Commentary Media

I Made a Joke About Guns and a Man Threatened to Assault Me

Andrea Grimes

Good dudes of the world, please hear me out: Not actively being a sexist jerk as an individual is not enough.

Content note: This article contains descriptions and images of graphic threats that include slurs and descriptions of sexual assault.

What’d you do last weekend? Oh, that sounds fun. Yeah, I’m glad you had a nice time. Me? Oh, not much. I just spent three days reporting the myriad rape and death threats I received over social media.

See, I accidentally broke the news about my secret gun vaporizer on Twitter. The gun vaporizer—a real thing that totally exists—modifies the molecular makeup of firearms and renders them into airy nothingness. Of course, the gun vaporizer has its limitations: It cannot vaporize all the guns at once. I mean, it’s not like this is science fiction here. Perhaps unfortunately for white men, their predilection for committing mass murder has put their weapons first in line for vaporization under the evil matriarchal regime of which I am the ruling despotress.

I understand that when the white men see their guns disappear into thin air before their very eyes—a fate that most certainly awaits them, due to the actual existence of an actual gun vaporizer over which I have complete actual control—they may feel distress or sadness. This is why my evil matriarchal regime will be collecting white men’s tears during the vaporization process, for research purposes and also to sweeten the beverage of my people: a strong tea brewed of oppression and misandry. It is, of course, naturally very bitter.

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You may, at this point, get the feeling that I’m pulling your leg. You may understand me to be joking. You may rightly perceive that gun vaporizers do not exist, and by extension deduce that I do not own one, nor do I intend to use it, on a white guy’s gun or anybody else’s.

If that is the case, you are leaps and bounds ahead of the Daily Caller’s political reporter, Patrick Howley, who apparently felt he got the scoop of the century when he discovered my public tweets on my public Twitter profile following the news that a white man had gone on a shooting rampage in Mesa, Arizona. He then crafted 188 credulous words about my nefarious plans. As a result, hundreds of angry white guys descended upon my Twitter and Facebook accounts over the weekend—helped along by the fact that the libertarian-bro clearinghouse Infowars and the white supremacist Nazi group Stormfront both picked up the Caller‘s, uh, “story”—demanding that I rescind my plans to vaporize all the world’s guns starting with the white guys’, and threatening to rape and murder me if I did not comply.

Many members of the Daily Caller‘s esteemed readership suggested I “come and take it” and provided other variations on the theme—”I will shoot your smelly ass dead” was a colorful one—even though the whole point of the vaporizer is to ensure that there’s nothing to “come and take,” as it were. Still more of these guys seemed unduly fixated on the fact that I’m a fat lady, though one apparent stalker who claimed to be following me around the park seemed to think I looked pretty good, regardless.

Jim

I posted screenshots of these threats to my own Facebook and Twitter, just in case any of these guys decided to actually try and act on any of them—many came from members of the Open Carry Tarrant County group, based out of my own hometown. I wanted a paper trail, and I didn’t want the admins and moderators at Facebook and Twitter to be the only ones who knew where it was.

I also just plain wanted folks to see the kind of boiling, bubbling bullshit I had to put up with just because men can’t take a joke—even though, as the stereotype goes, it is feminists who are the humorless fun police. I make a crack about a non-existent gun vaporizer, and some guy named Mark suggests forcibly removing my “bloody tampons & apply the crusted blood &piss as makeup” on my “nasty face.”

James and Mark

Let me run that one by you again. A guy hears a joke second-, third-, maybe even fourth-hand, and his reaction is to fantasize about assaulting me with my own bodily fluids.

Perhaps this man sees himself as one of the apocryphal “good guys with a gun” who the NRA claims are necessary to stop crime. So too, the good-hearted brothers, sons and fathers of Open Carry Tarrant County, who, by some group members’ own admission, want to use my picture for target practice.

Good guys with guns, indeed. Certainly what we need are more reasonable, cool-headed men like these running around a grocery store with pistols just in case any “bad guys” show up.

