"I want people to stop sending me rape threats. I want to do my work." http://t.co/LjWKKCGP6k
— Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) June 9, 2014
Many people know of Sarah Kendzior’s work on Eurasia, higher education or, my personal favorite, the study of hipsters and how they ruin things. But Kendzior was in the news these past few days not for her work, but for an extremely strange attack from (in my opinion) one of the best left wing publications around, Jacobin Magazine.
Jacobin ran an article, but all accounts unedited, that linked to a conversation Kendzior was having on Twitter about rape threats she had received. The article, written by Amber A’Lee Frost, essentially mocked the tweets and Kenzior’s use of the term “brocialist” with Frost saying “Give me a card-carrying brocialist over one of these oily ‘allies’ any day.”
It was an odd and inappropriate attack. One of Jacobin’s editors, Micah Uetricht, smartly apologized to Kendzior and the current version of the piece contains this introductory disclaimer:
This piece originally contained a hyperlink that has since been removed. The sentence, “And I just don’t think the diminutive label of ‘bro’ should be to describe more insidious sexism, let alone violent aggression like rape threats,” linked to a journalist’s tweet about rape threats levied against her. Out of concern that linking to a conversation about personal threats might only encourage more, we removed the link shortly after publication and offer our apologies to the journalist.
That should have been where it all ended, but that was before social media got involved. Kendzior said she wanted to merely note the issue and move on back to her work but the internet was having none of it. Instead, a variety of people weighed in including people who seemed to be defending the piece and its use of Kendzior’s tweets about rape threats.
First there was another editor at Jacobin, Megan Erickson, who accused Kendzior of being “dishonest and childish.” Which, if nothing else, is amazingly insensitive given that Kendzior at least felt threatened. Why that attack need be mustered at all still eludes rational explanation. Erickson later defended the attack saying she agreed with the sentiment of the article that now contains the apology.
Then there was an editor at Salon, Elias Isquith, who initially seemed to be mocking Kendzior’s complaint but later claimed he had weighed in without knowing what was actually going on. Based on what I have seen of his work I tend to buy that Isquith just snarked without knowing about that of which he spoke rather than set out to mock someone for being threatened with rape. Clearly ill advised and dumb, but not malevolent or vindictive. Though faulting someone for snark is tough to do, it’s the soma of the internet age. You can’t really deal with social media without an occasional dose of the stuff, but use with caution.
Despite not wanting to get sucked in, Kendzior ultimately felt the need to write an essay detailing the controversy and placed it in a larger context of being a female intellectual and being objectified. Then she said, again, that she wanted to move on.
But then another wave of critics jumped in. Reeking of opportunism and personal grudges the couple Elizabeth Stoker and Matt Bruenig decided this was the time to both defend the article by claiming Kendzior’s interpretation of it was “absurd” while also noting Kendzior had disagreed with Bruenig on a higher education article. Clearly this was the time to bring that up?
I hesitate to say this all may have ended given the half life of these things but Kendzior seems to be moving on. So what have learned from Sarah Kendzior’s unwanted Twitter adventure?
Anything you say on Twitter can and will be used against you. Worth remembering. Also if you see that someone is receiving rape threats or feels in danger of being sexually assaulted it’s not a good idea to mock them for it. Just saying.