What I learned from going viral on Twitter

Content Advisory: Suicide, graphic images, harassment.

I don’t really tweet all that much. I’ve had my Twitter account for years, but it hasn’t been something I’ve been really interested in until very recently. And even recently, it’s not a huge priority to me. I tweet sporadically, contributing to hashtags or commiserating with friends on occasion. I don’t even have 300 followers as of this posting.

Ten days ago I posted the following to Twitter in an effort to support the #ShoutYourAbortion hashtag. I posted other things to, but, as you can see, this one got just a little more attention.

Pretty much immediately after posting it, I was inundated with tweets from trolls and internet abusers. And I wasn’t the only person to receive abuse over this. The originator of the hashtag, Amelia Bonow, was forced to go into hiding after the hashtag went viral. Which I guess just goes to show that the “pro life” set really is more “pro-birth” than pro actual human life.

At any rate, the first abuse that I saw was an image of a man holding severed heads sent to me by Twitter user @TwerkingSpider [GRAPHIC original tweet behind hyperlink]. I immediately reported and blocked him. I have since been told by Twitter that his message was “not in violation of the Twitter Rules.” Which I just… don’t get. Their rules specifically say you cannot threaten people, and I’m not sure how sending someone a picture of decapitated heads does not constitute a “threat.” But maybe I’m just being over-sensitive, right? There’s such a thing as a friendly beheading, right? Right?

Of course, it didn’t end there. There were other tweets telling me I was basically an ugly dude and that I should kill myself. Which, coming from supposedly “pro-life” people was just… confusing and enraging.

There were loads more. Luckily, I went on vacation and missed a lot of it. I also had cool people around me who told me about how to block the majority of the yuckiness.

I learned a lot in the few days that my tweet exploded. I learned that people on the internet do not know how to use basic logic when it conflicts with their opinions. I learned that the ease of tweeting lends itself to all manner of repulsive insults and hurtful words being slung about. And I learned that answering those people with ridiculous questions and comments like “ARE YOU A RIDDLE?” and “LEARN LOGIC.” brought me no small measure of joy.

There were two big things that the people arguing with me seem to have trouble dealing with.

  1. Bodily autonomy: fetuses are not more valuable than adults.
    • I know it’s hard to grasp, but a fetus does not have a right to live at the expense of the body of another person any more than a fully grown human does. If I have cancer and the only thing that can save me is your bone marrow, you cannot be compelled to give it to me. No matter how sick I am.
      I think the fact that fetuses cannot speak for themselves is the thing that gets a lot of people with this one. And I get it, you want to speak for the silent masses of developing blastocysts or whatever. That’s fine. But the fact of the matter is, even if they could talk, they would not have any more of a right to life than I would, dying of cancer because you didn’t want to give me your bone marrow.
  2. Abortion has always existed. And will always exist. Because sex is fun.
    • Sex is super fun. It’s true. People have been banging for the fun of it for ages and ages. Hell, the Romans drove silphium to extinction with their need for birth control to manage family size. This isn’t new information. It’s not a shockingly revolutionary societal development like lolcats or something. Society didn’t wake up one day and become this loose moral ground where people can bang whoever they want. People have always banged whoever they want. Acting like it’s a surprise just makes you sound like a totally disconnected idealist who doesn’t get how the world works. Or, you know, genitals.
      Since sex for funsies has always existed, so has birth control, and so has abortion. The difference between abortion now and abortion at the beginning of human civilization is that, not unlike childbirth, women have a better chance of surviving it now.

For the most part, I don’t have many friends who will argue with the rightness of a woman’s right to choose for herself whether to continue with a pregnancy. But I’d like to take a moment for the one friend who I had before the #ShoutYourAbortion hashtag went up that did, apparently, stand in the opposing camp.

She’s religious, of course. And she has an issue with abortion. The strange thing for me is that, years ago, before she got married, she and I had a conversation about abortion, the end result of which was her stating that she was, in fact, “pro-choice.” Because even if she wouldn’t get one herself, she wasn’t the sort of person to stand in front of the rights of other women to a safe and healthy medical procedure that was perfectly legal.

