On being a thing

Update: This is an update to a post I wrote on June 7, 2014. That post is the only public statement I have ever made on “Jacobinghazi”, which is a flippant term men coined to refer to the months I was bombarded with rape threats, death threats, and mob harassment.

I have not written on the matter since. As I stated nearly two years ago, I prefer to focus on my work, and find talking about the threats painful — particularly since they never subsided.

Given Matt Bruenig’s firing from Demos due to a demonstrated pattern of harassment, I realize people will revisit this painful time in my life. For the purposes of establishing what actually happened — versus what my harassers claim happened, or what a bizarre and manipulative flowchart claims happened — I provide the following links:

Sarah Kendzior’s Unwanted Twitter Adventure — Shadowproof (formerly Firedoglake)
Ready on the Left — Newsweek
Rape Threats Revisited — The Professor Is In
On Rape Threats and a Culture that Enables Them — Robin
What the Hell is Wrong With People? — Lawyers, Guns and Money
Sarah Kendzior’s Abuse — Teobesta
Of Misogynists and Brosocialists: The Original Tweet and Quote — Brian Dominick
Summary of the Sarah Kendzior/Jacobin Fray’s Very Odd Origin — Brian Dominick
Editorial Discretion and Private Lives — Nancy Leong
Jacobinghazi — Sarah Jeong
George Will Isn’t Alone in Rape Apologism, Progressives — Jasdye
Reminder — The Internet is No Excuse for Rape Threats — Flavorwire
America has a rape problem — Huffington Post

None of the authors of these essays contacted me before they wrote them. None of the authors of essays making spurious, cruel accusations about me contacted me either. The essays which slander and insult me are the most widely circulated, because the men who harass me made a concerted effort to render them the definitive account.

Out of fear, due to a particularly severe threat, I went silent on the matter. I blocked my harassers and ignored their actions, waiting for the harassment to stop. It did not.

Welcome to the other side of the story — the true side. The price of telling the truth, for me, is more threats and harassment. But given that the incident has reentered the news cycle I feel it is necessary to clarify what actually occurred.

If you consider yourself a journalist, and you are writing about the harassment campaign against me and other women, check your facts and verify your assumptions with evidence before running your story. That is what actual journalism entails.


My June 7, 2014 statement

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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