Last week I wrote an opinion piece for SBS that discussed the MP for Dawson, George Christensen, and the fact that his politics and actions made me embarrassed to be from Queensland. This was solely based on our differing political stances. For example, I do not think an MP should make a speech at a Reclaim Australia rally, which is the same kind of rally that attracts white supremacists. But that's just me and my 'leftist agenda' I suppose.
Because Mr Christensen is known as a politician who will engage with people on Twitter, I expected to receive some blowback for the piece. As someone who writes opinion pieces, I have no problem with that. I assumed that he would engage with my (correct) opinions about his politics, and would debate those in a reasoned manner. But sadly for him, and kind of satisfyingly for me, he went on to prove all of my initial points about his character.
Our first interaction came when he tweeted me several times at 1:18 am Wednesday morning, ending in his claim that he would be #movingon
But dear reader, if you are guessing that he didn't actually move on – give yourself a pat on the back for your Sherlock-level deduction skills.
The next morning I was alerted to a post that Christensen had written about me on his official Facebook page a few hours later at 5am. At first I was concerned. Was George okay? Did he need a hug? Did he stay up the entire night not caring about what I said? As it turns out, Mr Christensen didn't care about my opinion so much that he spoke to a Mackay newspaper, who were writing about my op-ed, to inform them how much he didn't care. He then didn't care so much that he linked to the story on Facebook, with the line, "...read more on how much I care about Rebecca's opinion here" - making it even more obvious that he didn't care.
That is all fine, but Mr Christensen then took an extra not-caring step of going into my Facebook profile and selecting a photo of me to include with his rant about the thing he didn't care about.
He is incorrect when he calls me a journalist, but in that photo I am indeed an adult woman wearing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shirt, and apparently George took offence to that. It makes sense, it's not like he would ever dress up in Doctor Who gear or anything like that as an adult male.
Aside from his criticism about my outfit (which he later deleted and said was just a joke), it was perplexing as to why he would go to the effort of including a photo of me at all. Except it's not really perplexing at all, is it? Mr Christensen didn't like what I had to say about him. It seems he wanted to prompt his followers by seeing a photo of me, a fat woman who would dare disagree with him. There is literally no other reason for him to include a photo of me, except that he wanted his supporters to make a point for him. And boy, did they.
Everyone knows the Internet can be an awful place full of people making distasteful comments. But there is something special about the experience of being a woman who commits her opinions to print, and publishes them online. And by special, I mean horrifying. There were the standard intelligent and nuanced comments calling me an idiot, a 'leftard', and people commanding me to leave Queensland. These are comments that writers of all genders get. There were also many, many comments by people jumping on the MP's criticism of my TMNT shirt (hey, that is a sentence I never thought I would write), and even more that went on to say that actually I LOOK like a turtle! Ha! Ha! Somebody let these comedy geniuses write a television show. Bigots Make You Laugh Out Loud, perhaps?
There were comments about how fat I am, how ugly I am, how I eat out of a trough, how I'm a man-hating dyke (only part of that is true), and how I must have shares in a pizza company (as a freelance writer, I wish).
Obvious throughout several of these comments (that would be extremely hurtful if they weren't coming from idiots with terrible taste in MPs) was the line of response from men that you will often find if a woman dares to have an opinion online, if a woman dares to exist in the public eye, or dares to exist in a corporeal form generally. No matter the topic, no matter the opinion, no matter the situation or the look of the woman in question, she will inevitably attract comments about her attractiveness or 'fuckability'. I wrote about a man's ideas and actions as an elected official, and I got comments like this:
Just take that in for a second. I wrote a single opinion piece calling George Christensen out for his views and comments on things like race and religion. This was the response. He posted a photo of me that baited these kind of comments, intentionally or not, but you should understand that there's a good chance this line of thought would have surfaced anyway.
You need to understand that this is a regular occurrence. This isn't an outlier; this is just what happens when women present themselves and their opinions to the world. Once I saw that he had posted a photo of me, I would have actually been incredibly shocked if this kind of thing didn't come up. I am fat, so they commented about how unfuckable and disgusting I was. If I were thin and pretty, they would have called me an airhead and commented about how fuckable I was. It makes no difference. And in fact, this is mild. This isn't people threatening to rape me, or telling me I'm too ugly to rape, or threatening to kill me, which are also common occurrences. This is just the reality that women in particular have to live with every day if they want to share their thoughts with the world.
It's really easy to say "avoid the comments", or not to read the messages and emails and tweets or listen to the abuse. But that's not good enough. We shouldn't make it easy for everyone else to remain blissfully ignorant while we have these kinds of comments thrown at us. I want everyone to see what it takes, and I want everyone to help us handle the burden. And in turn, I want to know how much worse women of colour or trans women cop it, so I can support them.
So far Mr Christensen has given no response to the horrible abusive messages his supporters have posted. He hasn't deleted the post, or taken down my photo. He hasn't apologised, deleted abusive comments, or reprimanded anyone. He is allowing the vile and misogynistic comments to go on unchecked. Even if he didn't intend for that to be the outcome, he is now implicit in it. And so yes, I remain embarrassed to be from the same state as him. In actual fact, I'm embarrassed to be from the same universe as him.
More From SBS Comedy:
- More comedy about horrible people on the Internet right here 'Let's all have a laugh at the men's rights movement'
- Want to see dogs in miniature WW2 planes? Of course you do 'Dog Squadron'
- Eleanor Robertson tells you 'How the Internet works!'
- JR Hennessy talks about someone horrible in 'Martin Shrkeli: Act like a sociopath douche and be rewarded for it'