Nora Purmort should have autonomy over her face. And sometimes that face will project emotions that she is experiencing inside of her head. And those emotions are her own, and will not change because some douchebag asked her to brighten up, for his sake, because it's hard for him to get turned on by her when she's all frowny-faced.
These truths seem self-evident, but they are not, and so beloved local blogger/tweeter/feminist/commentator Nora Purmort has used Twitter and, now, a near-viral post on Medium to educate menfolk on how not to approach a woman on the street.
Purmort's blog post was essentially a response to a response. As she explains in the piece, she had been working the booth for Still Kickin', the nonprofit dedicated to helping families beset by some sort of sudden tragedy and in need of financial assistance. The organization sells T-shirts with that upbeat, hopeful message, in honor of the shirt Purmort's late husband, Aaron, had worn at the time he learned of his brain tumor. (It was Purmort's touching response to that episode, launching the blog "My Husband's Tumor," that first brought her into the public consciousness.)
Clearly, the mission of Still Kickin', which is currently raising money for a woman who was raped at knifepoint by an ex-boyfriend, leads to some heavy conversations. Purmort observes that she was still feeling those same emotions — about her struggle, and that of other people — when some drunk guy walked up to her and told her that he had been watching her. You should smile, he told Purmort, because she doesn't look nice when she's not smiling.
How Purmort handled the drunk guy's clumsy attempt at flirting stayed between them. But her public response was simple and blunt: A tweeted photo of Purmort's not-quite-smiling face, covered with the words: "FUCK YOU IF YOU TELL A WOMAN TO SMILE."
Thus released, her message inevitably drew in social media trolls of all stripes, including the pretend-nice-guy who is actually a creepy-creep-guy.
"Is it against the rules to want to see a woman happy?" asked one guy.
Answer: No, dick. But it's against the rules to tell her to be happy for your benefit. Want to make a woman happy? Try doing something that might actually make her happy. In your case, try leaving the immediate vicinity. See if that cheers her up.
This being the internet, things got much worse pretty quickly, and more than one guy threatened Purmort with violence. One, who actually goes by the name "Rape Radberry," managed to live up to that handle, writing: "If you want a woman to smile, just rape her. Duh."
Purmort writes that she wanted to come right back at them. But she was also a bit afraid of the consequences, because unlike Rape Radberry and his cohort, she writes and lives online under her real identity.
All of the essay is worth reading, but she delivers the message in its most distilled form when she describes the seeming helplessness in the face of such mindless crowd-fueled male rage:
Don’t react, one of their female followers told me, if they sense a weakness they will shred you.Purmort ends the post with a big, fat photo of her Twitter bully, whom, she writes, should not be allowed to live on in anonymity. He looks like this.
Well, here is my weakness: I’m alive and I’m a person. I don’t like when assholes tell me to smile, I don’t like being told to be quiet and I don’t like having to turn the other cheek because strangers on the internet could doxx me or light me up all day long because they don’t like big mean feminists.
The same way I don’t like to be afraid of rape and violence, because only 3% of rapists are ever convicted, because misogyny is real.
I want to feel safe in my body and in my corner of the internet. I want that for you, too.
The whole thing is enough to make you feel like crying, especially if you are a woman. Or know one. Or don't think they should be threatened with rape online.
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