St. Louis, race and grief

From my latest for Al Jazeera English:

A shooting in St Louis is never surprising, but it will always be shocking: that the cruelty of the act is complimented by the callousness of the reaction; that when a community cries, someone always finds a way to give it more to grieve….

If you had asked whether the killing of Brown would become an international cause, or be swept silently aside, most would have bet on the latter. It is a testament to black St Louis activists, and their ceaseless documentation and calls to action, that it was not.

No one will forget the killing of Michael Brown. But that killing was preceded by decades of police brutality, of violence, of losses, of teddy bears tied to trees. During the 2013-2014 school year, 17 St Louis public school children died, a record number. The second largest number, in 2010, was eight.

“At some schools, kids don’t come back to school for several days when a young person has died in the kind of violent death that occurred last night because they think there may be repercussions,” a St Louis school superintendent told local media in March, after an eleven-year-old black boy was shot through the window of his home.

By spring, trauma counsellors were working overtime. Now, after the death of Brown and the tear gassing of the local population, including children, they work around the clock.

St Louis was grieving long before the tragedy of Ferguson – or, at least, parts of it were. Like everything else in St Louis, grief is unequally allocated. This is a city where people live their whole lives seeing certain neighbourhoods only on TV.

St Louis is a city where black communities are watched – by police, by spectators – more than they are seen, more than they are heard.

Read the full article — St. Louis’ sons, taken too soon — at Al Jazeera English



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Sarah and Umar go to White Castle

As the media converged on Ferguson, my cowriter Umar Lee and I decided to see what was going on in the rest of North County. We drove around towns near Ferguson  – Berkeley, Kinloch, Jennings, Florissant, Riverview Gardens – and talked to black North County residents at fast food places and laundromats about the events.

Everyone is afraid, but moreover, they are frustrated, because North County has been hurting for much longer than Ferguson has been in the news:

Today, ruins dot the North County landscape too. An abandoned mall, its closed entrance declaring “Cash paid for anything of value.” A meadow, lush and random, in the space where the Wyndhurst and Terwood apartments—bulldozed in the 1980s for an airport extension that never materialized—once stood. A closed-down, castle-shaped playland turned night club turned day care turned abandoned failure. A faded wall of fame in Kinloch, Missouri’s first black incorporated town, proclaiming its historic achievements, before the population dwindled to 600 and it became capital of North County’s drug trade, another airport expansion casualty. Kinloch’s roads lead nowhere but are still blockaded with “Road Closed” signs, in case you mistakenly detected a sense of possibility.

The St. Louis metropolitan area is a city of migration, but that migration is not limited to the historic patterns of successive white and black flight. Migration is an everyday occurrence. Many St. Louisans—especially poor and black St. Louisans—live in a state of permanent transience, moving from one apartment complex to the next, one suburb to the next, multiple times per year, on a futile hunt for safety and affordability. Canfield Green Apartments, where Michael Brown resided, is a typical example.

Between 2000 and 2010-2012, Ferguson’s poor population roughly doubled. But the towns near Ferguson—like Berkeley, Kinloch, and Jennings—have always been, and remain, worse off. In the initial days of the crisis, Ferguson was referred to as “small town” or a “ghetto,” but it is neither. Ferguson is one of North County’s more economically viable locales, in that it houses the region’s baseline businesses—payday loans, title loans, dollar stores, barber shops, beauty shops, chop suey joints—along with a few highbrow rarities: a library, a brewery, a farmer’s market. Ferguson has houses with people in them. Ferguson has roads that lead to destinations.

The rest of NoCo does not share these advantages, but Ferguson is very much part of that continuum. What affects Ferguson affects the rest of North County. If Ferguson burns, it will likely take parts of the county down with it. If Ferguson rebuilds, it could inspire a rebirth of the surrounding region—that is, if anyone bothers to care. And they should: Unless the investment in Ferguson extends to the rest of North County, Ferguson does not have a chance.

