11 Sep A Message for the Twisted, Bitter and Violent Readers
* A while back, someone wrote a “critique” of one of my newspaper columns, questioning how could I possibly know anything about being a Samoan woman when “you sit in your air conditioned house with your perfect husband and your perfect children and your perfect life…”
I was angry. And gripped by the fervent desire to immediately write several blogs about how I have an imperfect life…- how only ONE room in my house is air conditioned and I can’t turn it on very often because it eats up all the cash power and we then have to eat leaves and sticks for a few days so I can scrimp money from the food budget so we can get the power turned back on. And about every mean thing the Hot Man has ever said to me and done to me in our twenty two years together (the man is a BEAST I tell you. A cruel, chauvinistic heartless selfish BEAST!) And about how much these Fabulous children are really not fabulous at all because in actual fact they drive me up the wall and I often count the days, hours and minutes until they all move out and go to university/prison/theArmy/TheLandOfFaraway. Lots and lots of reasons why my life IS NOT PERFECT DAMMIT!! An entire comparison of “woe is me…my life sucks so I am indeed qualified to talk about being a Samoan woman…” (Because everybody knows that a real Samoan woman lives in a bush hut and her husband beats her with a broom everyday…and everybody knows that only poor people in bush huts abuse their children…right?!)
* Another someone messaged to tell me that I’m a terrible advocate for women living with abuse and violence. “You don’t deserve to be a spokesperson for abuse survivors and domestic violence survivors. You’re not worthy to speak on their behalf.”
I felt like shit. Especially because this ‘someone’ is a person who’s supposed to know me well. Immediately I started going through everything I’ve ever done in my life that could possibly help me out in a court of law deciding whether or not ‘Lani Young is a Shitty Advocate for Women and Abuse Survivors.’ I needed evidence to prove my innocence. To establish my worth.
* Another someone bombed my Facebook page with curse words and threats, Eff-wording my family, my parents…calling me a “filthy molested whore” who needed to be silenced and have my words “erased”. They systematically went through all my posts over a 48hr period and plastered hate-filled rants all over them, slamming my Wendt family for being ‘mutt half-blood’ Samoans who have no titles…and more. The same person also set up several public FB pages – ‘Lani Wendt Young has herpes.’ and ‘Lani Wendt Young is the Dumbest Woman in History’.
I was afraid. For my children. What if this person lived in Samoa? What if they came across my children somewhere and screamed abuse at them, took out their twisted frustrations and hatefulness on them? I was even a little afraid for myself. What if this person is at the next book signing event I do somewhere overseas and they physically tried to hurt me? And yes, I almost wanted to cry because while I was prepared for people not to like my books or my blogs – I wasn’t ready for people to despise me and want to eliminate me for them and to possibly put my family’s safety at risk. I spent several days fretting over this, not being able to sleep because of this. NOT WRITING because of this. Not wanting to leave my house because of this. While the Hot Man told me to issue an invitation to the twisted, nasty anonymous FB troll “Tell him to come to our house and threaten us so I can beat the crap out of him…Tell him I would LOVE to talk to him in person…”
* Another someone went through this blog and wrote, “I’ve read nothing in your work that benefits a single person, or helps a developing mind. I could in fact use your written word, in print, to prove legal madness and deem you insane and a harm to others, that’s how bad your work is.” To give legitimacy to their argument, they went to a whole lot of trouble to create a fake email, ‘crazyWendtFamily@gmail.com’ and a fake url, http://firstname.lastname@example.org.
This time I laughed. A lot. Give that person bonus points for creativity?
This time, I’m done. Because I have finally accepted:
I don’t need to justify myself or my words to anyone. Especially not to random bloggers, keyboard warriors, or anonymous haters and twisted individuals who have nothing better to do with their time than create entire alter-ego online identities so they can chuck rubbish at other people. Not only that, I don’t even need to justify myself and my words to supposed friends and family who don’t like the way I advocate for the issues that have personal meaning for me and that impact on many others who are voiceless.
Cos here’s the thing. Do I have some strong “controversial” opinions about some “sensitive” difficult topics? Yes I do. Do I write and speak about them openly and publicly? Yes I do. Does it mean everybody has to like what I have to say? No, they don’t. But that doesn’t give them the right to try and shame / bully / harass / degrade / threaten me or my family. And I don’t have to be patient and polite and continuously smilingly diplomatic to people who are rude and obnoxious to me in public, private and on social media.
If you don’t like what I write about – then can I suggest some options.
a. Don’t read my work. Don’t download my books, don’t read my blog, don’t buy the newspaper if you see my face in it, don’t follow me on Facebook or Twitter. You’ll be happy and so will I.
b. Do read it. Then analyse what’s wrong with it and write a critique of the content like an intelligent, articulate person. I read those kinds of critiques and learn from them and am influenced by them. Not a pathetic criticism of my air conditioned bedroom and a cheap shot dig at how hot my husband is or how fabulous my kids are. Because let’s face it, he is hot. The man is a 44yr old elite athlete Ironman machine and he works his ass off to be a decent husband, father and provider. And my children (while they can get on my nerves), are pretty fabulous. I work very hard at my marriage and at being a parent so I don’t need to apologize for what I’ve achieved together with my partner and my children – just to appease your envy.
c. Don’t send me private messages of loathing. Or make anonymous criticisms of what I write on my blog and in my newspaper columns. Instead, put that time to good use and go write your own blog or write your own letters to the newspaper. With your name on them. I don’t claim to be a perfect advocate for women and survivors of abuse, but what matters is that I’m trying to do something about gender violence, in my own small way with the tools that I have at hand. You don’t like what I’m doing? Then get out there and do something different to add your voice and your efforts to the advocacy efforts.
“If you are not also in the arena, getting your butt kicked – then I’m not interested in your feedback.” Dr Brene Brown.
Because at the end of the day, what matters is that I have the courage to own my beliefs and my feelings. I put my name on my words and I carry them with me wherever I go. My opinions have won me some allies and admirers, that is true, but they have also lost me friends and family, and sown dischord in relationships and settings that were once of great strength to me.
I have no time or patience anymore for the random haters. Either put up or shut up.
And now that I’ve written allllllllllll that when I should have been working on my latest book, I realize I probably should have just copied and pasted this lovely message from that kick-butt awesome blogger woman Jody who I greatly admire over at ‘Fagogo mai Samoa’… She’s been having trouble with some anonymous rubbish throwers lately so she blogged this – (Click on it and go read it…)
(Many thanks to Rebecca Luteru in the comments for linking me to a fabulous talk by Dr Brene Brown, Daring Greatly, in which she quotes from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech on ‘The Man in the Arena’.)