Feeding the Trolls

Dear Dategirl, You're a cunt—let me tell you why. If you'd like to have a debate on why you're a cunt, I can do a dialogue with you. If you'd like to try to figure out if I'm a great guy or a dickhead, please, let's play. I might let you win but doubt that you'll even make it to first base. I've read your shit and you kind of suck. In fact, you pretty much suck. Maybe I'll let you lick my nut sack but it'll cost you.Take care,

Tom (Yeah, I'm in the military.)

You can salute my cock.

Oh, Tom, you sweet talkin' solja man! You sure know how to turn a gal's head! Bustin' out the c-word—you scamp! Just like I don't normally run overly nice letters, I rarely print hate mail—but boy-oh-boy, do I get some. And lately, because I'm getting more high-profile work, it's just about quadrupled in volume. It's not just me. Pretty much every woman I know who puts herself even slightly out there—whether she blogs, writes, or performs—fields this brand of crap. I cannot even imagine what truly famous people deal with, but then they have assistants and publicists to shield them from it. The Internet is obviously a wonderful thing, but it's also a thick screen for dumbshits to hide behind. We get called all sorts of names—generally disparaging our looks, weight (even the skinny broads get this), and sexual proclivities, both real and imagined. People feel free to say things online they'd never in a million years say to your face. Sometimes, as it did with a good friend of mine, this hateful crap progresses into stalking. He started by e-flirting and then progressed to threatening, wildly vacillating between the two, sometimes within the course of a few hours. He traveled 1,000 miles to stand outside her building and stare up at her apartment. The police did nothing. Luckily he went back home without further incident, but he still writes her every single day. A couple years ago, another lady blogger, Kathy Sierra (headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users), was subject to such intense cyber-bullying (including death threats and having personal information like her Social Security number posted publicly) that she quit blogging and making public appearances altogether. A cute young local TV news reporter I met told me that her station got so sick of dealing with harassing e-mails sent to their female on-air talent that now anything that comes to their general inbox is routed straight into the trash. As for me, after collecting an inbox full of vitriol (including a death threat), I wondered what kind of person gets so wound up by a stranger that they fire off hateful screeds. One day I decided to find out. Normally hate mail comes unsigned, but a couple weeks ago I got a note from someone brave (or stupid) enough to include his real name—and it's inevitably a he. This particular charmer wrote: "Must suck to be you. Handing out date advice when you are the girl that guys 'settle' for; or ending up with after a night of drunken debauchery." He went on to call me fat and ugly and ended with some Jesus spiel. I then Googled him to see what I could find. A couple of clicks revealed this guy's Web site—including a photo of himself. Far from the avenging Christian Johnny Depp lookalike you might imagine, my hate-mailer was actually a dead ringer for dumpy, dick-flick auteur Kevin Smith. In the name of research, I wrote back, wondering how he felt justified casting aspersions on anyone else's appearance when he himself was such an unattractive porker. His reply: "I know I am a bit overweight, but I am not the one writing dating advice." Double sigh with a side of eyeroll. I didn't write this to elicit sympathy. I really don't care if some basket case thinks I'm ugly or a cunt or a slut or whatever else. I wrote it to show the normal readers out there what kind of crap pretty much every woman (and a lot of men too) who is even remotely in the public eye is putting up with. dategirl@seattleweekly.com

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