Read the full article After Ferguson at Politico Magazine.

I also recommend checking out my earlier piece The Minimum Wage Worker Strikes Back, which discussed striking fast food workers from North County, and Umar’s The New North County: The 1950s Aren’t Coming Back. We have been writing about NoCo for a long time and plan to continue our coverage.

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Ferguson is news, but it is not new

I have a brief op-ed in the New York Daily News on how the problems of Ferguson are not new or unique:

What is happening in Ferguson is news, but it is not new. The black population of Ferguson — and the surrounding area of St. Louis’ North County — has endured hard times for decades. Families who fled the city of St. Louis for a better life now struggle in its impoverished suburbs, where jobs are scarce, opportunities few, and resources denied.

They struggled for decades, and spoke out — privately and publicly. The only change now is that the world is listening.

St. Louis’ problems were never “invisible.” There is a difference between what is invisible and what people refuse to see. St. Louis is known for urban ruins: crumbling brick homes with no roofs or windows, a fenced urban forest where housing projects once stood. Less remarked upon is the fate of the families who fled them.

You can read the whole thing here.

I also spoke with NPR’s On the Media on press coverage of Ferguson and the struggles St. Louis faces. I discussed how St. Louis’s geography is informed by racial politics and answered questions about what the national media missed when they came to town. You can listen here.


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St. Louis Round-Up

Like many others in St. Louis, I’ve spent the last two weeks furious, grieving, afraid, and inspired by the protesters and caring citizens of this beautiful, broken city. I have a few new articles coming out, and I’ll post them once they are online. But for now, here are some older pieces that shed light on St. Louis and the issues we face.

The view from flyover country (5/12/13)

Op-ed on St. Louis, the good and the bad. I’ll always be grateful for Al Jazeera English – the international Al Jazeera — for taking interest in St. Louis when most US outlets told me it was irrelevant.

In St Louis, you re-evaluate fair. In St Louis, you might have it bad, but someone’s got it worse. This is the view from flyover country, where the rich are less rich and the poor are more poor and everyone has fewer things to lose.

The symbol of St Louis is both a gateway and a memorial. The Arch mirrors the sky and shadows the city. It is part of a complex that includes the courthouse where the Dred Scott case was settled, ruling that African-Americans were not citizens and that slavery had no bounds.

On a St Louis street corner, someone is wearing a sign that says “I Am a Man”. Like most in the crowd gathered outside a record store parking lot, he is African-American. He is a fast food worker and he is a protester. He needs to remind you he is a human being because it has been a long time since he was treated like one….

In St Louis, possibilities are supposed to be in the past. It is the closest thing America has to a fallen imperial capital. This is where dystopian Hollywood fantasies are set and filmed. It is the gateway and the memorial of the American Dream.

But when the American Dream is dying for everyone, St Louis might be the one to rise up. In St Louis, people know what happens when social mobility stalls, when lines harden around race and class. They know that if you have a job and work hard, you should be able to do more than survive. They know that every person, every profession, is worthy of dignity and respect.

St Louis is no longer a city where you come to be somebody. But you might leave it a better person.

The minimum wage worker strikes back (4/14/14)

In-depth look at minimum wage poverty in St. Louis, based on months of interviews with black workers mostly from North County, including many from Ferguson. Struggled to get this one published, as the topic and locale were viewed as unworthy of examination. But those following Ferguson should know that the current protests were hardly their first. Here’s an excerpt explaining geography of North County:

St. Louis is an anomaly for large American cities in that the actual city has only about 300,000 residents. Most of the metropolitan area’s nearly three million people live in the surrounding St. Louis County. The county consists of dozens of suburbs ranging from poor to opulent, and its regions are designated by their relation to the city — for example, North County.

