To the friend who said I should be thankful for my online harassment while cosplaying: I ain’t thankful for shit
Every Black woman who has ever dared to defend themselves has dealt with some form of shut up, you attention seeking whore—on a good day.
by Briana Lawrence
Self reflection is… weird.
You’re sitting there, drinking a cup of coffee out of your favorite mug (mine being a Tetris themed mug with the words “EPIC FAIL” plastered on them since the pieces aren’t put together properly — it’s me in a nutshell). You’re sitting there, minding your own beeswax when, out of nowhere, a memory unburies itself like a rabid zombie looking to sink its teeth into your brain.
“5 years ago, I was harassed online as a fat, Black, queer woman in the cosplay scene.”
That was five years ago, wasn’t it?
In 2013, I had a Tumblr storm of shitty comments about one of my cosplays. As to be expected from unimaginative bullies, none of the comments were about the costume, but lord, they had some feelings about my size and my race. It’s the same recycled garbage any fat, Black woman has faced because, stop the presses, you’re a fat, Black woman who has the audacity to exist. Oh, and in my case, rocking a rainbow bumper sticker, too.
5 years ago, I turned 30 and my supply of fucks had run out. I responded to my harrassment with peak sassiness and it got around the Internet pretty quickly. I’m not gonna say I was trending or anything like that, but I did gain a hefty amount of followers in 24 hours. As I watched my page go from the low hundreds to thousands of fans in the blink of an eye, a friend decided to express her support by saying, “Wow. You must be thankful for that bully, huh?”
I let out a shaky, confused laugh. I thought it was an odd comment to make, but I could see what she was trying to say. There’s this thing folks do in an attempt to make you feel good about the bullshit. They want you to look at the bright side, you know? Yeah, I got harassed, but in return I’d gained a lot of supporters. So I said, “Yeah,” because take that, small-minded Tumblr user — I gained more popularity because of my response to your trash.
Today — because self-reflection just happens sometimes — I’m sitting here with two thoughts in mind: What the hell kind of comment was that? And why did either of us think it was an appropriate thing to say?
Let me get this part out of the way first: yes, I am more vocal now than I was before that rando on Tumblr spoke out of turn. I write articles. I get invited to events to do panels that reflect my experience. Speaking out on bullying and harassment in the geek community is part of who I am now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But does that mean I should be thankful for that day? Should I be thankful for the days that followed, and the days that continue to happen because someone feels the need to belittle me or folks who look just like me?
Hell to the highest form of nope.
As a writer who is trying to make a name for herself, let me make this abundantly clear: no one is trying to get famous this way.
“Well, actually–” you might say. Yes, I know. You can find those handful of folks who get off on playing the victim. Different topic of discussion. The idea of someone just trying to live their life being thankful for harassment because the aftermath of it happened to boost their career is more toxic than the leftover milk in the fridge on an episode of Hoarders.
I know I can’t speak for every creator out there, but I’d much rather be acknowledged for my work than be forced to constantly deal with Internet trolls. I’d rather have support for who I am and what I do. While I will always appreciate the ones who tell folks to not be out here calling me a whale, I’d much rather, well, not be called a whale!
Dealing with negativity is exhausting, y’all, and no one wants to combat that on a day to day basis just to get folks to notice them. Racism. Sexism. Homophobia. Fat Shaming. None of these things are pleasant. Their entire purpose is to make you feel lesser than. So, no, I’m not riding on high when these comments are hurled at me like a baseball in a neighbor’s window.
Of course, there are advocates who stand against these things — myself included — but there’s more to us than that one brilliant clapback against Anonymous User 1-2-Get-A-Life. A lot of us are writing and creating, working and pushing ourselves to achieve our dreams.
To have them reduced to “be thankful for the hardship” is gross. The point of speaking out is for your words to aide in stopping hate, not hope for another Hateful Karen to stumble through the park and call the cops. But worst of all is the fact that speaking out comes with a price. It will get you even more backlash, some of which is harsher than the initial comment(s) that started it all.
Every Black woman who has ever dared to defend themselves has dealt with some form of shut up, you attention seeking whore — and that’s on a good day. Bad days involve getting your account banned for defending yourself or enough death threats to get you to delete social media.
There is always someone, or several someones, ready to spam you with hate if you decide to open your mouth. I stood up for myself 5 years ago and continue to do so, but you best believe it’s garnered plenty of stop complaining/lighten up/learn to take a joke/you’re making too much out of this/I’m just playing devil’s advocate.
Since my grandstand in 2013, I’ve had to turn off anonymous comments on my Tumblr. I’ve blocked/muted far too many people to count. I’ve lost friends, some of whom I’ve had for a decade, at least, because I was suddenly “too Black” for them to handle. Speaking up is never an easy decision, and while there will be some praise and support, there is a far darker side that you’ll have to deal with, too.
But yes, friend, tell me again how I should be thankful for this? Thankful for being called out of my name? Thankful for what’s supposed to be a fun space becoming just as exhausting as the world I’m trying to escape when I put on that costume?
My friend, I ain’t thankful for shit.
Briana Lawrence is a freelance writer and self-published author who’s trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series’, or the pieces she writes for various websites. When she’s not writing about diversity, she’s speaking about it at different geek-centric conventions across the country, as she’s a black, queer, nerd girl at heart. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of comics, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to JRPGs. Check out her website, her Facebook, and follow her Twitter adventures over @BrichibiTweets!