An Open Letter to Jessica Valenti

Author’s Note: I interrupt my regularly scheduled blog drivel to share something that has hit me hard. I saw this article come across my feed today, stating that Jessica Valenti was leaving social media. It is about how some women are being targeted and forced out of social media because some people don’t like their views. I know I’ve written about this from a different perspective in Death of Blogger, so let’s flip this truth diamond and look at this from a different angle yet again.

Dear Jessica,

I know I’m not a personal friend. My blog probably would never be followed by you. More than likely, we’d disagree on too many issues to number and discuss in this life time. And I’ve not yet read or heard your work, so I’ll have to do some due diligence later. :’)

I am so sorry you are going through this. I cannot begin to describe how you must feel, how precious your baby is to you, how hard leaving social media must be.

I can describe the fear and dread I often feel. I know in a way it’s cowardice for me, as I write under a pen name late at night after I’ve tucked my three angels with hidden disabilities into bed at night.

But I chose to write under a pen name so I could at least get my ideas out. I’ve studied history; tyrants often choose to take out those who are different, those who write and think, and those who would be the defenders long before they attack the rest of their “enemies.”

And growing up in a small town, I’ve seen how sometimes those whose gifts are different can be belittled, bullied, and emotionally destroyed by the majority who don’t have those gifts or ideas. Sometimes, they even tease children for what parents or relatives have done. Yes, not all places are like that, but some are. And in those places, not all people are like that.

I also learned that you have to assess the situation. Is this a bully you can kick between the legs and get some street credit? Is this a bully that you can hide from for a while so he or she forgets you and then you come back in a different part of the area? Is this a bully that you need to run and never come back to?

I think social media is our new small town. Trolls are just the new bullies. And we bloggers, podcasters, and whatever term is in vogue are the freaks, geeks, and outcasts they tear down to make themselves feel bigger, better, smarter, and taller. And sometimes, they will be so small they’ll have to target poor, defenseless children to feel better.

None of these realizations made me feel any better. I’m sure they won’t make you feel better either. Unfortunately, you cannot hide forever and you cannot hate an entire place for the actions of a few.

What can we do? I do applaud a temporary halt from social media. Completely disconnect everything, pack up your precious little girl, and go someplace off grid. Rest, relax, and revel in what I’m sure are some precious and precocious antics your daughter engages in. Yes, it will be hard at first, as none of us is used to the deafening silence that comes in the absence of electronics.

But don’t stay away forever. Come back with protections for your daughter that make you feel she is safe but leave you empowered to voice what you believe. I may not accept what you believe, but if I want the freedom to express my beliefs within reason and courtesy with respect, I need to give those who have other views the same freedom.

When things get bad again (and they will), I’m not going to say to suck it up, because the stress of sucking it up can be physically and emotionally damaging. I’m going to argue that we need to work together to shield one another, to circle the wagons, and to lift and encourage each other. And sometimes, we need to carry the deeply wounded off the field to a hero’s welcome and let them stay away.

I don’t know your religious background, so I don’t know if this will help. I intend to pray for you and your little girl as often as I see your name in writing, not that I would change your heart or views (not that it isn’t possible) but that you would both be protected and you would have the strength you need in that moment to speak the truth that is necessary.

Agape,

Kittie

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