To follow a fast food worker’s commute is to trace St. Louis’s long history of racial segregation, economic decline, and fear. Most workers with whom I spoke grew up and still live in North County towns whose populations changed dramatically over the past three decades: a phenomenon one observer bluntly described as “ghetto spillover”. Once the suburbs of white flight, these towns are now the destinations of black flight, as struggling African-American families seek a safe and good life outside the crumbling terrain of the inner city.

St. Louis residents are defensive about the city’s reputation as one of the most dangerous in the U.S., and for good reason. St. Louis is civic-minded and family-friendly, and violent crime is rare outside certain areas — where it is rampant.

The truism that St. Louis is “not dangerous” belies a darker truth: the people for whom it is dangerous are not supposed to matter.

Drive through northern St. Louis and here are some of the things you find: A 12-bedroom, 8-bathroom 19th century mansion with a carriage house on the market for $185,000, the price falling every year. A 57-acre forest in the center of the city where the Pruitt-Igoe housing complex, demolished in 1972 after decades of degradation, once stood. Kinloch, the oldest African-American community incorporated in Missouri: population 6,000 in 1960, population 299 in 2010. Houses with no doors or windows and the pipes torn out of the walls. Houses that are frames because someone stole and sold the bricks. Houses with people still living in them, wondering what will happen next. The average life expectancy in North St. Louis is lower than that of Iraq. Almost everyone in North St. Louis is black.

There are few functional businesses in North St. Louis. Drive out of the city limits to the fringes of North County, where many of the fast food workers live, and things start to look up. Next to the decaying buildings are signs of life: a payday loan store, a title loan store, a dollar store, a pawn shop. The economy is poor because the people are poor: possessions, here, are not what you own but what you trade to survive.

St. Louis is a typical U.S. city in that it is many cities in one. Fast food workers take the bus to the nicer areas, where the businesses are, where the people with money are, away from where they live. They look out the window and watch opportunity pass them by.

Expensive cities are killing creativity (12/17/13)

A call to reject the “gated citadels” for cheaper places like STL:

Creative people should fear the prescribed path to success – its narrowness, its specificity, its reliance on wealth and elite approval. When success is a stranglehold, true freedom is failure. The freedom to fail is the freedom to innovate, to experiment, to challenge.

In 2012, St. Louis artist Martin Brief debuted his drawing “Success”. The drawing consisted only of a dictionary definition of success, with each word broken down into its own definition, until, as he writes, “The language can be read but will not yield any greater understanding of what the word means.”

It is a mockery of careerism made all the more salient by Brief’s residence in St Louis – where success, by definition, is supposed to be impossible. To “succeed”, one is supposed to leave a city like St Louis – a Middle-American city associated with poverty and crime. To “succeed” is to embody the definition of contemporary success: sanctioned, sanitised, solvent.

But sanctioned success is dependent on survival, and it is hard for most people to survive in an art world capital like New York, where some homeless people work two jobs. Success by geographical proxy comes with a price: purchased freedom for the rich, serving the rich for the rest. But what happens when we veer off that path? Is it failure? Or is it redefined, recognised anew?

Creativity is sometimes described as thinking outside the box. Today the box is a gilded cage. In a climate of careerist conformity, cheap cities with bad reputations – where, as art critic James McAnalley notes, “no one knows whether it is possible for one to pursue a career” – may have their own advantage. “In the absence of hype, ideas gather, connections build, jagged at first, inarticulate,” McAnalley writes of St Louis. “Then, all of a sudden, worlds emerge.”

Perhaps it is time to reject the “gated citadels” – the cities powered by the exploitation of ambition, the cities where so much rides on so little opportunity. Reject their prescribed and purchased paths, as Smith implored, for cheaper and more fertile terrain. Reject the places where you cannot speak out, and create, and think, and fail. Open your eyes to where you are, and see where you can go.

The peril of hipster economics (5/28/14)

This one was based on my observations of poverty and urban renewal in the city versus in North County, and conversations with my friend Umar Lee, who is quoted in the piece (and whose work you should be reading; no one knows NoCo like Umar). Excerpt:

Gentrifiers focus on aesthetics, not people. Because people, to them, are aesthetics.

