Monday, July 11, 2016

Cyber Bully
No one gets online thinking they are going to learn something. We all approach social media with the same attitude, share our opinion and damn the rest of the world.

I admit, I am guilty.

But where I don't fall short is in attacking people, that is, making character attacks. I don't attack people (unless relentlessly provoked), I attack ideas, organizations and systemic problems. Hey, I'm imperfect, I slip up. But I really have no desire to attack people, because that takes away from what I want to actually address. I believe people are good for the most part, but are blinded and misguided by bad ideas.

A good example for me is the Mormon church. It has lovely members. Wonderful people who genuinely are trying their best. I think they are horribly misguided, and taken advantage of. And I'd love to see that change. So I challenge the ideology. The problem is, Mormon's can't separate themselves from their ideas. It becomes personal, they think I am making an attack on them. Its very hard to speak to someone about ideas when they can't separate themselves from their ideas. I ran into this problem trying to speak to people about racism, and colorblindness. The minute I said we had a systemic racial bias towards whites, everyone became upset and thought I was calling them racist. If they did a little reading, they'd probably realize that they were. But it wasn't my goal to pronounce them as racist. Merely bring to light that the ideas they were sharing (All Lives Matter) are racist. And white normative. And colorblind.

For the past few days, I have been dealing with a cyber bully. I'd never met this person, I had no idea who they were. I had no idea how they found me for that matter. I just figured it was someone who had found my blog somehow and taken issue with it. Until they started making personal comments about my husband and our relationship. When I asked if he might know who this person was, he knew immediately, and said they had had a bad interaction a while back over an article published by the university about atheists and agnostics. He sent me to her Facebook page, so I messaged her to let her know her behavior was inappropriate. She accused me of stalking and blocked me. Interesting, because she would have had to do considerable stalking to discover who I am, because my husband and I weren't even linked on Facebook at the time. Which means she's a very good stalker, and I still don't know how she found me or my blog.

I understand her behavior is completely inappropriate, and only reflects her own insecurities on the subjects she wanted to attack. However, it still was unsettling. People who have no fear of consequences, for example when interacting through a computer screen, become their worst self. They have no fear of harming another person, because they can't see them. This woman took my blog to heart, took my commentary Mormon ideology personally, sought vengeance for a bad interaction with my husband, and took the opportunity to make character attacks at me, someone she had never before met. She mocked my relationship with my husband, my relationship with myself, my intelligence and my integrity. She compared me to a 4 year old, and kept daring me to say something intelligent. I understand she was behaving like a child, but it still upset me. My blogs are important to me, because I feel like I have a responsibility to share what I understand about religion, racism, feminism and tolerance. I feel I have a moral obligation to discuss these things, and I don't do it lightly. I research and reflect extensively before I write anything.

Again, cyber bullies have no fear of retribution. They are throwing poop at a computer screen, an inanimate object, so they forget the person on the other end is human. I hate to admit that she got to me, but she did. I struggle with my own self worth as a post Mormon woman, as evident by some of the blogs I write. I struggle with feeling intelligent, having been told I'm not that smart for years. I struggle learning new things because I don't feel like I am able to. So when I can begin to understand something new, it is a great achievement for me. Not saying she ruined my progress, but she had no idea my history or background. I am still very proud of myself for overcoming the bullying I'd faced in the past regarding my intelligence, and my working hard to keep learning new things. Even when it scared me. Even when it turned my world view on its head. Even when I didn't want to learn it.

She mocked my relationship with my husband. Saying I only did what he told me to. That I did what he did and I couldn't think for myself. Again, this woman knows nothing about me, or our relationship. Or the struggles I faced as I tried so hard to prove my husband wrong about the church. And to prove myself wrong. She had no idea the struggles I faced in regards to patriarchy. How I'd always hated it. How it made me uncomfortable. How many of the conversations my husband and I have had have been about how patriarchy is wrong. She didn't know that, and so she made comments about my character in regards to patriarchy that simply aren't true. Again, I think this may have to do with her own insecurities on the matter, but it doesn't take away from the fact that she felt it was okay to dump her insecurities on me. I would even consider it sexual harassment, because she made numerous comments about my relationship with my husband.

I don't believe in bullying. I don't believe in calling other people stupid just because you don't agree with them. I think its wrong, probably because of how I was raised. I can think someone is an idiot, I can t think a whole group of people are idiots, but I'm not going to tell them just because I can. I aways try to discuss ideas. Because I want people to learn, and I want them to understand what I understand. That is why I am so passionate about what I write. Anyone who knows me and Nick know that we are very seldom in total agreement. That we have our challenges, as does any marriage. Anyone who knows us knows that we are distinct individuals who struggle to come to the same decision. Anyone who knows us knows the struggle and heartache leaving the church brought upon us, the strain it brought on our marriage. Anyone who knows us knows how strong willed we are, and how we have to work to think as a team. But I think that is true of any good marriage. A woman shouldn't do what her husband says just because he says it. And she shouldn't subscribe to patriarchy because it is wrong. What Nick and I have is healthy, what women have in the church is unhealthy. Recognize here I am not attacking people, I am attacking ideas and ideology. It is not healthy for a woman to think she should defer to her husband, and it is not healthy for a man to think he has dominion over her, righteous or not. A marriage like mine, where we have to work to be cohesive in our ideas and our wants, is healthy. Because we remain individuals. 

Perhaps it's that I'm honest to a fault that I can't stand people saying things about me that aren't true. I don't lie. So expect others not to lie. I do not appreciate being misrepresented. I do think for myself, and when she said I only thought what my husband told me to, and didn't make my own decisions, it opened some deep rooted wounds I have from being a feminist in an antifeminist religion. It was traumatizing for me, and I still have deep feelings of hurt from what I was told and how women are abused with misogyny in the temples.

If you feel you must speak to someone because you don't agree with them, remember, you don't agree with their ideas. We're all human, and we have feelings. If we only separate ourselves from our ideas for a moment, we can look at them critically and have meaningful conversations that will help both parties see the world differently. Don't fall into the trap of being a cyber bully, making character attacks. It's easy. There is no guilt interacting with a computer screen. But always remember there is someone on the other end. If you find you are reading something you don't like, no harm or foul if you stop and don't go back to it. Move on with your life. If you know you are right, nothing is going to compromise that. Unless you are wrong, then perhaps try to figure out why. You can voice your opinion in healthy ways, without bringing another person down. Example: I don't agree with Mormism, I think it is detrimental to members. NOT Sally is a Mormon, which makes her stupid. 

But don't be a cyber bully. Don't let your own insecurities dictate how you interact with people. Don't seek people out who don't agree with you because you want to be confrontational and harmful. Work within your own realm to affect change. That is what I have done with my blog. Small as it is, and insignificant as it is, I still hope I will be able to reach someone. Because I wish someone had been able to reach me when I first started doubting.

I just have to remind myself, I am not in the wrong. She sought me out. She began engaging me. She became agitated and confrontational when I removed her comments from my blog. It is my right, this is my blog, my intellectual property, and she has no right to say what I can or cannot post. She has no authority. She is in the wrong for seeking me out to harass me based on my atheist views, and continuing to harass me even after I asked her to stop. This is religious intolerance at its finest.

If you find yourself the object of bullying or harassment on the grounds of race, religion or sexual preference, seek help immediately.

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