What is the “𝑐𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑒𝑙𝑒𝑠𝑠 𝑓𝑙𝑖𝑐𝑘𝑒𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔 ℎ𝑢𝑚 𝑜𝑓 𝑙𝑜𝑤-𝑙𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑙 𝑒𝑚𝑜𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛𝑎𝑙 𝑣𝑖𝑜𝑙𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒”?
It’s on Twitter. It’s on Facebook. It’s on Instagram. It’s in my inbox (three of six of my accounts). It’s in phone calls and (sometimes) voicemails (on both of my phones). It’s in comment sections on websites and social platforms.
Some of the things I have been called (please heed my warning that there is some vulgar and triggering language in this list):
bitch, whore, cunt, stupid, fat, dumb, naïve, haggard, pretty, lesbian, feminazi, pig, ugly, garbage human being, trash, slut, dyke, conniving, man-hater, nutcase, manipulative, satan’s daughter, murderer, rude, ignorant, disingenuous, misguided, radical feminist, insulting, mouthy, shit disturber, troublemaker, overlord, victim, bigot, incompetent, tattletale, baby killer, pedophile, race traitor, race baiter.
(Sidebar: the words fuck or fucking are very often used as modifiers for any of the descriptors in this list, and – of course – the descriptors in this list are often used in combination with other descriptors in this list.)
Some of the things I have been told I need to do (maybe just do or do more of, less of, or stop doing, as the case may be):
shut up, smile, be nice, be more positive, grow a thicker skin, get back in the kitchen, get out of the kitchen if I can’t stand the ‘heat,’ never run again, resign, stop twisting things.
(Sidebar: I’ve entirely lost count of how many times I’ve been told to “just shut up.” At one point and for several weeks, I was receiving daily e-mails from obviously throwaway e-mail accounts.)
Some of the things that have been said to or about me that do not fit into either of the lists above:
it’s no wonder my sister killed herself; I don’t love my son; I will sell you all to the Chinese in a heartbeat; I hate Canada; I control the media, the police, Regional Council, and Regional staff; I will kill my children when I tire of them; I lie about: being raped, being assaulted, being harassed, having an abortion, and my sister’s death; I am behind the vandalism at other politicians’ homes; I had someone run someone else off the road; if one of my known harassers killed themself, it would be my fault; I am a bad mother; I deserve all of this because I’m opinionated, vocal, and/or a public figure; I am not good at boxing, being a coach, or running a boxing club; as well as various racially-charged remarks about my children, my ex-husband, and that I had children with someone who is not white
Some of the things that I have had to contend with (this one gets a bulleted list):
- a colleague calling for a special council meeting so that council could ask the provincial ombudsman to investigate my personal life
- someone using my name and e-mail address on a petition created by Randy Hillier
- cartoons that reduce me to sexual anatomy
- threats that have led to me engaging police
- a complaint to the integrity commissioner for publicizing abuse and harassment
- a cartoon that places me in a sexual fantasy
- speculation about my personal life and who I may be sleeping with
- being discussed in homemade videos on a regular basis
- purchasing surveillance cameras for my home and paying for subscriptions to record movement, people, etc. that happens outside of my home
- being sent links to/screenshots of abuse and harassment that is directed at me, so that I can go and take screenshots for my files in case it escalates
- having all of my personal and professional social media accounts, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers shared so that people could target me with their harassment
- men calling my employers to try to get me fired
- trying to discern if the men who are contemplating whether or not they could ‘take me’ in a fight are making credible threats against me
These aren’t even complete lists. They’re what I remember off the top of my head for the writing of this blog entry.
My computer holds a folder for screenshots of much of this abuse and harassment. In that folder, there are 24 sub-folders identified by real name and/or screen name. Each of those sub-folders holds a minimum of a dozen screenshots; most hold 50 or so; some hold more than 200. I also keep screenshots of caller histories.
I do not remember there ever being a time that any of this was related to a position I took on something related to Regional politics. In fact, even when someone has voiced agreement with a position I’ve taken, they’ve – in the very same breath – said something degrading about me.
This is what I mean when I use the quote “𝑐𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑒𝑙𝑒𝑠𝑠 𝑓𝑙𝑖𝑐𝑘𝑒𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔 ℎ𝑢𝑚 𝑜𝑓 𝑙𝑜𝑤-𝑙𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑙 𝑒𝑚𝑜𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛𝑎𝑙 𝑣𝑖𝑜𝑙𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒” to describe what I’ve been dealing with since being elected (and for a while before, but not the same volume). It is a quote that I read in an article entitled: Human Rights by Design: The Responsibilities of Social Media Platforms to Address Gender-Based Violence Online: Gender-Based Violence Online and is attributed to Umair Haque. When I read that description, it was one of those lines that you read and then you read it again and then you sit with it for a few moments, because it so perfectly describes something to which you can relate.
It is incessant. It is hurtful. It is, sometimes, frightening. It is exhausting. It is misogyny. It is abuse. It is harassment. It is gender-based violence. It is an effort to silence.
It is backed up by a great deal of research that it is something many women deal with, particularly if they are politicians, journalists, feminists, or discuss issues or concerns that are typically thought to be the domain of men (sports, politics, economics, etc.) or that criticize men.
It is something that women of colour – especially Black, Indigenous, and Muslim women – deal with in far greater numbers and volume than do white women. It also disproportionately impacts 2SLGBTQQIA+ folks and women who have been open about their lived experience with disability or mental health needs.
It is rarely about the actual opinion or stance that the target of this abuse and harassment has taken on an issue and is nearly always about their gender, race, sexuality, and/or ability.
When it is directed at men, it remains about gender, sexuality, and/or race, and it nearly always characterized by efforts to distance the target from cis, straight, white men.
It is the “𝑐𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑒𝑙𝑒𝑠𝑠 𝑓𝑙𝑖𝑐𝑘𝑒𝑟𝑖𝑛𝑔 ℎ𝑢𝑚 𝑜𝑓 𝑙𝑜𝑤-𝑙𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑙 𝑒𝑚𝑜𝑡𝑖𝑜𝑛𝑎𝑙 𝑣𝑖𝑜𝑙𝑒𝑛𝑐𝑒.”