Proponents of gentrification will vouch for its benevolence by noting it “cleaned up the neighbourhood”. This is often code for a literal white-washing. The problems that existed in the neighbourhood – poverty, lack of opportunity, struggling populations denied city services – did not go away. They were simply priced out to a new location.

That new location is often an impoverished suburb, which lacks the glamour to make it the object of future renewal efforts. There is no history to attract preservationists because there is nothing in poor suburbs viewed as worth preserving, including the futures of the people forced to live in them. This is blight without beauty, ruin without romance: payday loan stores, dollar stores, unassuming homes and unpaid bills. In the suburbs, poverty looks banal and is overlooked.

In cities, gentrifiers have the political clout – and accompanying racial privilege – to reallocate resources and repair infrastructure. The neighbourhood is “cleaned up” through the removal of its residents. Gentrifiers can then bask in “urban life” – the storied history, the selective nostalgia, the carefully sprinkled grit – while avoiding responsibility to those they displaced.

Hipsters want rubble with guarantee of renewal. They want to move into a memory they have already made. […]

Gentrification spreads the myth of native incompetence: That people need to be imported to be important, that a sign of a neighbourhood’s “success” is the removal of its poorest residents. True success lies in giving those residents the services and opportunities they have long been denied.

When neighbourhoods experience business development, priority in hiring should go to locals who have long struggled to find nearby jobs that pay a decent wage. Let us learn from the mistakes of New York and San Francisco, and build cities that reflect more than surface values.

PolicyMic Interview (6/14/13)

This was an interview I did on the “prestige economy” and exploitation in higher education but I weighed in on St. Louis at the end:

If social revolution comes to America, it will not come from New York, San Francisco or other cities where the middle class has been obliterated or is struggling to survive. It will come from St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Detroit, New Orleans — cities where you can afford to fail. When success is a stranglehold, true freedom is failure. The freedom to fail is the freedom to innovate, to experiment, to challenge. St. Louis is becoming a city of unlikely agitators.

When the cost of living is low, you have less to lose by losing. It is terrible to be poor and precarious anywhere. But it is far worse in expensive cities powered on the exploitation of ambition, cities where so much rides on so little opportunity. It is more liberating to live in a place where the illusions have already been shattered. St. Louis is not a city of hypotheticals.

Movements for widespread social and economic reform require a diversity of participants…When I went to the fast food workers strikes in St. Louis, people from all walks of life came out to support them. People were looking out for each other, and that was inspiring to see. But the dark takeaway of those strikes is that the plight of the working poor is so terrible in St. Louis that they have little to lose by protesting. They struck out at birth, so now they strike on the streets.

They know that when the game is rigged, you have a better chance of winning if you change the rules than if you keep stepping up to the plate. America’s educated youth could learn something from them.


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On the ‘telegenically dead’

From my latest for Al Jazeera English:

Social media has been described as “humanising” the Palestinian victims. Television may be decried by politicians and pundits, but the internet is where Gaza’s story is told firsthand by its residents, where graphic images of the grieved are shared.

If you are being “humanised”, you are already losing. To be “humanised” implies that your humanity is never assumed, but something you have to prove.

“What am I supposed to do/be to be qualified as a human?” Maisam Abumorr, a writer and student in Gaza, asks. “As far as I can tell, I live like normal humans do. I love, I hate, I cry, I laugh, I make mistakes, I learn, I dream, I hurt, I get hurt… I still have not figured out what crime I have committed to endure this kind of wretchedness. I wonder what being human feels like.”

