Today’s conversation guest is Gaby Dunn, who’s work you might know from Buzzfeed or her show Just Between Us. The lead up to this conversation started with a discussion of #yesallwomen (before #gamergate, which only brings more eyes to the issue of women being harassed and threatened, online and off), it bled into dad jokes, which then led to Gaby doing us all a favor and explaining why NOT ALL MEN is such a shitty thing to say, and why mansplaining is so maddening. That led us to the internet and to unwelcome advances in Facebook. We pick up there.
ELEVATED TRAIN: Is it terrifying being a woman on twitter or generally on the internet? I’ve have some people say insane shit to me, like they know where I live, etc. when i’ve spoken out about gun control, but it’s so rare for me. That shit happens to you all the time right?
GABY DUNN: Oh, yeah. It does.
How do you honestly, humanly, deal with that?
I mean, I am pretty open about stuff so people find that to be an invitation. I used to cry about it when I was younger but my skin hardened. I mean, there’s a guy on all my YouTube videos who says he pretends I’m his girlfriend.
Oh, yeah. He will describe in the comments our life together.
What kind of life do you guys have together? Are you happy in his mind?
In his mind!
Do you go on hikes and stuff?
Yeah, I’m a very obedient girlfriend to him apparently. I’m probably not as scared as I should be, I’m pretty defiant about it.
I was asking only to clarify if it was weird sexual stuff or just rote descriptions of the mundane lives you lead. Like does he describe when go grocery shopping together or when you get in fights about not knowing where the salad bowls go in the cupboard.
A fun mix of both!
He wants to make sure that there is a strong emotional AND sexual balance in your psychotic made-up comment section relationship.
Yes. Here, hold on…
It’s dark. This is one. “In case anyone was wondering who Gaby.was having sex with… it was me. She came like 10 times. I have to create a false reality where I do actually go out with Gaby Dunn because I still live with my parents. I take massive amounts of dissociatives like ketamine so I never really get depressed when I realize my parents still drive me places and I will never get with a girl as beautiful as Gaby. But I can dream.” These are on my work videos for Buzzfeed. IT’S SO DARK. But I also get Facebook messages or emails to me directly.
Yeah. I have… I’d say 5 messages a day, in my inbox from people showing me their dick or saying I’m a cunt or some sexual something or other. And I’m like, not even known, really.
I honestly don’t know how women are able to deal with that, to have that constant barrage of dicks and threats and violence thrown at you.
We’re used to it, and you don’t even think of it that way, though. I mean, I’m just like ‘Yes I walked to the store.’ I wouldn’t mention the two dudes who yelled stuff at me. That’s just normal. Women are so steeped in shame surrounding what they did to ask for it, or not being smart enough to avoid that they don’t want to seem weak, even to other women. That’s how it keeps happening.
[Editor’s note: The conversation was suspended for work reasons, and we pick it up a few days later, after Gaby had sent me some screen grabs of Facebook messages.]
So I picked a few favs from the messages you sent and we’ll go one by one and deconstruct them.
I’m going to block out the names, but feel like we’ll be protected because who the fuck would own up to these.
Exactly, and if you block the names, who cares? I used a dick pic in a video, with the name blocked.
Oh for sure.
Did you request said dick pic or was that from a random as well?
No no from a random!
For fucks sake.
The dick pics that are for me, I treasure and don’t share. I would never betray that beautiful trust. But randoms, whatever.
Do you print them out and put them in a memory jar?
Yes, that’s what I call my vagina. The memory jar.
Here’s the first one, and it’s the most incendiary
Yeah I have NO idea what he’s referring to. People find my articles and assume they were written THAT day and talk to me like I must know.
He came in hot with ‘cunt’.
Yeah, that’s a good one. It reminds me of Game of Thrones where Asha says, “They call us cunt as an insult but that’s the only part of a woman they value.” And yes I quoted the books.
You fucking nerd.
It’s a good quote!
It is. I’m on your side anything Game of Thrones related. He also admonishes you from behind a keyboard about your admonishing whatever the fuck culture he’s referring to from behind a keyboard. Is there a recurring trend of that disconnect in these messages?
There’s a huge disconnect. I honestly don’t know what makes someone react that way to an article on the Internet. Like, it’s the Internet. Just close it? Why look for my FB and then write that? Why?
If my uncles are to be believed shouting about things on Facebook will solve it. Now this next one.
I LOVE THIS ONE. Oh god, I love it.
He’s using so many big words!
So condescending! And the use of my first name, like we’re friends!
You guys are such good friends! You’ve been having this argument forever! Like the movie posters where you are standing back to back pointing a thumb back at the other. ‘We don’t agree on everything, but that doesn’t stop us from being BEST FRIENDS’.
Misogyny is in our DNA, babe. Sorry! *puts on fedora, rides off into the sunset*
Dude is using a computer in a first world country to let you know that humans CANNOT evolve.
