This morning, my father texted to tell me that he is looking forward to my next Chills column.
I sat back in dread.
I had planned to use this second piece to dive into the kind of work I have missed doing (while doing other things at NYT) — reporting on human rights violations around the world, all while pulling back the curtain on how the journalism gets made. But…writer’s block.
It’s not something I deal with for the most part but, as I told my dad, I feel depleted. The more I thought about it, I realized I should just write about that then: what it has been like to have my name splashed across newspapers around the world, and thousands of people offering both hate and love all day long, day after day, in every i- and e-place possible.
Messages have been pouring in over Twitter, Facebook, text, phone, WhatsApp, Signal and pretty much any other messaging service that exists in 2021. Mostly, they are supportive. Beautiful. Encouraging. Kind. Many are from journalists (I thought that being part of New York media for 20 years had given me a decent amount of contact with a lot of journalists, but now I think I actually know every single one of you).
I’ll tell you a little about the not-good messages I’m also getting. I’ve written about this topic before because I am a woman on the Internet, and, because I often write about women, I am a favorite target of misogynists. (The time I co-bylined a story with Gloria Steinem in The Guardian was really fun.) Because my friends and I get so many horrifying messages from men because of our work, I just assume everyone knows that. But this week, a number of men (and a few women) have been supremely shocked to read some of the garbage I’ve been getting and wanted to know how bad it really is. I can answer that easily:
It’s bad. It’s very, very bad.
Some of them want me dead.
Here’s a sampling of what I’ve received over the past few days:
You’re a piece of shit. MAGA!! (Author: Pound my ass)
Chills. Such chills. "...then they came for the journalists and we did nothing but laugh because all of you deserved it..."
I hope you never land another job.
Are you the cunt that is with the NY Times?
Hahahaha Shit canned from the NYT. Because you are a Scumbag Liberal "Piece of Shit". The only good news would be you ceasing to exist.
Chills??? I am sure your panties were wet when his plane landed....Fuck you and the NY Slimes.
someone should go vigilante. Find you....
keep whining you no-talent, truly physically appalling (is your goal to look like a male accountant?) bitch.
Dumb Fucking Bitch Media is TRASH Better delete this account too dumbass
You’re a moron.
Yeah. Some of those are from women, but it is invariably men who write, and it is always men who insult women’s looks in these kinds of messages. I’ve been called “hideous” countless times this week, among other pleasantries.
But I’m laughing out loud right now because the insults about my appearance are so cheap! I don’t know why men think I care at all what they think of what I look like. I truly don’t.
In any case, here’s another example of men telling women journalists they hate us. In 2013, my friend Amanda Lindhout got some really nightmarish stuff as her book A House in the Sky was coming out. (I can’t recommend that book highly enough.) Amanda was kidnapped while working as a journalist in Somalia in 2008, when I was working at the Committee to Protect Journalists. I documented her case for more than a year, feeling hope fading month after month as she remained in captivity. But she made it out. After 460 days, Amanda got out, but somehow a lot of men really — really — hate her for it.
Among many others, this is one of the messages Amanda has received (I wrote about this for The Nation):
I would keep you forever and you’d only be free when DEAD!!!!! Your pussy n ass would never be empty you fucking cunt.
But enough about the Dumb Bitch Morons of the world.
As I said up top, I’m depleted. But I’m happy to say that much of that exhaustion comes from the absurd number of messages of support I’ve received from friends, colleagues and total strangers. I love you all, but I kind of need to stare at a wall for a while now.
As I wrote on Twitter on Monday: All I ever wanted to do was write. Not be written about.
Now please excuse me while I go take a nap with my donkey (above).
Nice to get a mention from my brilliant, talented daughter. The “depleted” thing will end soon because you can never be defeated! ❤️
I just wanted to send you a note of encouragement. I am a reader of your past important work, and have read more since the controversy surrounding your departure from the NYT.
Lauren, It is important that you continue to work hard and do the work that you do. My viewpoint is that an open and free exchange of ideas that are respectfully debated in public holds the best opportunity for our society to solve problems, cure our ills, and to help our country become a more perfect union. Pick your metaphor, but the more transparency and sunlight on various issues the better chance of success we have, as a people to get better. Your voice is an important part of that progress.
One of the reasons that I wanted to take the step of actually emailing you is because my background is, perhaps, different than your average reader. I am a Christian conservative from North Carolina - a genuine, limited-government conservative, not a Trump supporter. Those are two different things. I have no political home anymore, so traditional labels now fail where they used to be helpful.
Of course, I see a left bias in the paper of record, and I've long been able to see past that and learn from others whose philosophies and ideas about culture, politics, etc. are different than my own. But, I've learned from those voices a great deal, as well. I lament our culture's slide through various means toward silencing important voices in those very forums which should be the ones that serve as platforms for the open exchange of ideas and knowledge. Also the degradation of respect from our shared humanity as we disagree, even vehemently. I'm sorry about what happened with your job and your ability to share your work with so many. I'm also sorry for how you've been treated online recently(particularly by men, evidently). Our world is worse off with Twitter. I'll just leave it at that.
Finally, I want to encourage you, specifically, in the work that you have done in exposing the tragedy of sexual violence in war theaters and other places. Our world still contains so much tragic injustice and your work is an important component in exposing that injustice and thus one of the important first steps in providing hope for reform. Our world is better because you investigate and you write. Please continue to do so.