A Switchblade In my Sleeve: Why I Talk Back

"Don't feed the trolls".

I get told this a lot. Don't argue with trolls, Kitty, don't keep fighting with them, they're assholes, they just want the attention. Just block them. Just walk away. Just pretend you don't hear them. Don't look. Don't speak. Don't respond.

I used to do that. Used to bottle up my rage, vent it elsewhere. Then I realized that by not directing my rage back at these people, even just the once, I was internalizing it. I was taking it out in the wrong place, at the wrong people. And that's just ridiculous. I've had enough of wasting energy preaching to the choir and playing nice.

If someone catcalls me in an intimidating way? I'm going to confront them.

If someone publishes my personal details on a website to try to shut me up? I'm going to get even louder.

And if someone brings their abusive attitude to my turf? I am going to rip them a new one.

None of this "turn the other cheek" bullshit. I am not a passive person. I am not the docile type. I am a feral cat and I will claw back. As well I should, really. What sort of world is this when someone suffers abuse and harassment and is told the best method to deal with it is to shut up and sit down? Bless your hearts, I know there are people reading my blog who have said this in the interest of maintaining my mental health- I know you mean well, but I am not in the business of playing dead, and to hold my tongue exhausts me more than to fight back. I do not have the privilege of "just ignoring it"- as a fat girl, as a sexual woman, as a fat sexual being, as a sex worker, I would have to completely block out human interaction to have safe space. To ignore it is to submit to it.

Margaret Cho said something similar this week, to the delight of people everywhere, talking about her response and her anger when people make negative comments about her appearance, and how pissed off it makes her when people say "gee, you're just too angry":

"I do not take the high road. I take the low road and blows below the belt are my absolute favorite. The best revenge is not living well. The best revenge is revenge. My mouth and mind and typing fingers are weapons of mass destruction and I pity those ignorant idiots who would leave insults about mine or any women's bodies in comment boxes because there's ways of hunting people down. Lots and lots of ways. It's not as anonymous as they think, as stupid as they are.

I'd like to say things that would haunt them for the rest of their days, because their hideous words stay with me eternally. Their insipid spouts of "no fat chicks" are branded onto my soul, so they must reap what they sow. If I am in my worst way and I talk to you, you will know you have been talked to. I want to punish you with the unforgettable shit you will take to your grave and hurt you long after you are dead in the ground. may my poison bore holes in your dry, decaying bones."

There are a lot of quotes about how anger destroys the person holding it, how anger is poisonous and will hurt you if you indulge in it. I call bullshit. One of my favourite quotes ever is from a flash cartoon I saw years back- "don't direct your anger inwards... direct it OUTWARDS, towards your peers!" While in that cartoon it was an anti-suicide message, it spoke to me about anger- why should I take these things out on myself when it's other people trying to hurt me? Better to direct that venom back at them, a purifying fire out of which I am reborn again and again, a more streamlined activist with better armour and a sharper tongue each time.

I've been beginning to read through the SCUM Manifesto, a classic in the history of feminism that is often blown off as "too angry" and "crazy talk". And yes, it's sometimes pretty amusing, very much a product of its time, and certainly pissed off at patriarchy and capitalism- quotes like "Eaten up with guilt, shame, fears and insecurities and obtaining, if he's lucky, a barely perceptible physical feeling, the male is, nonetheless, obsessed with screwing; he'll swim through a river of snot, wade nostril-deep through a mile of vomit, if he thinks there'll be a friendly pussy awaiting him" is definitely the product of someone who is livid at male privilege.

Yet I find myself drawn to it, find myself surprised at how often I nod at Valerie Solanas's words and say "actually..." When I saw the article about the women in Egypt who fought back and caned the self-appointed "morality police", I cheered. India's Pink Vigilantes who shame abusive husbands and corrupt politicians by banging on their doors as a mob? That's AWESOME. When thugs attack two men on a fancy dress night out wearing dresses for being "fags", and those men turn out to be fucking cage fighters? I say justice.

Pacifism has almost always ridden the coattails of people ready to be aggressive back. As a sex worker and a woman who is constantly made aware of the ways in which capitalism and patriarchy seeks to keep me quiet and in my place? I'm all for fighting back. Writing strongly worded letters only works when people read them.

I don't feel the need to use a bomb where diplomacy has a chance- however, I'm definitely not going to tell marginalized groups they're being "too angry" and that they should just deal with individual and systematic violence with peaceful resistance. There is a space for anger that can be healthy:

Healthy anger is not aggressive, nor is it passive. The formidable center is clear and assertive. It is responsive but not reactionary.

So yes. If punching back is "feeding the trolls", I am a total feeder. I will stuff them with my pointed fury until they burst. Because it allows me to do alchemy with my own anger, transforming the possibility of hurt and victimhood into strength and a push back. I will not be kept down. And I will definitely not be kept quiet.

Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.
Maya Angelou

(And when you wonder why I'm so into My Little Pony? It's my unicorn chaser for LIFE.

Blog title is a nod to Ani Difranco.)

Categories: activism, angry, feminism, male privilege, politics, sex bloggers, sex work is work

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