Alison Leiby is a comedian and writer who has accomplished the greatest goal of any person in those fields: contributing to Someecards (and some other stuff). She's also a woman, which unfortunately makes her a target online for insults, threats, and harassment from sexist trolls. In December of last year, she tweeted a very funny but simple joke that touched on two incendiary issues: women's rights and gun control.
By her own admission, the joke was an afterthought. Unfortunately, men's rights activists got wind of it, sniffing out the tweet with their uncanny ability to detect women expressing opinions. Soon, Leiby was deluged with hundreds of hate messages across different social media platforms.
Leiby's account of the messages she received is deeply disturbing:
Men were replying to me and taking my joke to a horrific, new place. Some said they wanted to ban me from public places and silence me. Others said they wanted to lock me in their closet when they’re done with me. A few choice gentlemen suggested I, like their gun, have a “rough brush clean my holes.” … One complete stranger even found me on Facebook and sent an unsolicited message saying, “I hope you lose ALL of your rights. Dirty feminist.”
She comments on the phenomenon of trolling in general, using the wittiness that has made her so beloved and loathed:
I’ve never understood the inclination to engage with something I don’t like — on social media or otherwise. That’s the beauty of Twitter. If you don’t agree with someone, you can unfollow them. If something upsets you, you can block it. We all have that luxury. If you don’t like the taste of fish, you wouldn’t go to a restaurant, order the trout, and then call the chef a stupid bitch for serving it to you. So why do people do it on the internet?
Pointing out that her male comedian friends have tweeted similar jokes without even remotely similar responses, she reflects on the struggle of creative women in an increasingly opinion-based media landscape:
Women are taught from an early age to — in all aspects of life — try not to cause a scene. We’re not supposed to garner attention or make waves or do anything that might upset anyone. You know what happens when women don’t want to make a scene? They stop talking. And writing. And performing. And creating.
In the end, Leiby dispenses with any grandiose conclusion, in favor of a more pragmatic message:
My point is for men: Stop doing this. The only thing gained from you saying disgusting, aggressive, sexual, violent, and threatening things on the internet is that we now know that you’re part of the problem.
Head on over to Medium to read the full essay, which is well worth your time. Also, you should follow Alison on Twitter, as long as you're only going to write nice things to her. Or do nothing. Just don't be an asshole.