Women’s March Participant Speaks Out About Being Target Of Senator’s Harassment Campaign
Welcome to being a vocal liberal woman in the new political era.
“The Women’s March encompassed so many issues I am passionate about, and as a woman with two daughters, I have to participate in making sure they have the same or better rights than I have had.”
This is how Susan — whose name has been changed for her protection—describes her decision to take to the streets in Jackson, Mississippi, for the march over the weekend. For those like her who live in the heart of Tea Party country, the march was more than a powerful visual; it was a safe space to speak out, offering temporary safety from the Trumpian majority who respond to liberal women with vitriolic threats.
Perhaps, in such a deeply conservative state, it should come as no surprise that women like this who deigned to protest were also swiftly targeted and degraded. Two days after she marched, Susan saw a post from her own representative, Chris McDaniel of the 42nd district, posted on his public, official page:
Before the post caught the attention of the public, a number of people commented on it in agreement, suggesting feminism is immoral. But once the post went viral, people of all genders from across the country joined in to defend those who marched. Forty-eight hours after the senator’s post went up on Monday, it had garnered over 25,000 comments and 20,000 shares.
One woman commented that he was a senator and should be representing everyone (he replied with a simple and telling “no”). Others called him a “snarky, wannabe Rush Limbaugh,” challenged the ugliness of his words considering his supposed Christian identity, and pushed back against his ineffective policies.
Susan took to her own Facebook page, exercising her first amendment rights by reposting his offensive comments. She’d had enough of her senator, calling him a “fuckwit” and encouraging friends to let their voices be heard by calling his office.
Taking a cue, perhaps, from our current president, McDaniel reacted by naming, calling out, and harassing the woman. Although Susan doesn’t know how he found her, he posted a screenshot of her post and encouraged his rabid followers to contact her, a private citizen.
It wasn’t until friends started to contact her that Susan became aware of his actions. She felt, she says, sick.
She’d just come off the high of the weekend where “everyone was kind and loving and friendly and it felt like an enormous sisterhood that could accomplish anything if we tried.” Now she stared at the senator’s Facebook page and saw herself and her daughter’s face staring back. Her Facebook profile page showed her name, where she worked, and her family. Since her profile was private, one of her “friends” must have screenshot the post and sent it to the senator. “The thought that one of these frightening fanatics might track me down was unnerving,” she says.
‘The thought that one of these frightening fanatics might track me down was unnerving.’
Scared for her family, she changed her profile name, removed her picture, and deleted the majority of the Republican friends from her friend list, since she didn’t know who had sent him her post.
She was fortunate that only three private messages came through before she locked down her account. One woman messaged Susan, “This election has truly opened my eyes to just how many idiots we have in this country.” Another called her a snowflake, a derogatory term used by Kellyanne Conway to describe the fragility of Trump protesters.
The third person sent this:
Says Susan, “The bigots are coming out of the woodwork since the presidential election, and I anticipate it only getting worse, and that scares me.”
Welcome to being a vocal liberal woman in the new political era.
Trolls targeting, harassing, and doxxing women online is, of course and troublingly, nothing new. But politicians using their platform to do so is a more recent phenomenon.
Our president himself has a sordid history with using his large Twitter following to target women who speak their mind. When a 18-year-old college student asked Trump about his views on women’s rights at a political forum, he called her an “arrogant young woman” and a “plant” from the rival side on Twitter; she subsequently was called vulgar names and threatened with rape and bodily harm.
When former Miss Universe Alicia Machado spoke out about being fat-shamed by Donald, he called her a “con,” “the worst,” and “disgusting” on Twitter, opening her up to further harassment from his followers.
Now, it seems, Trump has set a precedent that other right-wing politicians are all-too happily following.
Our president has a sordid history with using his large Twitter following to target women who speak their mind.
In 2014, before the election cycle, 40% of internet users said they’d been personally harassed. There are no Trump-era statistics yet, but it’s not unlikely that the figures have gone up in the wake of a president who has actively encouraged online abuse.
For women harassed on social media, options for protection remain limited. Twitter’s policies on preventing abuse are notoriously lax, leading many to sign off from the platform altogether (as Lindy West recently did, to much attention).
On Facebook, there is a relatively low incidence of people trolling; for someone to abuse a Facebook user, especially one who has put their privacy setting on “private,” the troll has to put in time and effort. Unfortunately, many are willing to do just that.
Women are, in other words, facing a reality in which expressing their political views could lead to them being personally harassed by politicians and their supporters online…with little recourse to fight back.
Our constitution allows for people to peacefully assemble as well as “petition the government for a redress of grievances.” But it is increasingly apparent that women must be vigilant to protect themselves physically and emotionally if they decide to practice their constitutional rights by assembling or speaking out.
Although Senator McDaniel’s post revealing his constituent’s identity put her in danger, the residual empowerment from the Women’s March has given her resilience. “I did not set out to be in this position when I shared the senator’s misogynistic post,” she says. “But honestly his behavior has made him look even more foolish, so maybe it is a good thing in the end.”
As for the senator? He continues to add unprofessional and derogatory posts to his Facebook page. Just as he instructed people to go after a private citizen, he’s now posted another call to action:
Goodnight, Senator. We will sleep deep tonight, for tomorrow we’ll heed your request and bring it.