When I published my memoir about growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness, I was shocked at the response it received from the public.
I expected people to have issues with irreverence toward religion, or maybe the writing itself, the structure, the topic. As a first-time author, I struggled with how best to tell my story. I was uncertain that I’d chosen the best path. I expected harsh literary criticism. I didn’t expect people to be so fucking dumb.
As it turns out, people are really bad at reading.
"As a 46 year old mother of four I could not take my eyes off of the young woman running from one empty solution to the next. I was getting depressed half way through the book and was tempted to abandon it but thought that the end would bring some resolution to the headlong manner in which the heroine threw herself from one frying pan into another. I was wrong."
This particular review gave me one-star because she didn’t like the main character. That would be me, by the way. My childhood. One star to my childhood! Another person said if they ever met me in real life, they’d punch me in face.
I was confused. If you don’t like the main character, doesn’t that mean I did a good job of conveying the story? My writing must have been pretty decent in order to make this person so upset, no?
In my mind, I had written a completely open book about mistakes I made as a young adult. My plan was to allow people to view all my mistakes and make their own decision as to what was caused by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and what was just normal teen angst.
As for hating me, who isn’t detestable as a 16-year-old? I thought it was obvious that I couldn’t possibly still be the same awful teen I was writing about. After all, the obnoxious teenager I was profiling would never have admitted any of her mistakes, she would have sugarcoated everything. I thought people who figure this out. They didn’t.
People hated me. They hated the character, the character was me, they hated me. I was accused of being proud of the mistakes I made. I was accused of blaming the Jehovah’s Witnesses and not taking any responsibility for my life.
I had assumed that people this stupid don’t read books. Oddly, they do. But I don’t know if that’s for the best. For all the Reading Rainbow feel-good talk about how people should shut off the television and read, I have to admit that maybe they shouldn’t. Maybe some people should just leave books the fuck alone.
I sat in the kitchen last week, tears streaming down my cheeks as my roommate explained to me that I may never get a job again. I’ve been speaking my mind on Street Carnage, and this is simply not done in 2012. Saying what you think? That’s so 1980. Who do you think you are? Hunter S. Thompson was an idealist who shot himself. Christopher Hitchens had enough money not to care if people hated him. You’re not even fit to lick their corpses. Why do you think you get to speak your mind? Don’t you know what they do to people who speak their mind?
"What you’re doing isn’t healthy," my roommate said. "Fringe media is great and all, but it doesn’t pay the bills. I’m just afraid you’re hurting yourself in the long run."
Don’t be surprised if they Google you and don’t like what they see.
Do you have a fake Facebook profile? You should. Do you have a Twitter just for potential employers? You’ll need that, too. Linked In? Of course you should link to that. Do you want to eat dinner? Have a baby? Buy shoes? Then you’d better smile and be agreeable. You’d better be a feminist. You’d better shake your head at the right evil people and nod your head at the right good ones.
Fifty Shades of Grey, my asshole. There are no fucking shades of grey. There is only black and white, liberal and conservative, good and evil. Pleased to meet you. I look forward to having you block me on Facebook. I look forward to your email outlining everything that is wrong with me.
Lately, I get emails like this one:
I like you Kyria, but I disagree. And I think your take has a lot to do with the fact that you’re still beating yourself up about stuff from your past. But that’s just my weepy, whiny, lefty, co-dependent, caretaker 50 cents! I’m all for the "honest critique" of anything, but I feel like you’ve been really unnecessarily harsh about women’s issues lately, just to prove that you can be, which is fine. But. Yeah."
or this one:
This is what bothers me about you, Kyria… I personally don’t like the neo-con politics that you’ve recently gotten involved in and maybe I sound like several other people who’ve messaged you or deleted you in the past year but who knows? Maybe we’re all sensing the same thing. It seems like neo-cons are a bunch of self righteous pricks who think they’re better than every liberal on the planet. While it’s sad that someone would start despising someones politics so much they would want to avoid the other person, it happens.
Some of your reactions and comments make others view you as a bully. I’m not going to say that it’s a true reflection of who you are, but that is how you make them feel. Their words not mine. This is the impression you give. Disagree with you, and she’ll slam you… Could be you don’t care what a portion of people think. Your business. But now you know it.
That’s right, I’m a neocon and a bully and a fraud. I’m a hipster racist. The only neocon who voted for Obama and marched in a demonstration against the Iraq War. Or maybe I’m a neo-neocon, with a kinder, gentler hawk on my shoulder. I support gay marriage, which makes me a homophobe. I’m in a relationship with a Puerto Rican, which means I’m a big fucking racist. I can’t be an atheist because it takes faith to be an atheist! Underneath it all, I really am a feminist. I’m just trying to prove a point just because I can.
And rape jokes are never, ever, funny.
But Kyria. The "right people" will get what you are doing!
Of course, there will always be the right people, the ones who get what you are doing and respect you for speaking your mind. But they aren’t the ones with jobs to give. The people with the jobs are the wrong people. The uptight people. The safe people. Did I mention they have the jobs?
There’s a reason other people aren’t writers. There’s a reason 99% of people are quiet and desperate and pathetic and fake. Because they like food and money and jobs. I never understood what people meant when they said I was "brave" for writing my book.
Last night, I had a nightmare that no one understood what I was saying. I was standing in a kitchen, helping someone cook and having a conversation about the ingredients. The next thing I knew, no one would talk to me. I ran to them and begged them to tell me what I’d done or said, but no one would tell me. This was my nightmare. This is how I feel all the time.
But THIS is what should outrage you. THIS is what you should make memes for. The fact is, a woman can’t speak her mind in 2012. We are silenced and put in a perfect little liberal corporate box. We need to know our place, and our place is not to question. Our place is to link to Jezebel articles on Facebook. Our place is to be perfect little feminists.
I’d rather be on my hands and knees scrubbing a kitchen floor. At least then I’d be free to have my own thoughts.
Where are the fucking feminists when we actually need them? Oh yeah, they’re the ones telling women to shut up.
So let’s all stop writing. Maybe when we all stop saying what we think, they’ll realize how much they needed someone to hate.