Like I’m gonna go, “Ah! My work is useless! Guess I should stop.”
Talk to me about this one.
No introduction. No context. So formal! He just wants to let me know he’s watching. He’s watching and he’s grateful. Oh. Uh. Thanks?
He’s #thankful and #blessed. This guy is the misogynist equivalent of a new mom on social media.
I just don’t understand what he’s looking for? What am I supposed to reply?
This sounds like a wedding vow so I’m assuming he’s expecting you to respond ‘of course! Of course I’ll marry you!’
The other thing is like, I do comedy videos. I write. Why is it always about what I look like? I could make a video about anything and the comments would just be like, “You’re hot.” Listen buddy, I know I’m hot.
‘I’ve passed by mirrors before motherfucker you don’t need to tell me this.’
You’re not telling me anything new. Now did you like the video?
I DON’T KNOW YOU So many emojis! Why are we laughing?!
What happened here that was funny?
“Miss Cute Gaby”.
Excuse me sir, IT’S MS. CUTE GABBY.
This is like when my cousin texts me and he’s like ‘hey there lol’. Literally nothing has been said that could even be misconstrued as funny but we are lol ing.
How old is your cousin?
When he would do that he was like 16.
Does he think you’re cool?
I don’t know. Probably then. Probably not anymore because he’s like 21 now and I’m a dad.
Dude, a guy on Saturday night texted me (I’d met him once) and said “Tinder is boring, what are you doing?” I was like….”what” and he wrote that he was on Tinder but he only got a response from a “pre-op transsexual” so what was I up to? I didn’t reply and he said, “I guess my Tinder story didn’t do it for you.” It’s a nightmare out here.
I’d flush my own phone down the fucking toilet just to get rid of that message.
I wanna be like, “It was more the transphobia that did it.”
If we took this dude at his literal word he approaches you, says ‘Hey Miss Cute Gaby’, then winks at you. He then lets you know he just wants to say hi, laughs for no reason, and then makes a scared face after giving you three thumbs up?
Does he have a third thumb?
All the emotions…
Then he says “Peace.” and, I’m assuming, just walks away.
If you saw that happen on the street you’d never fucking walk down that street again.
I’d call 911. He’s having a seizure.
*winky face emoticon*
Did you just wink at the 911 operator?
Yeah, I’m a dirtbag.
“It’s a nightmare out there.” That’s what the 911 operator is saying in an interview with another actor’s ego driven website. “I can’t even get 911 calls without some dirtbag hitting on me.”
911? Hello? This is Gaby. Some guy just texted me that he wasn’t having luck on Tinder and wanted to know what I was doing. What do you mean this isn’t an emergency?!
HE WAS TRANSPHOBIC!
What the hell is 911 for anyway? WHAT DO I PAY TAXES FOR?
“Oh, tinder complaints are a 311? Oh, okay. Sorry!” Side note; If you were going to title this conversation, what would you title it?
“Kill All Men”
That’s a lot.
Yeah. But I do though maybe?
Headline: ‘We both agreed that this is incendiary, but Gaby Dunn wants to kill all men.’
My dad asked if he could live in the matriarchy and I was like, maybe. Do you only want to do three?
Okay, this one for good measure.
WHAT IS THAT.
That is a very professional lead-in.
He just bought a prosumer camera at best buy and is now a photographer.
Sure, let me just go to your house, bro…
Should I arrive topless or did you just want to get there organically?
I’ll lock my cell phone in the trunk of my car too, just to make sure we aren’t disturbed.
I also love that sometimes men think because I modeled, that invalidates whatever I’m saying. That’s lovely too.
Jesus lord. All we’ve stumbled on in our conversation is that everything is terrible. It’s like we started an ‘it gets better’ video but as we were talking we realized it never does.
Nope! That’s why I’ve embraced nihilism… WHATEVER~
That must be exhausting.
Oh man. Men love that movie.
BECAUSE IT’S AMAZING.
Also, like it kind of helps me not to care. I think they can only get you, if you let it bother you. “I saw you in your underwear!” “Oh. Okay. So?” Then they’re like, but that’s not the reaction I wanted! Like bullies in school They want the reaction.
They do, and I have a rule about never engaging with trolls, but I don’t have to deal with this constant barrage of negativity and attacks / unwanted advances based solely on my appearance. And it has to be exhausting just to ignore it.
I don’t always ignore it, obviously. But I’ve found “so?” to be really powerful.
Let’s wrap up on this: What is your best advice for women who get these innundated with messages like this?
Do whatever makes you feel best. I like outing people or RTing, but sometimes they do just want attention. You have to gauge it. But don’t feel ashamed. It’s happening to us all and they thrive on shame. They want you to be embarrassed, when they should be embarrassed.
That was a really earnest way to wrap this up. Seems like we should go out on a joke.