For every group that uses media to affirm its humanity, there is another group proclaiming that humanity as irrelevant, or inconvenient, or a lie. One can see this not only in the Middle East conflict, but in movements like Nigeria’s “Bring Back Our Girls”, frequently proclaimed “forgotten” due to their so-called “nameless and faceless” victims. But the girls were never nameless and faceless to the Nigerians who fought, and continue to fight, for their survival. They have names that few learned, faces from which many turned away. The people who refuse to forget are the ones the West has now forgotten.

In all documentation of violence, from memoirs to social media, lies a plea to not forget. There is a reason Netanyahu fears the “telegenically dead”. They haunt the world like ghosts – a reminder of what we have done, what we are capable of doing, and the lengths gone to justify it.

Those dehumanised in life become humanised in death. With this realisation you mourn not only the dead. You mourn the living too.

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The politics of water: Detroit, West Virginia, Gaza

My latest for Al Jazeera, on the water crisis in Detroit and beyond:

Detroit is one of the poorest cities in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Detroit is also surrounded by the largest supply of fresh water in the world. The US does not lack for money, and Detroit does not lack for accessible water. What Detroit lacks are people viewed as worthy of the compassion and resources given to their richer, whiter peers. They lack the rights and respect most US citizens take for granted.

At a rally in June, life-long Detroiter Renla Session spoke out for her community: “These are my fellow human beings. If they threatened to cut off water to an animal shelter, you would see thousands of people out here. It’s senseless … They just treat people like their lives mean nothing here in Detroit, and I’m tired of it.”

When rights are considered privileges, only the privileged have rights.

“They treat people like animals in Detroit,” an auto worker complained in July, but the US treats its poorest citizens worse. When the government shut down in late 2013, the food programme for impoverished women and children was suspended – but the animals in the National Zoo stayed fed. More attention was paid to the shutdown of the PandaCam, a livestream of a bear cub, than to the suffering of the US’ poorest citizens.

Water is a human right, but who is a human being? Corporations, the US supreme court ruled in June, as the parched citizens of Detroit started filling up at water fountains.

“In its last day in session, the high court not only affirmed corporate personhood but expanded the human rights of corporations, who by some measures enjoy more protections than mortals – or ‘natural persons’,” wrote Dana Milbank at The Washington Post.

The mortals of Detroit enjoy no such protection. Perhaps that is why the city’s corporate venues – like its high-end golf club, hockey arena, football stadium, and over half of the city’s commercial and industrial users – still have their water running despite owing over $30m, while its most impoverished residents have their water, and their rights, taken away.

In Detroit, corporations are people. Their worth is unquestioned because it is measured in dollars. The worth of the residents of Detroit is measured in utility, and so their utilities are denied.

Read the full article, Water is a human right, but who is considered a human being? at Al Jazeera English.

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Political princesses

For Politico, I wrote about how the portrayal of female political leaders in media, noting that the coverage of mainstream outlets is little different from the preening profiles of fashion magazines. An excerpt:

In 1963, Look magazine published a series of photos of President John F. Kennedy working in the Oval Office as 2-year-old “John-John” played under his desk. The father and son portraits were an instant hit. They heightened the president’s personal appeal without diminishing his political power.

In 2014, Vogue published a photo of U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power in a similar scene, but with a few notable differences. Like Kennedy, Power sits at her desk with her toddler—whom she ignores for her cell phone. She is flanked by two assistants, both of whom disregard Power and the child as they gaze at their own screens. The little boy clings to his blanket and stares into space.

Unlike the warm spontaneity of Kennedy’s photo, the Power photo conveys alienation. Why is her son even there? Who is taking care of him? Why would photographer Annie Leibovitz stage this scene? Power is not humanized by the presence of her child, as Kennedy was, but appears distracted, overwhelmed. She’s either a bad worker (for parenting while working) or a bad mother (for working while parenting), the image tells us.

It is a catch-22 familiar to any working mom, though that was likely not the photo’s objective. The photo—captioned “liberal hawk, human-rights champion, mother of two”—seeks to provide evidence for something Power should have no obligation to prove: that she is a caring mother who works hard at a difficult job. (“The work-life balance is the thing I struggle with most,” she says in the profile. “But everything’s a cost-benefit, right?”)