Many of my guy friends were horrified. They expressed sympathy and fear on my behalf. Several of them—independent of each other, guys who wouldn’t know the others to say hello at the corner store—offered assistance, should I need it. They sent me their phone numbers “just in case” and let me know that they would be on the scene in minutes if anything scary were to happen.

I appreciate these demonstrations. I’m glad and proud to know men like these guys. They are good dudes. But giving me a phone number doesn’t stop men who hate women from threatening to rape and murder me.

I don’t need men to individually and personally step up to protect me. I need them to collect their fellow dudes and actively work, every day, to end widespread cultural misogyny and to improve the lives of non-cisgender-dude people the world over.

Good dudes of the world, please hear me out: Not actively being a sexist shitbag as an individual is not enough. Because somewhere, somehow, the guys who dedicated themselves to harassing me—many of them under their real names on Facebook—have brothers, dads, uncles, golf buddies, tennis partners, co-workers, favorite bartenders, and an entire universe of dude friends and acquaintances, all of whom have failed to make it clear, either through their words or their actions, that this kind of behavior is not OK.

Mick

Perhaps you will plead ignorance. Perhaps y’all didn’t know how bad it was. That’s fair, and I am sympathetic to that. Often, women who are harassed are told to ignore it (this is actually one of the suggested responses that Twitter provided after I reported the guy who told me he hopes I get “gunned down in the street”), to keep it quiet, to just pretend like it doesn’t exist and it’ll all go away. I have done that on many occasions. I probably even do it on most occasions, because if I re-tweeted every creepy rape threat I got, it would fill up a quarter of my feed.

But I’m telling you now. I’m showing you now. Now you know.

Grant2

Now you can do something about it. You can start by sharing this very article with your guy friends, so that they too will no longer live in ignorance. You can read and share this fantastic, in-depth piece from my colleague Imani Gandy, detailing her two-year ordeal trying to keep a dedicated online stalker at bay. You can read about Lindy West’s travails trying to report threats of gendered violence.

Looking for more than just a first-person account? There’s plenty of research available concerning gendered harassment online. Have a gander at this piece in Time. Or this one in Slate. Or this one in the Pacific Standard.

And you can talk about them, proactively, with your buddies. Because I know how guys talk. They talk like people, right? They talk about politics and beer and clothes and good shit they read on the Internet today. They share how they think and feel about things. Do that.

Take five or ten minutes out of that conversation you were about to have about Ted Cruz and talk about how fucked up misogyny is instead. Talk about the statistics on gendered violence online and off. Let your guy friends know that dudes are spewing this kind of virulent shit at people like me, and that you don’t stand for it, and that you won’t stand for the men you know doing it—or ignoring it. You have to end the culture of ignorance and silence that allows guys to comfortably engage in this kind of harassment.

I mean, sure, gather your roommates around the kitchen table to watch the funny video of the dog who can’t catch a damn piece of pizza, but also make an effort to consume and share media created by people who aren’t cisgender guys. Read books written by people who don’t look like you. Watch movies directed by people who don’t just reflect your own experiences back to you.

And then talk about them with your friends, and engage with them just as you would with anything else you liked, or didn’t like, or felt confused by. Women are people, for fuck’s sake. We’re more than just your moms and wives and partners and daughters: We create things, we have stories to tell. When we are only seen as sexual objects (note how many times guys lobbed “gutter slut” and variations at me), or delicate flowers to be protected, we lose our agency and our humanity, and harassment like this is allowed to live on.

I am asking you to do a very simple thing. I am asking you to not be a sexist jerk, and I am asking you to be deliberately public about it.

Hell, do like any of these 101 super basic, but very important, things. Educate yourself on the basics of feminism. Be the guy who brings up the parental leave policy at work. Don’t keep your mouth shut when you hear your friends call women bitches, or sluts, or cunts.

Scott

Be the guy in front of whom the next Mark knows he can’t get away with threatening to assault someone with a bloody tampon. Don’t just talk to me about misogyny. Talk to him about misogyny. Call out your friends. Be brave. Women can’t make this cultural shift happen all on our own.

