Has the world REALLY changed?
Today, a friend directed me to a blog post from pitcher Curt Schilling.
You can find the blog post here: The world we live in, man has it changed
I'll sum it up here: Schilling, if you're not familiar is a bit of a loud mouth retired pitcher. He's right wing, he's got some pretty unsavory political views (my opinion, obviously). The guy doesn't believe in evolution, and "joked" that he'd been snubbed for the Baseball Hall of Fame because he's a republican. Just giving you a little background.
However, he's also a parent and a proud one. His daughter was accepted to college, and like a proud dad, he tweeted that she was accepted to play softball at a school. He was then inundated with the slime. What I mean by "the slime" is the rude, suggestive and downright disgusting things that people feel they are entitled to say to total strangers, particularly when those strangers are public figures.
The problem isn't that people were rude and disrespectful to him, that he can handle and has been handling for years. The issue is that this was all aimed at his young daughter. The tweets range from "can't wait to date her" to graphic threats of rape, gang rape and murder. And they didn't just tweet them at Schilling. Oh no, they tweeted them at his daughter. And they sent them to her as direct messages.
Now, Schilling is shocked--shocked, I tell you!- that this sort of behavior exists in the world and that it would be directed at his kid, and that they'd say it right out loud like that. He's suffered the slings and arrows of being in the public eye as social media has developed over the last couple of decades. He's had insults and likely a few threats here and there hurled at home for a long time. And he's cool with that. The problem with this situation is that he's a dude. And until social media trolls unleashed their slime on a woman close to him, his daughter, he just didn't believe that people said things like that. What he seems to miss in this situation is that this isn't actually about him, it's about her. And the way we, as a society, treat her for being a her. And people have been treating her--us--pretty horribly for a long time.
Women who speak up in public places (like social media, politics, business, etc) get this sort of abuse and threats of violence (usually sexual violence) every day on twitter. EVERY DAY. If the whole gamergate fiasco taught us nothing, it was that. But GG was hardly the starting point for abuse of women in social media, it just got more play in the news. Lindy West wrote a piece in December 2014 that expresses this fairly nicely for The Daily Dot. She wrote the piece after her own experience of trying to report abusers and harassers on Twitter (spoiler alert: Twitter did almost nothing).
This isn't about one father trying to protect his daughter, it's about allowing all 'other' people, in this case specifically women, to speak and exist freely on social media. It's about believing women when they report the abuse. Note that Schilling was never threatened with rape, only his daughter. This is about the toxic masculinity that we teach men, about the way we devalue girls and women for being female, and about the way that it's okay for men (and boys) to view women as objects and tools. In this case, Schilling's daughter was literally used as a tool to offend and shock him by threatening her.
Believe it or not, social media is an extension of our own societal views (like it or not) being expressed publicly. It's not about these specific guys, it's about the way that we think it's okay for men to treat and interact with women. The language these days is more graphic, that I will grant you. However, the truth is that the only thing that's really changed about the world isn't that men say these things or how graphically they say them. What's changed is that they can say it so loudly and so publicly. Social media has given everyone a megaphone. A re-tweet or favorite by someone with more than handful of users allows these sentiments to be expressed over and over again, revisiting a trauma or abuse on an intended target.
Maybe the world has changed: women and minorities are speaking up and speaking more. And the abusive language is getting more graphic and more intense. But if a guy like Schilling can experience it, and hopefully use it to honestly evaluate what led to his daughter being used as a tool or an object, and he can stand up for those women and minorities and their right to speak without threat, then the world will continue to change for the better.