The “having it all” narrative follows Power from profile to profile. A 2014 New York magazine photo essay shows her spoon-feeding her son and sending handwritten thank-you notes. Like Mayer in Vogue, she talks like a teenager: “This was a really cool event where a number of the U.N. ambassadors came to me”; “Ukraine has been intense.”

The New York photos seem aimed at making Power relatable, but likely had the opposite effect. (It is hard to tell from online feedback, since any working mom watching Power make time for handwritten thank-you notes may have had trouble typing with both middle fingers up.) The problem for Power—for all women in politics—is there is no persona that works. Accomplished professional with a Pulitzer Prize is too intimidating, caring mom too weak. Combining both is a mommy wars minefield.

The solution, of course, is to simply accept Power as a complex individual with the right to a private life and evaluate her based on her ideas and professional actions. But that would be breaking a long media tradition.

Read The Princess Effect at Politico Magazine

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Mourning the mall

My latest for Al Jazeera English is on the fall of the American mall:

The mall has long been derided by those with the luxury of an alternative. When the US industrial economy faltered in the 1970s, downtowns in many cities crumbled, and shopping malls – homogeneous, enclosed and sterile – both enabled and compensated for their demise.

In the media, malls were pilloried as monoliths devoid of character. Mockery of the mall spurred pop culture prototypes: vacuous valley girls, meandering mall rats. Underlying the mockery was grief for the loss of a seemingly more connected and welcoming urban life: the independent businesses, local markets, and community ties built around them.

But while these were memories for some, for others they were merely rumours. A functional local economy was a story our parents told us.

For US citizens raised in cities of post-industrial blight, there was the mall and the mall alone. We did not “choose” between supporting the mall or the local businesses, because by the time we came of age there were few local businesses left to support. There were no independent boutiques and bookstores to protect from corporate takeover: Such battles were plot devices of movies set in more cultured places. We watched from afar, wondering what it was like to have something to lose. Our rundown towns had little anyone wanted: empty lots, boarded windows, vacant stores.

Decades passed, and no one rebuilt them. Now the malls follow, and no one will rebuild them either.

My generation watches the malls fall like our parents watched the downtowns die. To our children, the mall will be a nostalgic abstraction, a 404 in concrete.

Read Mourn the fall of the mall at Al Jazeera English

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The Infantilization of Graduate School

I have a new article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on parenthood and PhDs:

It is no surprise that an academic culture that infantilizes does not welcome infants.

In academia, pregnancy is often presented as a series of cautionary tales (dropout mom, jobless mom, adjunct mom); subterfuge (concealed bellies and furtive pumping); and questionable heroics (returning to teach immediately upon the baby’s arrival). Placating the prevailing structure—and emphasizing the sad fate of those who did not (or could not) do so—is part of doctoral indoctrination.

You may be a mom, but you are expected to behave like an obedient child.

Pregnant graduate students pose a problem to an academic culture that values “fit” above all else. While pregnancy may feel to the pregnant like bodily subservience, it is often viewed in academia as an unwelcome declaration of autonomy. Unlike your doubts and your grievances and your nonacademic backup plans, pregnancy is impossible to hide. A pregnant belly, insufficiently apologized for, sticks out like a middle finger to others’ expectations.

Wear it with pride. When you are too pregnant to lean in, “@#$% off” is not a bad option.

Academia’s anti-pregnancy animosity is often peddled as pragmatic advice. “In the Ivory Tower, Men Only,” intoned Mary Ann Mason in a widely-read 2013 article for Slate. “For men, having children is a career advantage. For women, it’s a career killer.”

Citing a Berkeley research study on academic parenthood, the article describes the victims of the “baby penalty”: promising female graduate students blacklisted by their advisors, brilliant female scholars consigned to work off the tenure track, search committees balking at a female candidate showing any hint of family life.

