[Content Note: Transmisogyny, misogynist slurs, fat hatred, rape, violence, exhortations to self-harm.]
Before I will have finished writing this, hundreds of men will send tweets that refer to me as a "stupid c*nt," or tell me to go kill myself, or that I should lay off the Big Macs. There will be men who tell me that I should be violently beaten. There will be men who follow me on Twitter exclusively to tell me how fat, ugly, and hairy I am.
I "deserve" these tweets because I chose to tell comedian and mixed-martial arts announcer Joe Rogan that transphobia is unacceptable. I hope you missed it, but in a recent episode of his (thoroughly disgusting) podcast The Joe Rogan Experience, he described Fallon Fox, a trans woman seeking to fight in the women's division of MMA, as a "man without a d*ck."
Rogan went on to make other disgusting comments about Fox. FightOpinion, an MMA news site, transcribed Rogan's comments:
You can't fight women. That's fucking crazy. I don't know why she thinks that she's going to be able to do that. If you want to be a woman in the bedroom and you know you want to play house and all of that other shit and you feel like you have, your body is really a woman's body trapped inside a man's frame and so you got a operation, that's all good in the hood. But you can't fight chicks. Get the fuck out of here. You're out of your mind. You need to fight men, you know? Period. You need to fight men your size because you're a man. You're a man without a dick.I don't even know where to begin, honestly. Rogan's transphobia and profound ignorance of gender identity issues are crystal clear, even though he claims to be "100% in support" of a person's right to be transgender and speaks about transitioning as though he's an authority on the subject, despite the fact he evidently believes transitioning is a decision akin to choosing a new accessory.
I called him out.
I bet I don't have to tell you what happened after that—because we all know already that when you call out hatred on social media, whether you're talking about transphobia, racism, fat hate, homophobia, misogyny, whatever, there's always a backlash, particularly when you get involved with a celebrity. Melissa has blogged about her experiences with, for example, Daniel Tosh. If you follow @PiaGlenn on Twitter, you saw her exchange with Firefly actor Adam Baldwin and his Twitter minions.
Yesterday was my turn. After seeing someone retweet a link to the transcript of Rogan's podcast, I tweeted:
@joerogan needs to take all the damn seats with his transphobic bullshit this afternoon. A trans woman is a woman, jerk.— Amy McCarthy (@aemccarthy) March 19, 2013
Instead of initially responding to my tweet, he decided to retweet it to his "#Deathsquad." #Deathsquad is a Twitter community of Joe Rogan fans, and they took it upon themselves to defend his alleged honor. The blowback was intense.
Within seconds of Rogan's retweet, the hateful comments starting coming in. Fat. Ugly. C**t. Dumb slut. Chick with a d**k. Go kill yourself. Most interesting were the men who asked me if I would like it if they "chopped their dicks off" for the purpose of kicking my ass.
I've chosen to not publish any of these tweets in this space, because the majority of them are terrible and I don't believe that their words should be given another microphone. If you're interested in seeing them, though, a Twitter search for my handle should do the trick.
There were funny tweets, there were the usual "your dumb" tweets, and then there were the really dark and descriptive ones, detailing exactly how I should kill myself. How I should be raped or beaten.
I pointed these tweets out to Joe Rogan. He told me, in a tweet that he has since deleted, to "enjoy" what was coming, and "welcome to the Internet." Maybe to his part of the Internet, where speaking out against hate, as anyone other than a cisgender privileged white man, is a perfectly good reason to threaten and demean a person.
Now, I've been writing online for a long time, and it's going to take a lot more than a bunch of insecure assholes making threats through Twitter to silence me. It did amaze me, though, that there were hundreds (maybe thousands by now) of men who took time from their day to hate me. To suggest that I should be assaulted because of a tweet.
When feminists talk about a war on women, we're not just talking about the wars being fought in Congress and state legislatures. We're talking about the battles that we walk into every single day for having the nerve to open our mouths or wear clothes or walk in public.
Or to be a female MMA fighter who wants to fight other female MMA fighters like any other female MMA fighter, without some loser comic publicly spewing hatred and falsehoods about her body.
Joe Rogan is a D-list celebrity, but he has a powerful mouthpiece through his involvement with MMA. Tons of men and women watch MMA fighting, and almost a million of those fans follow him on Twitter.
When someone with that large of an audience is engaging in vicious (and inaccurate) transphobia, it's important for social justice activists to make it known that their actions are not okay. Whether that comes through a tweet, blog post, or real life protest, the call-out is an important tool in the fight against that behavior.
And because of the consequences created by "passionate" followers, calling out offensive and oppressive rhetoric has a steep cost. Most women—most people—just aren't willing to spend their entire day reading how horrible, stupid, fat, and ugly they are, and no one can blame them for that. Even the most innocuous call-outs can enrage these communities, and their rhetoric escalates quickly.
I can't say I was entirely shocked at the reaction I got from Rogan's fans, but the volume of tweets was remarkable. I genuinely expected today that my tweet would be ignored by Joe Rogan and that, at worst, I'd see maybe 1-2 tweets from MMA junkies.
Unfortunately that wasn't the case. But these kinds of responses from Joe Rogan's fans show me that there is much work to be done, and I'm up for doing it.