How to report abuse when they call you a liar?

It’s been an odd week on Twitter. I’ve felt reluctant to check in, not least because it’s made me acutely aware of the disparity between the empathy afforded to white women in contrast to women of colour and in doing so, it has made me feel worthless and redundant. I am not sure what the point is to anything anymore.

When I made the mistake of accusing the wrong person of racism, it didn’t matter that I had suffered it for many years before or that I would experience a sudden and severe escalation as a result of a murder that had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH ME, on that occasion white people, male and female, held me up as an example of how privilege politics were deeply flawed, as if somehow my mistake said something about the intentions behind the whole of intersectionality. They manipulated the truth and bullied me despite the apology I issued of my own volition. The person I offended had accepted my apology and I was sincere in asking for forgiveness but it was too perfect an opportunity for people steeped in privilege and power to mock and denigrate our lives.

Intersectionality didn’t cease to exist because I’d got it wrong. If anything, I’ve been made even more aware of how we are all unequal. A white woman with a platform made others like her aware of my existence, a misunderstanding was exploited. They thought that I would go quietly, they failed to reiterate for my benefit how they wouldn’t want anyone to be bullied off twitter, as they did for each other, my thoughts, my feelings were obviously unimportant. I left for a short while but I didn’t disappear. It was as if somehow the worst had happened, as though I’d faced my demons and now I was committed whether or not I was happy about it. I was called names, I still am, I have been threatened with rape and death, I speak about these things candidly on Twitter, but nobody freaks out on my behalf. They objectify me, belittle me for my illnesses, opine on everything from my period to how I’d make a bad mother. It has been sustained and increasingly more personal. The people doing this are mostly men and all of them are white. They say it isn’t harassment or bullying but are keen to point out they hound me for my comedic value. My life and the issues I face are a joke to them. They’re ‘skeptics’ you see, it’s the (mainly) white man’s right to uncover the truth and yet they failed so spectacularly on this occasion because white unity. It’s easy to take my words out of context and glue them onto other words I tweeted, maybe not even from the same week, to make it look as though I am deranged and deserve the nastiness they relish throwing my way but they don’t realise how unoriginal they are. If they thought they would somehow gaslight me into submission and I’d admit that I was a faux forriner then they couldn’t be more wrong. Their actions fuel my anger. As a woman of colour, I am expected to withstand abuse without complaint. I thought at one time that I would keep a diary of all incidents but quickly decided there was no point. What could be done about it anyway? Well, if I were a white woman, the media might have paid a shitload more attention. Twitter would have taken me seriously and I would also probably feel entitled enough to personally approach the most powerful man in the world and ask him what he was doing to protect me. A week of rape threats and misogyny? Try 7 months of racism, sexism and ableism.

Tell me, why should I have to suffer my trolls gladly? Where was your outrage for me? Do I deserve the threats and mockery aimed at me? The treatment I receive is not confined to Twitter or my blog; racism, sexism affects my life everyday. When I reported a fascist to the police for implying he was involved in the firebombing of Muswell Hill Mosque, I was asked about my motivation for reporting him. I’m not sure whether white British people are asked about their motivations for reporting crime but again, it made me question the point of pursuing a charge. Did I really want to provide a statement and risk going to court where a quick google search will reveal the lies posted about me? I am aware that information has made it so that I have to suffer threats in silence because white Britain simply doesn’t believe me.

To endure the unacceptable and have your experiences dismissed, to be accused of dishonesty, to be denied, minimised, made to feel as though you are worthless, that is the life of a person of colour. As one knob put it, even the term PoC, defined by people of colour is not valid: “what’s wrong with non-white?” How any feminist can allow this to happen to another woman and then claim her feminism is for all women, well, can you see why I call bullshit? HOW do you expect I’m going to feel about Jane Austen when prejudice blights my life? Why is this important when women of colour are being attacked on our streets for being a different skin tone?

