Monday, June 11, 2012

Sherri Shepherd Responds to Rape Threats

'Sherri Shepherd 2' photo (c) 2010, Alexander Vaughn - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Most of the time that I write or think about Shepherd, it is usually about some ish she said.  Over the years, Shepherd has said so many things that are offensive; however, no woman, regardless of the reason, should be threatened with violence and rape, as Sherri recently was on twitter. I had to wade through a ton of nasty tweets to find the tweet by @DacloneKiller which it began it all.

This tweet was made on the 6th and @DaCloneKiller has gone on to slut shame and fat shame Shepherd. His twitter feed is the definition of online troll.   
@DaCloneKiller You think I should be raped in a back alley?" she wrote yesterday. "Let's see if the police agree w you & I took a pic of your tweet...I'M FILING A POLICE REPORT. SO TELL ME NOW WHAT SHOULD BE DONE W ME."
And then again, to the offender himself, "I am going 2 file a police report 4U threatening me. And so help me God, when I find out where U live, charges will follow."

"I'm tired of folk thinking they can hide behind a celeb Avi & type anything they want to you w/o consequences b/c they can't be seen COWARDS," she added. I'm not a little 19 year olds... I'm a grown @%$ woman... seriously you want to threaten me? I'm on my way to the police @DaCloneKiller."

A few hours later, Shepherd tweeted, "Just returned from filing a police report for this online harassment nonsense. I will be pursuing this legally. The police said @Twitter has to be subpoenaed for release of @DaCloneKiller's information. I will be pursuing this #cowardshidebehindavis." (source)
I really do hope that Sherri follows through and has this man charged.   The perceived anonymity of the internet has given rise to much abusive behaviour and there can be no doubt that marginalized people are largely on the receiving end of this abuse.  @DaCloneKiller is busy trying to justify his threat by claiming that this is nothing but a publicity stunt and there are several people in his time line suggesting that she is blowing this out of proportion, even as he escalates the attacks against her.


Writing for Clutch Magazine, Danielle C. Belton had the following to say:
Naturally, getting rid of online stalkers, trolls, and other abusive types broadcasting from their mother’s basement, proclaiming themselves Internet heroes is easier said than done. While it may have been satisfying for Shepherd initially, she has fallen for the ultimate troll trap.

But I know what you’re thinking, “But Danielle! Bullying is bad! We should stand up to bullies!” And that’s true, we should … within reason. There’s a big difference between joining some campaign to stop violence against women or children or violence against young men perpetrated by other men and getting yourself wrapped up in a cyber-war with someone who will very much enjoy this war a lot more than you.

As someone who has dealt with their fair share of cyber stalkers, trolls and weirdoes, here is how you de-escalate a trolling situation by denying them the thing they want so badly – to get into your head.
First, I don't believe it is ever okay to be critical of how a woman handles threatening language and in this case rape threats.  As someone who spends a lot of time online, I know that feeding a troll can give them validation and encourage escalation; however, this man threatened to rape her PUBLICLY.  Sheppard has 437,892 followers and though I don't see her as a role model, she very well could have young girls and women watching how she deals with this situation.

We are taught as women to ignore and internalize these incidents as normal or the result of some failure on our part.  Had she kept this a private matter, it would have been yet another incident of some man verbally abusing a woman for the world to see.  Men who threaten violence expect our silence and they expect our fear - this is especially true when it comes to the internet, because they view their behaviour as consequence free, due to the veil of anonymity.

Shepherd isn't the first woman to receive this sort of treatment and because of patriarchy, we know that she won't be the last. Women have been told that if we cannot handle the heat that we should stay off the internet.  This assumes that we don't have the right to take up space, and that we don't have the right to a hostile free environment.  Demanding accountability for those who threaten violence, stalk and use abusive language will not end the freedom that we all associate with the internet, but it will make it a safer space for all to use and inhabit.

I think that Shepherd did the right thing by letting this man know that he crossed the line.  He may have gotten a cheap thrill from the attention, but should she follow through with legal action, it is Shepherd and not this internet troll who will have the last laugh. Her response will further encourage women to speak out when they are attacked in this manner. Sherri does not to engage in an internet war for attention and the fact that this was even suggested, speaks to how much we have come to see this behavior as acceptable on the internet.