Because Mark, and guys like him, aren’t listening to me. But they might listen to you, and you never know when they’re paying attention.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: ‘If You Don’t Vote … You Are Trifling’

Ally Boguhn

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party's convention.

The chair of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this week blasted those who sit out on Election Day, and mothers who lost children to gun violence were given a platform at the party’s convention.

DNC Chair Marcia Fudge: “If You Don’t Vote, You Are Ungrateful, You Are Lazy, and You Are Trifling”

The chair of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), criticized those who choose to sit out the election while speaking on the final day of the convention.

“If you want a decent education for your children, you had better vote,” Fudge told the party’s women’s caucus, which had convened to discuss what is at stake for women and reproductive health and rights this election season.

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“If you want to make sure that hungry children are fed, you had better vote,” said Fudge. “If you want to be sure that all the women who survive solely on Social Security will not go into poverty immediately, you had better vote.”

“And if you don’t vote, let me tell you something, there is no excuse for you. If you don’t vote, you don’t count,” she said.

“So as I leave, I’m just going to say this to you. You tell them I said it, and I’m not hesitant about it. If you don’t vote, you are ungrateful, you are lazy, and you are trifling.”

The congresswoman’s website notes that she represents a state where some legislators have “attempted to suppress voting by certain populations” by pushing voting restrictions that “hit vulnerable communities the hardest.”

Ohio has recently made headlines for enacting changes that would make it harder to vote, including rolling back the state’s early voting period and purging its voter rolls of those who have not voted for six years.

Fudge, however, has worked to expand access to voting by co-sponsoring the federal Voting Rights Amendment Act, which would restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act that were stripped by the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder.

“Mothers of the Movement” Take the National Spotlight

In July 2015, the Waller County Sheriff’s Office released a statement that 28-year-old Sandra Bland had been found dead in her jail cell that morning due to “what appears to be self-asphyxiation.” Though police attempted to paint the death a suicide, Bland’s family has denied that she would have ended her own life given that she had just secured a new job and had not displayed any suicidal tendencies.

Bland’s death sparked national outcry from activists who demanded an investigation, and inspired the hashtag #SayHerName to draw attention to the deaths of Black women who died at the hands of police.

Tuesday night at the DNC, Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, and a group of other Black women who have lost children to gun violence, in police custody, or at the hands of police—the “Mothers of the Movement”—told the country why the deaths of their children should matter to voters. They offered their support to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during a speech at the convention.

“One year ago yesterday, I lived the worst nightmare anyone could imagine. I watched as my daughter was lowered into the ground in a coffin,” said Geneva Reed-Veal.

“Six other women have died in custody that same month: Kindra Chapman, Alexis McGovern, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, Raynette Turner, Ralkina Jones, and Joyce Curnell. So many of our children are gone, but they are not forgotten,” she continued. 

“You don’t stop being a mom when your child dies,” said Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis. “His life ended the day that he was shot and killed for playing loud music. But my job as his mother didn’t.” 

McBath said that though she had lost her son, she continued to work to protect his legacy. “We’re going to keep telling our children’s stories and we’re urging you to say their names,” she said. “And we’re also going to keep using our voices and our votes to support leaders, like Hillary Clinton, who will help us protect one another so that this club of heartbroken mothers stops growing.” 

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, called herself “an unwilling participant in this movement,” noting that she “would not have signed up for this, [nor would] any other mother that’s standing here with me today.” 

“But I am here today for my son, Trayvon Martin, who is in heaven, and … his brother, Jahvaris Fulton, who is still here on Earth,” Fulton said. “I did not want this spotlight. But I will do everything I can to focus some of this light on the pain of a path out of the darkness.”

What Else We’re Reading

Renee Bracey Sherman explained in Glamour why Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s position on abortion scares her.

NARAL’s Ilyse Hogue told Cosmopolitan why she shared her abortion story on stage at the DNC.

Lilly Workneh, the Huffington Post’s Black Voices senior editor, explained how the DNC was “powered by a bevy of remarkable black women.”

