Say It With Your Chest: Zerlina Maxwell and Accountability

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Originally posted at Ashleigh, not Ashley
Progressive commentator Zerlina Maxwell got wrapped up in the hellfire of internet trolls after she made the oh so crazy suggestion that women aren’t responsible for rape prevention and that we should actually hold rapist accountable during a guest spot on Sean Hannity:
“I think that the entire conversation is wrong. I don’t want anybody to be telling women anything. I don’t want men to be telling me what to wear and how to act, not to drink. And I don’t, honestly, want you to tell me that I needed a gun in order to prevent my rape. In my case, don’t tell me if I’d only had a gun, I wouldn’t have been raped. Don’t put it on me to prevent the rape.”

All jokes and sarcasm aside, I completely agree with Maxwell and applaud her for taking that stand. Sadly, everyone didn’t see it that way. I present to you, exhibit A:

And that was one tweet out of thousands. I didn’t find out about this until a friend of mine brought it to my attention and suggested that people send her a few kind words. I shot a tweet her way but I saw a few comments (yes, I was dumb enough to look to Black Twitter for feedback) that suggested that Maxwell should just bear it. Normally, I’m all for letting people look foolish on their own but dammit, where do we draw the line?

There’s a difference between saying something to merely get a rise out of someone and suggesting that grave bodily harm be done to them or actually threatening to do grave bodily harm to them. The internet gives a lot of people keyboard courage to say stuff they wouldn’t dream of saying to a person’s face and we accept that because they’re just a troll, right?

As a black woman, this really gets to me because we are told we have to be strong and shoulder everything that is thrown at us. We have to grin and bear the horrible names. When we’re assaulted, we’re told to keep quiet because it’ll make the black community look bad. Black women are often left defenseless and when we stand up for ourselves, we’re punished because mules aren’t supposed to speak. Their only job is to carry the load placed on their backs. We’re not supposed to protest, get angry or do anything that might suggest we actually have an opinion under our weaves, long finger nails and whatever else people think black women like to wear. We’re certainly not supposed to care about a few thousand threats.

Maybe this is just wishful thinking on my part but there needs to be a way that people can be held accountable for the stuff they say whether it is online or in person. People go on and on about people being too politically correct or too sensitive but in reality, they just want to be able to say what the hell they want without any consequences.

To be honest, I could argue that rape apologists use the same logic.

Don’t want to be targeted? Don’t speak out in a public forum.

Don’t want to be raped? Better not wear that mini-skirt.

You got internet threats? Well, that comes with the territory on the internet.

You got raped? Well, what were you doing at the time? You could have prevented that.

When will we hold people accountable?

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