UPDATE: Gfrorer’s account has been reinstated but I’ll leave this up as a cautionary tale.
Twitter has had a harassment problem for a long time. Like, a loooooooong time. Something about the impersonal format gives free reign to any and all disgusting behavior. I myself—along with several other women in comics—was the target of a troll who made all kinds of creepy threats (including rape) for years. It took many complaints to get him removed.
Which is what makes what happened to Julia Gfrorer so annoying.
Grrofer is an outstanding cartoonist and comics theorist, perhaps best known for Flesh and Bone, but also her many recent collaborations with Sean T. Collins. She goes by the handle @thorazos, and Twitter has suspended her account after she lashed out at some of her Twitter harassers. I wrote to Gfrorer and she explained what happened.
For context: Celine Loup had received several comments from a random guy (@AngryAsAllFuck) questioning her assertion that women often receive rape threats from strangers online. She and I were swapping some jokes at his expense. Another random dude (@angrrytweets) inserted himself into that conversation to suggest that violent feminist rhetoric like ours is the real cause of rape. I snapped back, “I’ll rape YOU if you @ me again.” I’m not proud of this comment, it was snappish and glib, but it was obviously meant to draw attention to the ridiculousness of his remark, and not at all a genuine threat. We hear this kind of garbage so much from misogynists online–that we’re responsible for any anger and violence that results from our activism–and it’s disgusting, tiresome, and nonsensical. You can take a look at both of these guys’ recent activity (@angrrytweets has since been deactivated but you can still see his mentions) to get a sense of what they’re about–they both look like dirt-common search-and-troll MRA activists to me.
The next day I was followed by several dummy accounts around the same time–no followers, no tweets, gibberish bios, similar names (@AlexandraMerton, @AmyBotteler, @AmySpebbington, @AlexaDaubernon, @AnaFollon, etc), all following the same ~30 people. I thought that was weird, but again, I don’t know whether it’s related.
I woke up to find my account suspended on January 1. It looks like it took effect just before one AM.
After so many people have suffered from trolls for months, it’s particularly galling that the Twitter axe fell so swiftly on Gfrorer after one facetious (if angry) tweet.
HOWEVER, for context, Twitter has been working to try to get its harassment policy under control, with new guidelines installed just last week.
The microblogging site announced Wednesday that it restructured its terms of service with stronger wording and emphasis by reordering certain paragraphs.
“As part of our continued efforts to combat abuse, we’re updating the Twitter Rules to clarify what we consider to be abusive behaviour and hateful conduct. The updated language emphasizes that Twitter will not tolerate behavior intended to harass, intimidate, or use fear to silence another user’s voice,” Twitter’s safety and trust director Megan Cristina wrote in a company blog post announcing the change.
Twitter’s new terms of service more explicitly bans “hateful conduct,” which is defined as promoting violence or directly threatening or attacking “other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease.”
These changes are long overdue, and while Gfrorer’s tweet was nothing to be proud of, she was clearly on the receiving end of the kind of abuse that the new guidelines are meant to stop. So it’s kind of like the kid who gets bullied all the time, finally fits back and is the one collared for starting the fight.
Many people have been tweeting to get Gfrorer’s account reinstated, but I’m guessing it will take a while for Twitter to investigate or do whatever they do in their titanium sealed bunker.
in the meantime, perhaps show your support by going to Gfroer’s store and buying some of her excellent comics.
On a related note, Carrie Fisher also recently lashed out at her Twitter complainers. Fisher is a brilliant, beautiful woman who will live on forever through her creations…and a few extra lines and pounds don’t change that and in fact are merely a testament to th human journey we all experience. Todd Alcott wrote an excellent response to this.
I know that putting yourself out in public does put yourself on the line for trolls, bullys and other assorted human dregs, it does come with the territory. But that doesn’t mean we should allow, tolerate or condone such behavior.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.