Her friend tells her that she's scared. And angry. And triggered. And paranoid. Because she is experiencing the thing that happens to women when they challenge the men who terrorize women online.
She and her friend are very much alike, in a lot of ways. But she has been challenging the men who terrorize women online for much longer, since dinosaurs still roamed the earth. She writes something to her friend.
She makes the usual caveat about everyone being different, but says she will say these things anyway because of the important ways in which they are the same. And then she tells her friend that the first couple of times, of the many times, the countless times, she has been under siege, not just in the regular every-day-is-a-battle kind of way, but in a Something Specific Is Happening and Here Comes the Onslaught way, she was as triggered and paranoid as her friend is now.
And then, she says, after a few times, she wasn't anymore.
She tells her friend that she STRONGLY SUSPECTS if her friend gets through this (and she will, because she is who she is), she will come out the other side better prepared for when it happens again, and it will, because this is the nature of being a woman who challenge the men who terrorize women online.
It will happen again. And again. And again and again.
She tells her friend that, eventually, you will be angry and scared and angry and also angry, but you won't be so triggered and won't feel so paranoid. And part of you will think, rightly, that it's suuuuuuper fucked up that you can become inured to being terrorized, and part of you will think, rightly, that it is profound evidence of your humanity, because if there is one thing that is true about humans, it is that we are adaptable, that we survive.
She says: "I bet that doesn't feel possible, or even desirable, right now, but."
She observes, frankly, that the truth is, when what happens to women who challenge the men who terrorize women online happens, what you feel doesn't affect the outcome. Whether you are scared or angry or defiant or indifferent doesn't matter.
She tells her friend that she STRONGLY SUSPECTS she will also, someday, get to a place where, unfathomably, she gives herself permission to not be triggered and it actually happens, because it's such a crucial part of your self-care.
She tells her friend that she realizes none of that matters in this moment, except perhaps the validation that her friend is not overreaction—not that her friend needs to be told for it to be true, but both of them know that validation matters, sometimes. Especially when you are a woman who challenges the men who terrorize women online.
None of it matters in this moment, she says, but she sort of wishes she'd had someone who could have drawn her a picture of a possible future where she wasn't constantly fucking terrified in a physical shaky way when she first experienced what happens to women who challenge the men who terrorize women online, because she legit expected she would get worse and worse until she shook herself into dust.
But she hasn't.
She has gotten better.
Her friend says thank you. Her friend tells her she has spent most of the day wondering if she will ever be herself again. Her friend is comforted by knowing that there's this other possible future, which she couldn't even imagine.
They agree that they will Talk About This, that they will make it an invitation to the women who are watching what happens to women who challenge the men who terrorize women online, and who are making decisions about whether they will speak, or whether they will be silent.
No one is obliged to speak. (And no one is obliged to keep speaking once they start, as if walking the fuck away is not an option. It is an option, and self-care is not defeat.) But, they think, everyone has the right to make the decision about whether to speak, or to keep speaking, knowing what might happen. Not just the things done by the men who terrorize women online. But the things that might happen inside yourself, and inside the safety of friendships with titans.
[Previously: She Was Gonna.]