Earlier this week actor and comedian Leslie Jones decided she’d had enough of Twitter trolls targeting her because she dared to co-star in a reboot of the 1984 film, Ghostbusters.
She was tired of being called ugly and savage, and being compared to gorillas and apes.
She was tired of being called a coon.
She’d had enough. She was tired.
So Leslie retweeted screenshots of some of the racist and sexist tweets piled up in her Twitter mentions, then she threw up two fingas and peace’d out.
And, it’s a shame. A shame that she couldn’t be in the world — just exist — minding her own business, entertaining fans and pursuing her craft, without having all that hate hurled at her via social media.
Two days later, Jones returned, encouraged by the support she had received and also admitting she was unable to resist the pull of the platform.
Still, I get why Leslie initially shut it down and walked away.
I am fat. I have been fat for much of my life (I was on my first diet at 5), give or take a few years in college and 2013 when I lost more than 50 pounds by white knuckling it through a low-carb, high deprivation diet (I gained that weight back).
Needless to say, neither I nor Leslie fit the mainstream beauty ideal: thin body, fair skin, long, straight, blonde hair. And that’s OK.
But it’s one thing to not fit the beauty ideal — because, hey, work what your mama gave you and all that — and it’s something else to have a constant stream of vitriol coming at you attacking how you look. That’s enough to shake someone with even the highest self-esteem. I know if I opened my Twitter account and saw my mentions filled with that kind of hate, it would hurt (and writing this I am likely opening myself up to it. Sigh).
Once Leslie rang the alarm, many people tweeted their support, including Vanessa De Luca, editor-in-chief of the African-American fashion, lifestyle and beauty magazine Essence, actor Kerry Washington, and Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr.
In the wake of all this, Twitter permanently suspended the account of Milo Yiannopoulos, a conservative commentator, for his role in what they say was a campaign to target Leslie with abusive tweets. Yiannopoulos says he did nothing wrong and that “Twitter’s permanent suspension of my account makes a mockery of their claims to be a free speech platform.”
I’m glad Leslie came back to Twitter, though, and here’s why. As Ijeoma Oluo wrote in The Guardian:
This woman, this dark-skinned black woman — who didn’t even have the courtesy to be “conventionally” attractive by their standards — had the audacity to star in an all-female remake of a beloved white-dude film? Of course she must pay by being forced off of the internet — a platform essential to those in public life today.
These abusers know the power of the internet, and it’s access to that power that they hope to consolidate for themselves and deny women like Jones with their abuse. For many of us, our very livelihoods are at stake. My writing career is dependent on the internet. This is the same for many women, people of color, disabled people, and LGBT people who have long been denied access to traditional press.
I don’t know what makes trolls attack so viciously on social media. Is it that they don’t like it that some women — in this case a 6-ft.-tall, larger than size zero dark-skinned black woman — are confident and comfortable with themselves?
Who knows, but now that Leslie has returned and is once again engaging on social media with her fans, maybe she can reach out to help some of the women who aren’t comedians or actors in summer blockbuster movies navigate troll attacks.
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