“Fame comes at a high cost, and Ken Bone has now reached celebrity level of fame, merely for wearing a sweater. Millions of attention-hungry men and women spend their entire lives clawing for a place on the pedestal where Ken sits, a spot handed to him without his want or consent.” – The Ballad Of Ken Bone, Forbes Magazine
It’s funny to me that the dude sitting in the audience at the recent presidential debate, Ken Bone, the new internet sensation in a red sweater, is who made take pause and really think about a few things. Things that were always maybe MILD concerns, but I don’t really let fear or bullying dictate my actions.
And, as a woman, there are plenty of things to worry about when you catch the wrong person’s attention – just a little extra intimidation seems to come with the garden variety harassment when you present, in any way, female.
So many things spring to mind…
Gamergate, women in tech being threatened with rape and murder for suggesting that they’d like to see less misogyny in the tech field and gaming industries…being doxed, i.e.having their personal information dug up and displayed to silence them out of fear from retribution for…what exactly?
Brianna Wu, a sci-fi Action developer, had to flee her home out of fear when rape and death threats rolled in. And then had subsequent claims that she never actually left her house, therefore her rape and murder threats weren’t any big deal and her fears for her family’s safety were invalid somehow.
Jessica Valenti left social media after waking up to rape and death threats against her 5 year old daughter. For being a popular feminist writer that threatened the delicate sensibilities of so-called men’s rights activists. They threatened to rape her 5 year old. Let that one soak in.
I could go on, these are only the first few examples that popped into my head, but the examples are all highly motivational for me to think about my security when writing, commenting, etc. online. They pop into my head, but they haven’t plagued me in any way, not really.
I’ve joked in the past that, if I ever ran for office, I’d finally be reunited with those naked pictures that my now ex-husband posted on the internet in a rage when I left him – they were pictures of us in various sex acts that were supposed to show the world what a whore I was (SEX WITH MY HUSBAND, CAN YOU IMAGINE?).
Those pictures are gone, it seems…no one will fess up to having them stashed away, goddammit, but I know the second I took any public office outside city council, THEY’D COME BACK LIKE TONYA HARDING SEEMS TO WHEN PEOPLE HAVE NEARLY FORGOTTEN ABOUT HER…along with all the other titillating pictures I may have been involved in because CLEARLY I don’t give a fuck. Oh, and that one video.
So these things are in the back of my head, but for some reason…Ken Bone’s newfound attention is what made me sit down and really think about a few things.
All Ken Bone did was go to a fucking debate.
He showed up. And asked a question about energy policies. And BOOM! INSTANT CELEBRITY.
And instant thorough, unforgiving dissection.
Since catching the eye of the entire fucking world, he now has had every single aspect of his life, online and offline, picked apart by bored vultures.
I know, with a quick Google search on Ken Bone that he felt that the Trayvon Martin murder was “legally justified” (while also calling Zimmerman a “big ole shitbird”).
I know that he looked at the leaked nude pictures of Jennifer Lawrence. And, apparently, he liked her butthole?…then he proceeded to say that if she didn’t want people looking at her pictures, maybe she shouldn’t have them out there or some shit.
Apparently he also liked kinky internet forums and had some odd (subjectivity here, folks) sexual fetishes?
Here’s the thing. I’m not defending things Ken Bone said. I don’t feel sorry for his words having people skeeved out, because some of the things he said were, in fact, skeevy – and, if you follow me, you KNOW I’m not throwing stones here. I can be skeevy as fuck. And I’m not terribly sorry about that either.
And it’s almost a little bit of karma, isn’t it, after he blamed Lawrence for her own invasion of privacy for having had the audacity to take these naked pictures in the first place.
But does Ken Bone need punished for existing? For his adorable, portly bod to be the subject of memes? Yes, some very condescending, and some with the same kind of love I have for shirtless little people in sombreros (also condescending, but I love what I love).
It got me to thinking about my style of writing and stirring the pot, for lack of better words, and how, at any second, some dumb dick could decide to retaliate in the only way they know how: From behind his or her keyboard, doing an internet search on me, and digging up dirt that even I HAD forgotten about. And attempting to hurt me with it.
I’m not TOO worried about it for my own self, to be honest. I’ve been doxed before. I’ve had “revenge porn” posted (real and photoshopped).
I’ve been stalked. I’ve received death threats and rape threats and so on and so on…that’s nothing new.
My ex-husband told me that, one of these days, someone was going to walk up to me on the street and punch me in the face. He’s probably not wrong (about that anyway).
What I don’t like is that the stupid fucking Ken Bone phenomenon is what made me sit down and think about everything I’ve ever posted or had posted about me and had to think about what harm could come from it. Harm to me or anyone I love.
I don’t like that this is a concern I have to have.
I don’t like that I felt compelled to have a sit down with my husband, checking in with him regarding how he felt regarding the possibility of my receiving more serious threats than I already have in the past and if he wanted to be “unconnected” from me on Facebook and other social media platforms.
I don’t like that I went through and “unconnected” any visible family relationship link to any family members on Facebook and other websites, or that I made albums with family no longer easily viewable.
Being exposed to the judgment of strangers isn’t new to me. Occasionally I peruse old YouTube videos of my stand-up comedy shows and read the comments, because obviously I hate myself. Not EVERYONE thinks I’m unfunny as fuck, fat and disgusting, but you know…
I’m relatively unknown to most people outside my weird circle.
But what if I write something and it’s published on any grand scale?
What happens when it pisses someone off, as it inevitably will?
Will something I said satirically and/or after an evening of drinking all the whiskey on the planet paint me as a monster?
Will people make threats against my loved ones?
Will my fucking pictures turn up already – seriously, I’d like that, I remember them being flattering – because, on the internet, nothing is actually ever GONE?
Will my bizarre sexual kinks (the ones you don’t already know about) and activity on old forums suddenly be on display?
Will it be my own fault for existing?
For having the audacity to be vulnerable?
While I’ve had these conversations and concerns that I listed in response to Mr. Bone’s (dude, that name IS awesome) newfound fame and subsequent exposure , I have zero intention of ever NOT being who I am. Zero intention of being shut up by threats, intimidated by intimidated men.
I have no intention of changing the subject matter I write about and post on my own social media account – as if it’s possible for me to change anyway (how do people do that even…I’ve never been good at not being me).
By saying that, am I challenging someone to “come at me, bro”? Some would argue that I am.
But I also know I don’t have to say or do shit for something like that to happen.
All I have to do is show up in a sweater. I could be Ken Bone. We all could.