I didn’t withdraw my support to the feminist cause, I was abandoned. For as long as women like me are excluded from righteous attempts to smash the patriarchy, feminism will never thrive. Instead it provides a constant source of amusement for the white menz in power, they’ve been playing this divide and conquer thing for quite some time.

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6 comments

  1. I care about the abuse you suffer, but I didn’t say anything because I thought you were handling it pretty well. You come across as the kind of person who takes no shit, & I thought it might seem patronising if some white dude stepped in & took umbrage at people. I’m actually pretty outraged generally at what’s been going on re: the twitter trolls & ashamed of my fellow white guys for putting you through that. If you do need support though, I’m there. I don’t watch Twitter too closely cos I follow way, way too many people, but count me in on any hue & cry you may want to raise against any given troll.

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  2. Sam, so sorry that you feel abandoned by feminism. Your experiences do matter and the lack of a mainstream voice that is listened to is frustrating. I listen if that helps a bit. When the shit-storm you suffered a while ago broke, I was on your side as it was obvious to anyone who reads your blog that you are a thoughtful and intelligent young woman. I hesitated to wade in with my 50 cents and I am sorry for that.

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  3. Hi, I’m a stranger who saw this linked to on Twitter. Does it help to say that I am truly appalled that you are suffering rape and death threats? I should really stop being surprised that such things happen as often as they do, shouldn’t I. I hope that you’re OK and that you’re safe.

    I identify as a feminist, but find that I have to qualify that these days. I’m privileged in some ways, disadvantaged in others, and very much aware of how feminism interacts with those different areas. The amount of racism, transphobia and whorephobia present in mainstream feminism today, and particularly amongst the radfems, is dire. I don’t like the idea of all the non-bigoted feminists dropping out of the movement and leaving it to the bigoted ones to take over, so I am trying to effect change from within, but I do not for a moment blame anyone who leaves feminism due to being dropped or even chased out. I’m white, cis and not a sex worker, so while I care about these issues, it’s not as painful to me personally, I don’t get attacked in the same way for expressing an opinion, and it’s easier to put up with and keep fighting. If feminism decided to turn on disabled women in the same way (so far it pretty much ignores us), I would probably end up leaving feminism too.

    As for whether white people are asked their motivation by the police when reporting a crime, in my experience, sometimes, but only in the situations where you are likely to be victim-blamed (e.g. rape victims are routinely put through the wringer). I’ve never been asked my motivation for reporting something unconnected to me, such as when Environmental Health told me that they thought there was a dead body in the stairwell (they were telling all the neighbours that, but didn’t think it necessary to report it to the police, so I did). I would be surprised if white people are asked their motivations for reporting crimes anywhere near as often as PoC, sadly.

    When it comes to the Jane Austen issue, well, I happen to like Austen’s work and am all in favour of having better representation of women on banknotes, not to mention PoC and any other group that’s been conveniently left out (how many famous people on banknotes have been LGBT, I wonder? Any?). So yes, I think it’s worthy of discussion and a bit of campaigning, but it is in no way more important than issues such as racism. It’s very much one of the minor issues, and one where I don’t really care if people don’t have the energy to invest in it. If a woman says, “I don’t give a toss about the bank notes issue,” fair enough. If a woman says, “I don’t give a toss about WoC being mistreated,” then I’ll be furious.

    The business about your one mistake being taken as if it were a great crime by all PoC – yes, this needs to stop happening. It’s like the way that all disabled people are held responsible for the 0.7% of benefits claimants who are fraudulent, and who are therefore assumed to be fraudulent and worthy of nothing but contempt. Privileged groups don’t have this issue of one person being held to represent all of them, do they. And for heaven’s sake, you are allowed to make mistakes! Everyone makes mistakes! Especially in an area where you’re in a position of less power to begin with, and thus have less (or no) freedom to ask the person in question exactly what they meant when they sounded bigoted, or whatever happened.

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