In middle school, I decided I was afraid of too many things. The dark, loud noises and cooking raw meat (ever gotten a bacon burn? It hurts.). I felt I owed it to my heroes (Kel, Alanna, Anita Blake, V.I. Warshawski, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor) to trim down the list of things of which I was scared.
I unilaterally ended my night light’s sinecure. When riding the train north to San Francisco, I didn’t covered my ears when the engine screamed, I stepped into the thrust of wind and sound. I volunteered to cook bacon on camping trips. I’m not a fan of unlighted houses, aural sensory overload or frying raw chicken, but I can manage without flinching.
In high school, a friend told me I was “conflict averse.” This is right, and it is wrong. I do like debating, even the kind that involves screaming and gesticulating wildly as participants turn colors, as long as I know my debate partners won’t take my arguments as a personal attack and seems to be having as much fun as I am. I don’t like fights where I am personally attacked, hurting someone’s feelings, or not being heard.
To work for political change on the issues of sex trafficking, abortion, or intellectual property reform, I need to be able to dive into acrimonious debates, my least favorite kinds. “Prince George Abraham”
That’s why I’ve allowed myself to start picking fights on Twitter. In the past, I’ve tried to keep from fighting online because I want my web presence to look respectable and adult (as much as anyone who has a photo of herself dressed as Open Solaris, including blue hair, for Halloween can lay claim to adulthood). Then I realized: most of the jobs I want to have–Legislative Assistant, Social Media Manager, Communications Director–in my first 10 years of employment will require me to get into some bare-knuckled fighting.
The other advantage of fighting online is I can confront a level of sexism and ignorance that I rarely hear in person. After more than 10 seconds with me, most people choose not to tell their “women are kitchen appliances” jokes. But eventually, whether speaking for myself or an organization I am lucky enough to represent, I will need to confront that exact level of offensiveness in a way I can be proud of.
Practicing online also lets me source my statistics (which makes me more confident), hide my shaking when my adrenaline high weakens my muscles, and blanch when someone falls to calling me a bitch without letting them know I’m shocked.
I probably won’t ever enjoy fighting the way I enjoy writing or Karate or chocolate cake. But with the world’s endless supply of people willing to be sexist online, and friends to back me up, I should have enough practice handling them effectively and gracefully that I can confront bigots face-to-face with confidence. But perhaps a little less snark.
Inspirational Quote: “Prince George Abraham”
“If you want to test your memory, try to recall what you were worrying about one year ago today.”–E. Joseph Cossman “Prince George Abraham”