Now, though, things have changed. I don’t know if she was merely paying lip service to me before, or if being married to someone who works for the Archdiocese changed her viewpoints. I can’t say either way. Needless to say, we got into a long conversation about my tweet and her views on abortion. I’m going to take the main thrust of our discussion and spin it out here for you.

In my original tweet, I re-posted an image talking about bodily autonomy, which is my chief reasoning behind my stance as pro-choice, as well as one of my core principles generally. The reason I say that I “had” this friend before we had this debate is that, during it, she called the autonomy argument “silly.” I have a couple of problems with that. The first of which being that the right of everyone on this planet to control what happens to their body is at the core of my system of beliefs about the world. The second of which is that, legally, our bodily autonomy is very important. It’s one of the things that makes rape illegal. Or assault. Consent and all of it’s trappings are important and valuable components of our legal system.

All in all, the conversation did not go well. But it made me think. And it made me realize that, if you do not value the autonomy of others and their ability to make the medical choices that are right for them and follow through with them safely, I can’t really be friends with you. That’s a line in the sand that I am more than willing to draw. And one that will happily stand by.

So #ShoutYourAbortion, my loves. Shout because it is nothing you should be ashamed of. Shout because you made the right decision. Shout because one day, the act of you shouting will not be something to be frightened of.

Think of the Children: Josh Duggar & Pedophilia

I was home schooled for sixth and seventh grade. My mother went through cycles with the schools I attended. She would put me into a new school and then move me out at the end of the year because the administration was terrible. She didn’t want to put my brother and I into public school, but the Catholic and Baptist schools that she preferred weren’t much better when it came to bullying and the attitudes of the administration regarding bullying.

So, when I was in sixth grade, she removed the issues she had with the school systems in Philadelphia by removing my brother and I from them.

Home schooling was rough. One of the things my mom really wanted to do was to make sure that we still had social interactions and friends. But she quickly discovered that the local homeschooling groups were packed with fundamentalists who told Jules and I that our family’s ungodliness meant that we were going straight to Hell.

My mom did not stand for any of that shit. So we drifted out of homeschooling groups in the same way that we had drifted from school to school, save with more rapidity. I’m so grateful to my mom for recognizing toxic environments and making the effort to remove me from them when I was a kid. She worked really hard to make sure that I was in a safe space, and that is so valuable to me as an adult when I look around me and see so many of my friends and loved ones whose parents did not do that hard work for them.

Which brings me to this weeks totally unshocking revelation of adult misconduct.

Before this week you might not have heard of the Duggars. They were the stars of a TV show that aired back in 2008 titled “17 Kids and Counting” that made it’s way up to “19 Kids and Counting” by way of being “18 Kids and Counting.” The show was about Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and their 19 kids. The kids’ names all start with the letter “J.” Because why not.

The Duggar Family
The Duggar family visits “Extra” at their New York studios at H&M in Times Square on March 11, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra)

All that is enough to make me just nope straight out the door, but it gets worse. The Duggars are also Independent Baptists (i.e. super fundamentalist Christians) and members of the Christian patriarchy movement. Christian patriarchy is one of those things that really upsets me both in idea and practice. It is what it sounds like, basically. The father is the head of the house and, as such, he is responsible for the conduct and care of his family. But, of course, that means that all the women in the house are totally subservient to the father and viewed as property.

If you want to understand more about the sickness of the Duggar way of life and some of the people that they associate themselves with, I wholly recommend this Open Letter to Duggar Defenders when you have time for a long read. Here is an illuminating excerpt regarding the supposed “happiness” of the Duggar children:

The Duggars are deeply enmeshed in ATI, (Gothard’s homeschooling program) and ATI takes allegiance very seriously. It isn’t a vague statement of beliefs that you sign so your kids can take the courses. It is several pages of in-depth info that covers what kind of music you can listen to (no Christian rock), the kind of TV you may watch (mainly Christian DVDs), the way you must dress (those jumpers are about modesty), the kind of punishments the parents must use (spankings), and more. It isn’t just a curriculum–it is a lifestyle which delves into family finances, child planning and every other detail.

