It was a “complete disaster,” according to my mom.
She doesn’t mince words.
She went on to say that she had hoped that this would be something she could show her friends online, but, “of course, she couldn’t possibly show it to anyone.”
Yup, that’s how my first periscope broadcast ended up.
It had started so auspiciously: shiny, bright, innocent, fresh. I put on a dash of lipgloss and eyeshadow, set up the brand new desk-sized tripod, lit a candle. I was ready to go. Excited, even.
My topic, the perennial problem: writers block. Something I have faced a lot in my life. Something I can talk about effortlessly. Something every writer and would-be-writer can always use a couple of new tips on.
It was destined for success. Right?
Oh, how wrong I was.
What I all-too-quickly realized is what a target you become on Periscope if you are female. Within moments, a horde of disrespectful, disgusting men started to publicly pester me to show them my breasts, my yoni, and other parts of my anatomy— only they didn’t use lovely words like those — as I tried to professionally yet charismatically speak.
It was horrifying. Like, turn-your-stomach horrifying. The kind of public shaming that one’s mother will absolutely never share with her friends (or, if it were someone else’s mom, even mention. Not my mom, though. She says what’s on her mind.)
Just ignore them, my inner voice kept saying to me, as I tackled distraction and resistance and boredom in the creative process, desperately attempting to stay on topic. Just keep going. Pretend like nothing is happening.
Nothing is happening nothing is happening nothing is happening nothing is happening nothing is happening nothing is happening nothing is happening nothing is happening nothing is happening nothing is happening nothing is happening nothing is happening nothing is happening…
Just like any other victim of sexual abuse.
I wrapped up my ‘scope quickly, feeling my insides shake and my stomach welling up with nausea. I could feel the comments buzzing in the air around me, trying to land, trying to get their tentacles into me from all those miles away.
Because I’m a woman who dared to speak up, to put myself out there.
Luckily, one of my friends (who is also a coach) had watched the broadcast and texted me immediately afterwards, saying what a brilliant job I had done.
I poured my pain and fear out through my thumbs. I did not feel brilliant. I did not even feel okay. I felt traumatized.
She asked me if I wanted to get together, right that moment, and I bundled up baby and jumped into the car.
My friend, who is a very intelligent, well-read woman, railed against patriarchy once we’d met up. As I listened, and slowly was able to remove myself from my personal experience, I realized that she was absolutely right.
No one should be a a victim of sexual harassment because they are ‘scoping– or twittering– or blogging– or publishing their work The New Yorker or The Atlantic– while female.
Now, I know that some people may not agree that this is patriarchy in action, but let me say this: social media is part of my business. If any time I put myself out there it means immediately opening myself up to a horde of sexual harassment and intimidation (or even, just struggling with it as a possibility), it makes it harder for me to compete with my male colleagues, to stand up and be seen as an expert in my field, and to take up space and be seen.
It affects my bottom line, my ability to pursue my dreams and desires, and limits my self-expression in a way that cis-gendered men do not experience.
Honestly, when I finished my broadcast, I seriously doubted that I would ever use Periscope ever again.
But after my dear friend talked me down and we had a delicious cup of joe from Philz and then committed a little shopping therapy at the local consignment store, I realized something very, very important.
Something I want you to take in to the bottom of your heart.
Something that, if you never remember anything else I ever say or write, I want you to remember.
Fuck those guys.
There’s no way I’m going to let a couple of assholes limit me or get me down. I’ve got some things to say, I’ve got some people to help, and patriarchy and sexist, pathetic little bastards be damned, I’m going to do it.
(Plus, thanks to my wider community of support, I now have a couple of tricks up my sleeve to avoid and rid myself of people like that.)
After my mom told me what a disaster my broadcast was, she went on to say that I should definitely not allow any comments on my future broadcasts. But as my brother would say, haters are going to hate. And if I turn off the comments, that means shutting down one of the finest features that tools like Periscope offer us — the ability to connect with others, communicate directly (and immediately) with them, to respond and dance together. It impairs my ability to be of service.
I’m going to do when I’m here to do, and that means leaving the comments on so that people can ask me questions and get the help that they need.
So today I’m going to get back on the horse (lots of clichés and idioms in this newsletter, I realize, but that’s what happens sometimes when I’m all juiced up and writing quickly. Gotta get it done while the baby naps).
And if you find yourself in a similar situation sometime, I want you to think of me, and say, fuck those guys. We’ve got this.
Four PM, PST, sharp. Or, watch the replay. That’ll be fun too.