Rebecca Traister wrote about how Clinton’s historic nomination puts the Democratic nominee “one step closer to making the impossible possible.”

Rewire attended a Democrats for Life of America event while in Philadelphia for the convention and fact-checked the group’s executive director.

A woman may have finally clinched the nomination for a major political party, but Judith Warner in Politico Magazine took on whether the “glass ceiling” has really been cracked for women in politics.

With Clinton’s nomination, “Dozens of other women across the country, in interviews at their offices or alongside their children, also said they felt on the cusp of a major, collective step forward,” reported Jodi Kantor for the New York Times.

According to Philly.com, Philadelphia’s Maternity Care Coalition staffed “eight curtained breast-feeding stalls on site [at the DNC], complete with comfy chairs, side tables, and electrical outlets.” Republicans reportedly offered similar accommodations at their convention the week before.

Commentary Politics

On Immigration, Major Political Parties Can’t Seem to Agree on What’s ‘Un-American’

Tina Vasquez

As far as immigration is concerned, neither the Democrats nor Republicans are without their faults, though positions taken at the conventions were clearly more extreme in one case than the other.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Immigration has been one of the country’s most contentious political topics and, not surprisingly, is now a primary focus of this election. But no matter how you feel about the subject, this is a nation of immigrants in search of “el sueño Americano,” as Karla Ortiz reminded us on the first night of the Democratic National Convention (DNC). Ortiz, the 11-year-old daughter of two undocumented parents, appeared in a Hillary Clinton campaign ad earlier this year expressing fear that her parents would be deported. Standing next to her mother on the DNC stage, the young girl told the crowd that she is an American who wants to become a lawyer to help families like hers.

It was a powerful way to kick-start the week, suggesting to viewers Democrats were taking a radically different approach to immigration than the Republican National Convention (RNC). While the RNC made undocumented immigrants the scapegoats for a variety of social ills, from U.S. unemployment to terrorism, the DNC chose to highlight the contributions of immigrants: the U.S. citizen daughter of undocumented parents, the undocumented college graduate, the children of immigrants who went into politics. Yet, even the stories shared at the DNC were too tidy and palatable, focusing on “acceptable” immigrant narratives. There were no mixed-status families discussing their deported parents, for example.

As far as immigration is concerned, neither the Democrats nor Republicans are without their faults, though positions taken at the conventions were clearly more extreme in one case than the other. By the end of two weeks, viewers may not have known whether to blame immigrants for taking their jobs or to befriend their hardworking immigrant neighbors. For the undocumented immigrants watching the conventions, the message, however, was clear: Both parties have a lot of work to do when it comes to humanizing their communities.  

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“No Business Being in This Country”

For context, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his running mate Mike Pence are the decidedly anti-immigrant ticket. From the beginning, Trump’s campaign has been overrun by anti-immigrant rhetoric, from calling Mexicans “rapists” and “killers” to calling for a ban on Muslim immigration. And as of July 24, Trump’s proposed ban now includes people from countries “compromised by terrorism” who will not be allowed to enter the United States, including anyone from France.

So, it should come as no surprise that the first night of the RNC, which had the theme of “Make America Safe Again,” preyed on American fears of the “other.” In this case: undocumented immigrants who, as Julianne Hing wrote for the Nation, “aren’t just drug dealers and rapists anymorenow they’re murderers, too.”

Night one of the RNC featured not one but three speakers whose children were killed by undocumented immigrants. “They’re just three brave representatives of many thousands who have suffered so gravely,” Trump said at the convention. “Of all my travels in this country, nothing has affected me more, nothing even close I have to tell you, than the time I have spent with the mothers and fathers who have lost their children to violence spilling across our borders, which we can solve. We have to solve it.”

Billed as “immigration reform advocates,” grieving parents like Mary Ann Mendoza called her son’s killer, who had resided in the United States for 20 years before the drunk driving accident that ended her police officer son’s life, an “illegal immigrant” who “had no business being in this country.”

