Here's a Real Thing That Just Happened

The following is an exchange I just had on Twitter with Gene Weingarten, a Washington Post columnist:

Gene Weingarten: Hey, Melissa. Can you follow me for ten minutes so I can send you a DM?

Melissa McEwan: What is the nature of the conversation you want to have with me?

Weingarten: Just want to ask you a question in private. But if that's not okay, no problem.

McEwan: It depends on the nature of the question. In my experience, men usually request to DM me in order to subject me to misogynist abuse, frequently under the guise of "asking a question" about my work, and I am not interested in such an exchange. Hence my question to you.

Weingarten: Do you know anything about me, anything to suggest I would subject you to abuse? Anyway, not a problem. Good to meet you.

McEwan: No, I don't. That's why I asked the question and why I further explained I was asking based on my lived experiences, and not based on any assumption about you. But your reluctance to simply tell me the nature of your inquiry is fairly informative.

* * *

At this point in the conversation, a side conversation began as Rachel Joy Larris jumped in to try to help.

Rachel Joy Larris‏: Gene, Melissa is attacked a lot. She doesn't know you. She's being cautious granting you permission because her experience has shown even "blue checked" men in journalism don't always behave well (or ask good questions) in DMs. I understand your confusion, she's not being rude.

Weingarten: No problem, and I appreciate the clarification. I do find her suspicion insulting, but I've been insulted before and survived.

Larris: I'm telling you she's not insulting you. Her suspicion isn't insulting. It's her experience. I understand you think "but I'm me, I'm not all those other jerks" but she doesn't know that.

McEwan: Dude, try to put yourself in my position. Some guy you don't know personally, who's got a turd as his profile pic, wants you to meet with him privately. And when you ask why, instead of just telling you, he sends his Wiki page as though a professional bio is proof of good faith.

[He never responded to my entreaty for empathy, but continued with the main conversation thread.]

* * *

Weingarten: Okay! Glad to have engaged you. Thanks for taking the time to answer. This is me:

McEwan: I didn't ask for your bio. I asked for you to simply tell me the nature of your inquiry. Is it professional? Related to your work? To mine? Is it personal? Are you in search of a quote? I asked for help understanding why it needs to be a private exchange.

Weingarten: Seriously, never mind. No big deal. Honestly, it's kind of depressing to be subjected to this sort of suspicion. Be well. No rancor intended.

McEwan: Honestly, it's kind of depressing that this is the way a man in journalism responds when a woman asks the perfectly reasonable question: Why do you need to talk to me *in private*? Especially given the last few months.

Weingarten: Ma'am. Please.

McEwan: That you are more concerned about my "insulting" to [sic] you by trying to establish you have a valid reason to want to speak to me privately than you are about the fact that women have to go to these lengths to protect ourselves suggests I was right to ask in the first place.

Weingarten: No problem. I wish you the best.

* * *

And that was the end of our exchange, as I had no inclination to respond to someone wishing me "the best" when what he actually wishes is that I should feel bad for "insulting" him by trying to secure my own safety.

In case it isn't manifestly evident, here is my conundrum: Today, the creator of the Shitty Media Men is trending on Twitter. Just yesterday, the Washington Post, Weingarten's employer, suspended one of their reporters for 90 days, following an investigation that confirmed reports of his "inappropriate workplace conduct," which suggests to me that the WaPo isn't taking this issue seriously enough.

What I'm working with is the knowledge that lots of men in journalism (like in every other field) are abusive and exploit women's trust to harm them, and the knowledge that the employer of a man asking me to communicate privately with him will probably not respond well if I decide to trust him and he betrays that trust, and a lifetime of experience of men presenting themselves in good faith only to take advantage of me, as well as the knowledge that if a woman trusts a man and he harms her, she will be blamed.

I also knew that, even if a man tells me he wants to speak privately for a valid reason, he might nonetheless use private access to me to send me a graphic photo. Of his genitals, or of a violent scene. Or a photo of me that has been photoshopped in disturbing ways. This has happened to me.

So all I can do is ask. Which I did.

And not only would Weingarten not answer me, but he accused me of insulting him even in the asking.

This is what women are facing. And this is how we are routinely treated, even by the men who haughtily assert that they are one of the "good ones," as they dogwhistle at us what bitches we are, for having the unmitigated temerity to doubt them.

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