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There is no answer you can give me. I did what I did, and it’s in the past. I have to live with my actions.
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But I will never take down another blog post as long as I live.
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9 thoughts on “Fire-Breathing Dragon

  1. I wondered why the previous entry was missing. It’s interesting that I see this new one just after I deleted the Tumblr app from my smartphone this morning.

    I haven’t been on FB since Nov. 2015. Usually I’d take a couple of two-month sabbaticals per year (maybe March-April, then Oct-Nov) and it would do a lot of good for my mental health and general outlook on the world. After a FB Message argument with a theatre colleague who flat out LIED about me, I was pissed enough to want to go to his workplace and belt him. Instead, I just took what-was-meant-to-be another FB sabbatical. I’ve just never logged back in since.

    I did wind up spending more time on Twitter. It was actually something you said, Melissa, that got me thinking: around this (2016) I noticed that you weren’t Tweeting as often as you used to. When I asked you about it, you said – much like the blog entry above – that the comments had taken a toll, so you’d only be posting sporadically. I began to notice this as a commonality with the women I know who have online profiles: they often consider FB a relatively safe space because of the profile settings and the fact that can account for everyone they know; Twitter (and sometimes Instagram, but I’ve never had one of those), on the other hand, is akin to diving into the briar patch of the worst of the worst of anonymous comments. Whereas I find FB worse because of the fact that I know everyone (and therefore take bad comments personally) and Twitter a relative breeze (I usually take the Mona Eltahawy approach of telling random trolls to “kindly fuck off” before I block them), your comments were a reminder of the sort of discrimination I often don’t think about because it rarely affects me directly (I can… kinda deal with the 200-a-day posts of nooses and bullets I get).

    When a friend of mine – a great local stand-up – took a break from Twitter in August 2016, I did the same and haven’t logged back in since.

    TL;DR – The point of this ridiculously long-winded comment is that the part of your blog entry above that most resonated with me was how you used the words “walked away”; as if you thought you were somehow admitting defeat. You weren’t – you were acknowledging that a particularly bad fight took its toll and that you couldn’t deal right then. That, in my opinion, is you acknowledging the humanity the shitty commenters clearly lack. It’s great that you’re so willing to engage and call out, but remember: the reason they’re called “trolls” is because they thrive in the slime and shit one finds under a bridge. Even the most valiant knight would eventually lose their cool engaging with them over and over.

    As much as I dug the original post – and hope it reappears again in some form – it’s okay for it to be gone if its disappearance makes ultimately makes YOU feel better. And don’t feel bad about cutting ties with your unnamed “local actor”. I’ve spent the past few months cutting ties to a lot of specific local theatre folk because I just didn’t need their toxicity in my life.

  2. taybrook says:

    I feel the same mixed feelings. And you can add my frustrating habit of apologizing for my feminist opinions, acknowledging the sighs and eye rolls (here she goes again), trying to minimize the discomfort of the white men I love who believe women are equal and entitled to equal rights in all things.

    I applaud your courage to stand up and take the abuse. I find my fear of receiving hate in response to my writing makes me hesitate to share… Feeding the same shame I feel for not doing more to fight for women’s rights all along…

    It’s a brutal balancing act, aelf-care vs. fighting the good fight. I very much appreciate you giving the mixed feelings voice.

  3. darthtimon says:

    Tackling the numerous examples of racism, misogyny and bigotry that are out there is indeed exhausting, so, at the risk of saying what you said not to say, you shouldn’t berate yourself.

  4. Patrick says:

    By always holding yourself to a higher standard – you challenge all of us to do the same. Thanks.

  5. chasbelov says:

    Fortunately, this white male subscribes to this blog and got to read your thoughtful post. Life is difficult. We do the best we can.

  6. There are times when it’s important to consider the sources of such abusive comments and remember that taking care of yourself is often more important than trying to cure all the stupidity and toxicity that is being hurled at you by cretins and trolls across the Internet. In such instances, protecting your personal integrity and emotional strength becomes an urgent necessity. Not only does it help to heal you from any perceived wounds, it allows you much-needed time and space to purge the poisons that are being dumped on you by people who may be nothing more than back-seat drivers with access to a keyboard and/or cell phone. Keep up the good work.

  7. Kathleen says:

    Self-care. If you aren’t well enough, you can’t breathe fire. Much love to you.

  8. madmegsblog says:

    thank you for writing this! And I am grateful you won’t ever take down another post. I felt like you were describing my own life; I am considered a ‘rabid dog’ of debates. I am a white girl who battles racism and general ignorance daily and I am beaten up verbally often. Sometimes I fight back. Sometimes I attempt the “don’t justify that with a response” attitude. The latter usually eats me up because I feel like I just stopped fighting then, and I am letting down all of the people who do not have a voice.
    It’s an ugly world out there. Getting uglier by the minute. We need more people like you in it; and we need those people to stand up and scream. Even if it’s from a laptop.

  9. Kellie says:

    I hate that these individuals behaved the way they did. Please try not to beat yourself up for how you reacted to their terrible behavior.

    In some ways, it is unfair to yourself when you say things like, “I have to tolerate this because other people tolerate things that are so much worse.” Everyone is different and has different strengths. Saying you’re not allowed to be upset by something because worse things happen to other people is no more logical than saying you’re not allowed to be happy about something because better things happen to other people.

    I wish your post was still here, but I blame that troll for its removal. In the future, maybe you will choose to delete comments, ban trolls from commenting, or not allow comments altogether, and those are okay decisions, too. Whatever lets you keep breathing fire is OK by me.

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