Friday, December 20, 2013

In Which the Internet Helps Us to Become Better Humans (Potentially)

This week, I was inspired by author and illustrator MariNaomi’s article “It Happened to Me: I Was Sexually Harassed Onstage at a Comic Convention Panel.” This article will have you cringing as she describes her experience. She’s articulate and very honest in this article (as readers, we can’t help but feel frustrated and horrified that she was treated this way, with the added weirdness of being onstage in front of an audience). What I found most inspiring in her article is the way that she ends with questions pointing toward change:

“I feel so ashamed, sad and powerless, but I’m still not sure what I should have done in that situation. Should I have told him to stop? It would have halted the levity of the panel, but would it have halted his misbehavior? If this has happened to me twice, I’m positive that this must happen to others. Why haven’t I heard their stories?”

Right now, there are over 200 comments on the article. Many of them are simply showing sympathy and support. Some are sharing similar situations, or giving suggestions (some of them are really good!).

What’s also interesting is that in her article, MariNaomi does not name the harasser (she mentions that this is not an isolated problem, but an issue for many women in comics [and many industries]). However, after reading the article, the harasser wrote a public apology about his behavior here. MariNaomi accepted the apology (she called it “a nice apology” on Twitter).

This is heartening to me. What seems key is that while this whole thing is happening IN PUBLIC, it prompted private change. This guy’s behavior was obnoxious and unacceptable, and after reading her article, he realized this (apparently) and apologized. He listened to her. I imagine/hope that he must have felt mortified, and that he learned something!

I sometimes worry that the internet is diminishing our ability to empathize. More than ever, we see and hear people voicing ignorance (it’s not that people are more ignorant, just that we have access to more voices, both anonymous and accountable). I have seen people treat people as if they were YouTube videos of themselves. What bothers me is any quick, thoughtless response to another person’s pain or discomfort--dismissing it or laughing at it. We are quick to invalidate the experience of another human, especially when it makes us uncomfortable.

But what we say and do in any facet of our lives--it matters. Our internet life should support our human, in-the-world life. Anytime we say or do anything on the internet, we are, of course, in public. And when we are open about what it feels like inside the weird machines of our minds and bodies, when we are accountable for our words and actions---we can grow. What if our interactions online could help facilitate this? (They can.)

1 comment

  1. negative characteristics reared their ugly, insidious, head in a sadly dehumanizing way at the inception or intro to the cybernetic world. In recognizing this it does take those (like us) who are attuned to the significance of this vehicle to redirecting the negatives toward the positives.

    we must be persistent and sometimes louder than the negative voices.

    Felicidades, mi amiga


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