It seemed exploitative and felt all too common. Drunk driving deaths are tragically common and have nothing to do with immigration, but it is easier to demonize undocumented immigrants than it is to address the nation’s broken immigration system and the conditions that are separating people from their countries of originconditions to which the United States has contributed. Trump has spent months intentionally and disingenuously pushing narratives that undocumented immigrants are hurting and exploiting the United States, rather than attempting to get to the root of these issues. This was hammered home by Mendoza, who finished her speech saying that we have a system that cares more about “illegals” than Americans, and that a vote for Hillary “puts all of our children’s lives at risk.”

There was also Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a notorious racist whose department made a practice of racially profiling Latinos and was recently found to be in civil contempt of court for “repeatedly and knowingly” disobeying orders to cease policing tactics against Latinos, NPR reported.

Like Mendoza, Arpaio told the RNC crowd that the immigration system “puts the needs of other nations ahead of ours” and that “we are more concerned with the rights of ‘illegal aliens’ and criminals than we are with protecting our own country.” The sheriff asserted that he was at the RNC because he was distinctly qualified to discuss the “dangers of illegal immigration,” as someone who has lived on both sides of the border.

“We have terrorists coming in over our border, infiltrating our communities, and causing massive destruction and mayhem,” Arpaio said. “We have criminals penetrating our weak border security systems and committing serious crimes.”

Broadly, the takeaway from the RNC and the GOP nominee himself is that undocumented immigrants are terrorists who are taking American jobs and lives. “Trump leaned on a tragic story of a young woman’s murder to prop up a generalized depiction of immigrants as menacing, homicidal animals ‘roaming freely to threaten peaceful citizens,’” Hing wrote for the Nation.

When accepting the nomination, Trump highlighted the story of Sarah Root of Nebraska, a 21-year-old who was killed in a drunk-driving accident by a 19-year-old undocumented immigrant.

“To this administration, [the Root family’s] amazing daughter was just one more American life that wasn’t worth protecting,” Trump said. “One more child to sacrifice on the altar of open borders.”

It should be noted that the information related to immigration that Trump provided in his RNC speech, which included the assertion that the federal government enables crime by not deporting more undocumented immigrants (despite deporting more undocumented immigrants than ever before in recent years), came from groups founded by John Tanton, a well-known nativist whom the Southern Poverty Law center referred to as “the racist architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement.”

“The Border Crossed Us”

From the get-go, it seemed the DNC set out to counter the dangerous, anti-immigrant rhetoric pushed at the RNC. Over and over again, Democrats like Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-CA) hit back hard against Trump, citing him by name and quoting him directly.

“Donald Trump believes that Mexican immigrants are murderers and rapists. But what about my parents, Donald?” Sánchez asked the crowd, standing next to her sister, Rep. Loretta Sánchez (D-CA). “They are the only parents in our nation’s 265-year history to send not one but two daughters to the United States Congress!”

Each speech from a Latino touched on immigration, glossing over the fact that immigration is not just a Latino issue. While the sentiments were positiveillustrating a community that is thriving, and providing a much-needed break from the RNC’s anti-immigrant rhetoricat the core of every speech were messages of assimilation and respectability politics.

Even in gutsier speeches from people like actress Eva Longoria, there was the need to assert that her family is American and that her father is a veteran. The actress said, “My family never crossed a border. The border crossed us.”

Whether intentional or not, the DNC divided immigrants into those who are acceptable, respectable, and worthy of citizenship, and those—invisible at the convention—who are not. “Border crossers” who do not identify as American, who do not learn English, who do not aspire to go to college or become an entrepreneur because basic survival is overwhelming enough, what about them? Do they deserve to be in detention? Do their families deserve to be ripped apart by deportation?

At the convention, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), a champion of immigration reform, said something seemingly innocuous that snapped into focus the problem with the Democrats’ immigration narrative.

“In her heart, Hillary Clinton’s dream for America is one where immigrants are allowed to come out of the shadows, get right with the law, pay their taxes, and not feel fear that their families are going to be ripped apart,” Gutiérrez said.