What the article failed to mention is that there are few academic careers left to be killed.

The greatest threat to getting an academic job is not a baby. It is the disappearance of academic jobs.

Read the whole thing here: Should I have a baby in graduate school?

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On being a thing

I do not write personal essays. This is the first, and likely the last, you will see.

I write articles that have resonated with millions of people, often in an emotional way. But I never write about myself or my personal life. I have multiple platforms and if I wanted to, I could. I choose not to – in part because I think focusing on myself distracts from the social and political problems I depict, but also because I value my privacy.

I am like this in “real life” too. I have been described as aloof, but I try to be generous and kind. I take care of my family and my community. I don’t care about fame, which is much more of a curse than a gift. I reject most media interviews. My priorities are my loved ones and my work. Yesterday I was reading Charlotte’s Web to my daughter: the story of “a true friend and a good writer”. That is all I aim to be. If I had the choice, this is how I would be remembered.

But I do not have a choice.

I do not like to write about myself, and I do not like to write about my pain. Today Jacobin put me in a position where I had no choice but to do that.

For the past few weeks, I have been receiving rape threats and constant harassment from people who describe themselves as leftists or communists, and apparently want to rape their way to revolution. I have attempted to handle these threats privately. I mentioned them on Twitter twice: once to violentfanon, whose podcast I nearly had to cancel on because of the intensity of the threats, and one to Kenzo Shibata, in a Twitter conversation.

The rest of the time I dealt with them in non-public ways, through private emails and discussion. I have learned that to draw attention to rape threats produces more rape threats. I was scared for my safety and did not want to do that. Any attack on me becomes an attack on my family. As a mother, it is my job to protect my family.

During the YesAllWomen hashtag, which happened at the peak of the threats, I was tempted to open up about what was happening. I was moved by others sharing their stories, many of which were similar to mine. Like many women, I deleted more tweets than I submitted. In the end, I only referred to my situation obliquely. I could not go through with it.

Today Amber A’lee Frost at Jacobin magazine linked to my conversation with Shibata in order to mock my rape threats. This tweet would have been fairly hard to find since it was merely a response to Shibata’s. As I said, had I wanted to talk about my rape threats, I certainly could have – in an article in a mass media outlet or in tweets to my 24000 Twitter followers. But I did not want this scrutiny. Instead I made a brief remark, and forgot about it until this morning, when it appeared in Jacobin – used to viciously mock my potential rape in a piece that otherwise had nothing to do with me.

There are not words to describe the experience of reading an article, coming to the word “rape threats”, and then seeing that the rape threat is about you – intended to debase and humiliate you for admitting you have been threatened.

When I objected to the piece, two Jacobin editors admitted that they had not edited or carefully read the piece in question, and removed the link. Then another editor, Megan Erickson, said I was being “childish” for noting that they had mocked me for my rape threats. She and others spent the day mocking and harassing me.

Because this was now being handled in public, I was fortunate to receive the support of hundreds of people on Twitter – as well as attacks from others. I always expect some form of trolling, but I did not expect one of the attackers to be an editor at Salon, Elias Isquith, who questioned what my potential rape meant for “hashtags” and “brands”.

So in one day, two leftist publications used rape threats to me to belittle me, humiliate me and defame me. And then others accuse me of wanting attention.

Who in their right mind would want attention for this?

I had, and continue to have, no desire to ever write about being repeatedly threatened with rape. It is a painful subject for me to discuss for many reasons. The only reason I’m doing so now is because Jacobin forced me into a position where I have no choice but to do so to clarify what happened. I don’t want attention, or pity, or to be anyone’s hero or victim.

What do I want? I want people to stop sending me rape threats. I want to do my work. I want to stop being treated like a thing – or, shall I say, like a woman.

The left has a rape problem. Someone should write about it. But it is not going to be me. I have had enough threats this year.




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