And I thought spring of 2019 was bonkers.
COVID-19 was on my radar the last time I posted an entry here, but it wasn’t the kind of thing that was on my radar that way. And oh how things have changed: we’re now in a lockdown in my state — as well we should be — and folks who aren’t used to being at home 24/7 are beginning to crawl up the walls.
Personally, life is pretty much unchanged from my cancer year. The surgery to reroute around the nerve damage in my upper left quadrant is obviously non-essential, so I here I sit, Lady McFloppyArm (of the Northeastern McFloppyArms, doncha know), typing one-handed until things are a bit less Wild West, medically speaking.
But ohhhh man are some people bugging out.
The division in the Star Wars fandom brought about by The Rise of Skywalker has been compounded by COVID-19 lockdowns.
Obviously this is a thoroughly unscientific theory based on observations made in my own bubble of existence, but if you don’t like what I’m saying, you’re free to move along. And that goes to my point in writing this: the same principle should apply in places like Twitter. The Twitterverse is a vast sea full of open communities, chains, and cobwebs linked by common interests. Any other users — whether friend or stranger — are just an @ away.
And therein lies the problem: anyone is at constant risk of being dogpiled. Like any evolutionary ecosystem, it’s not the kindest that thrive (and Twitter’s wildly uneven “moderation” is certainly no help).
So as we speak up, along come swarms of angry, toxic, patriarchal voices trying to shout us down. The impulse to be senselessly cruel comes from a fundamental insecurity in someone’s psyche, but knowing that fact when you’re on the receiving end of things doesn’t make the vitriol hurt any less.
This week we witnessed what happened to a talented fanimator (whom I’m honestly afraid to name because I don’t want to create a lilypad trail back to them) when an anti made a “reaction” video to their work. Around that same time, one of my tweets got posted on the @/sh*treylossay account, and I’ll admit my heart did a bit of a two-step when I realized that only them blacking out my handle saved me from a similar fate.
Time and again, female content creators and fans are being harassed into leaving social media because they're too tired to keep fighting against seemingly overwhelming odds.
Being a woman on Twitter — or anyone who self-identifies as a Reylo — means that you constantly exist in hostile territory. The ocean is dark and deep, and anything from a snide comment to full-on doxxing are perils that we risk for simply being.
So what do we do?
First, we have to confront a simple fact: this isn’t a fight we can win through tweets. There will be no victory over antis, no point when the people who go out of their way to shit on others will question their life choices. Certainly not from people they already get off on demonizing, more voices from the void that they demean as a way of forming their own identities.
Like Palpatine, they choose to interact with hate. Like Luke of ROTJ, we choose to interact with love.
To engage with Reylo antis directly by tweeting back at them just fuels the fire. Good attention, bad attention — it’s all the same to them. The block button is our best friend, but even that only goes so far. You can’t wall out the whole ocean.
Dune — which hits theaters in December — keeps circling in my mind (SPOILER ALERT!) thanks to the gom jabbar. Are you a human, a person who’s capable of interacting on a higher level, or are you a beast, still ruled by impulse instead of intellect?
If DLF doesn't make space for us in the Star Wars fandom, calling out the toxic dudebros who harass us for liking a canonical ship in their own movie, we need to create our own spaces safe from that kind of cyberassault.
The only solution I can see right now is for us to circle the proverbial wagons. We need privately moderated communities, because as awful as gatekeeping sounds, we need to build ourselves a home in the wilderness. A place where we can be safe, and not rely on “objective” moderation that is slow, unresponsive, and not versed in the context that defines our shared fandoms and sex-positive environments.
It's not too late to make 2020 the year of #hopepunk.
Love for our friends is our greatest strength, not a weakness.
Help will always be available to those who need it.
The spark that is the Reylobellion lives on.
These are the truths we live by.