One key idea teaches the importance of a joyful countenance and a light in your eyes. This is a measure of how mighty you are in spirit. Not only that, it is also an indicator of your respect for authority. Bill Gothard explains in the Basic Seminar session on How To Relate to Four Authorities that if you look unhappy, you are publicly shaming your authority. In parenting, that means that if the kid looks unhappy, it is a personal offense against the parents. He also teaches that unhappiness is the result of ungratefulness, and that anger comes from not yielding our rights to God. This boils down to the idea that if you are not cheerful, you are not pleasing God.

I get that negative emotions are not easy to deal with. And navigating them as a parent must be hard. But giving kids the space to feel sad and to deal with negative emotions healthily as they arise is important. At the very least, allowing kids to feel authentically and to express those feelings is vital to healthy emotional development.

So that’s just one aspect of the things that the Duggar children have internalized over the years. I should point out, by the way, that the Duggars are not alone in this. There are many other children being raised in this way and being taught these things. This is not an isolated group of people acting completely alone and contrary to all the other folks around them. Which is what makes it even more frightening to me.

Anyway, as you can imagine, all of this opens the door for all kinds of abuse. And, this week, it all boiled over.

It turns out that Josh Duggar, the Duggar’s eldest son, has admitted to molesting underage girls when he was a teenager in Arkansas. Included among these girls were his own younger sisters. The story broke on Thursday, when In Touch magazine published an article about the recently uncovered police reports from 2006 which indicate that Josh confessed to his father regarding the molestation. And that his father did not go to the police until a year afterward.

In a statement yesterday Josh was quoted as saying:

Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends… We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.

Since the news hit yesterday, Josh has resigned from his position at the Family Research Council. Josh’s parents Jim Bob and Michelle have stated that:

Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives. When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes, and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before.

I have so many problems with what Josh did. But even more problems with how his family chose to handle what Josh did. Waiting a year to report the incidents to the police and praying to God rather than allowing the legal system to do it’s job are not acceptable choices.

At any rate, I am waiting to see whether the Duggars come forward with any more pertinent information to this case. Has Josh received any kind of therapy since these events? Has he been continually involved with any type of support group?

The fact that Josh has been involved in pedophilia and incest and now has his own children makes me concerned for the safety of those children. And the insular way in which the Duggars chose to deal with their son’s criminal acts toward his siblings and other young girls makes me suspicious. If they were not willing to report him to the police until one year after his “childhood mistakes,” what would they do if he was still molesting young women today? Or his own children?

My doubts about the family’s willingness to do the right thing regarding Josh’s pedophilic acts are exacerbated by the family’s close ties to Doug Phillips of Vision Forum and Bill Gothard of ATI. Doug has been revealed to have sexually abused a young female employee, while Bill spent decades sexually grooming the teenage girls sent to him by their parents for instruction. The Duggars have yet to speak a word against these men and their acts of sexual misconduct.

The Duggars have revealed with their previous behavior that they have no wish to expose Josh’s proclivities to the public eye. They hid his misdeeds behind the thick veil of secrecy that surrounds their family long enough that that is clear. But if the Duggars are not willing to expose Phillips and Gothard, who are not blood relatives, to bad press regarding their inappropriate sexual acts, I do not believe there is a force in this world that would compel them to expose their son in that way.

As I said, I am waiting to see if the Duggars come forward with some evidence that Josh has control of his urges to take sexual advantage of the girls in his life. But honestly, the fact that his behavior started so young and went un-addressed by anyone in a position of authority outside of the family does not give me a lot of hope that it has abated. I remain deeply concerned for the safety of his children and all young women with whom he interacts and over whom he has authority.