The Democratic Party is participating in an all-too-convenient erasure of the progress undocumented people have made through sheer force of will. Immigration has become a leading topic not because there are more people crossing the border (there aren’t) or because nativist Donald Trump decided to run for president, but because a segment of the population has been denied basic rights and has been fighting tooth and nail to save themselves, their families, and their communities.

Immigrants have been coming out of the shadows and as a result, are largely responsible for the few forms of relief undocumented communities now have, like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows certain undocumented immigrants who meet specific qualifications to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation. And “getting right with the law” is a joke at this point. The problem isn’t that immigrants are failing to adhere to immigration laws; the problem is immigration laws that are notoriously complicated and convoluted, and the system, which is so backlogged with cases that a judge sometimes has just seven minutes to determine an immigrant’s fate.

Becoming a U.S. citizen is also really expensive. There is a cap on how many people can immigrate from any given country in a year, and as Janell Ross explained at the Washington Post:

There are some countries, including Mexico, from where a worker with no special skills or a relative in the United States can apply and wait 23 years, according to the U.S. government’s own data. That’s right: There are people receiving visas right now in Mexico to immigrate to the United States who applied in 1993.

But getting back to Gutierrez’s quote: Undocumented immigrants do pay taxes, though their ability to contribute to our economy should not be the one point on which Democrats hang their hats in order to attract voters. And actually, undocumented people pay a lot of taxes—some $11.6 billion in state and local taxes last year, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy—while rarely benefiting from a majority of federal assistance programs since the administration of President Bill Clinton ended “welfare as we know it” in 1996.

If Democrats were being honest at their convention, we would have heard about their failure to end family detention, and they would have addressed that they too have a history of criminalizing undocumented immigrants.

The 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, enacted under former President Clinton, have had the combined effect of dramatically increasing the number of immigrants in detention and expanding mandatory or indefinite detention of noncitizens ordered to be removed to countries that will not accept them, as the American Civil Liberties Union notes on its site. Clinton also passed the North American Free Trade Agreement, which economically devastated Mexican farmers, leading to their mass migration to the United States in search of work.

In 1990, then-Sen. Joe Biden introduced the Violence Against Women Act, which passed in 1994 and specifically excluded undocumented women for the first 19 of the law’s 22 years, and even now is only helpful if the victim of intimate partner abuse is a child, parent, or current/former spouse of a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident.

In addition, President Obama is called by immigrant rights advocates “deporter in chief,” having put into place a “deportation machine” that has sent more than two million migrants back to their country of origin, more than any president in history. New arrivals to the United States, such as the Central American asylum seekers coming to our border escaping gender-based violence, are treated with the same level of prioritization for removal as threats to our national security. The country’s approach to this humanitarian crisis has been raiding homes in the middle of the night and placing migrants in detention centers, which despite being rife with allegations of human rights abuses, are making private prison corporations millions in revenue.

How Are We Defining “Un-American”?

When writing about the Democratic Party, community organizer Rosa Clemente, the 2008 Green Party vice president candidate, said that she is afraid of Trump, “but not enough to be distracted from what we must do, which is to break the two-party system for good.”

This is an election like we’ve never seen before, and it would be disingenuous to imply that the party advocating for the demise of the undocumented population is on equal footing with the party advocating for the rights of certain immigrants whose narratives it finds acceptable. But this is a country where Republicans loudly—and with no consequence—espouse racist, xenophobic, and nativist beliefs while Democrats publicly voice support of migrants while quietly standing by policies that criminalize undocumented communities and lead to record numbers of deportations.

During two weeks of conventions, both sides declared theirs was the party that encapsulated what America was supposed to be, adhering to morals and values handed down from our forefathers. But ours is a country comprised of stolen land and built by slave labor where today, undocumented immigrants, the population most affected by unjust immigration laws and violent anti-immigrant rhetoric, don’t have the right to vote. It is becoming increasingly hard to tell if that is indeed “un-American” or deeply American.