What do you do when mansplainers-in-training and internet trolls shout their unsolicited advice? Wine? Netflix? Or check those fools into silence?
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My friend’s husband is so completely devoted to her, truly worships her—and after nearly 20 years together, that ain’t no small thing. They have fun together, they co-parent, he’s a dream as a partner. But: He’s the worst kind of mansplainer and I see their kids are picking up on his habits. It’s not only unbearable to have to endure from him—who doesn’t love having a man tell you why Beyoncé isn’t a real feminist?—but to have a Greek chorus behind him composing two teenage boys? I love my friend, I love their love … but I kinda can’t deal with him and I hate that the kids are learning to be just like him. If they take after him as a doting partner, great. But as a tone-deaf dude? No thanks. I’m not supposed to say anything, right? She’s happy, genuinely.
I Thought Men Were Cancelled
UGHHHH!!!! The only thing worse than a middle-aged mansplainer is a teenaged one. At least you can accept that older people are beyond help, but it’s hard to see a teen with the potential to do better … not “be best.” When you care for a kid, it can be really hard to watch them suck. But unfortunately, I think that’s what you have to do here. You are not these kids’ parent. It’s not your job to parent them. Also, they are children! Just, like, don’t hang out with them. You grown! Why you hanging out with your friend’s kids and husband and shit? Invite your friend out to a bar! It’s called “girls’ night,” and it was invented so you didn’t have to hang out with your friends’ shitty husbands.
That being said, I don’t think how this lady’s kids behave is your real problem. Mostly because, and I repeat, they are not your kids. I think your real problem is that you don’t enjoy the time you’re spending with your friend’s family and you haven’t done anything about it. Everyone has the right to speak up about how they would like to be treated. When hubby and the kids mansplain to you, you are allowed to say, “I don’t appreciate being talked down to. When you talk to me that way, it makes me feel like you think I don’t know what I’m talking about and not only is that not true, it’s rude.” You may be tempted to hope that this intervention will make the kids stop talking to women that way in general. And maybe it will plant a little seed. But since the seed won’t get watered by their parents, they’ll probably just think you’re weird for being the “one woman on the planet” who doesn’t like getting mansplained to. Oh well, that’s not your business. If your friend asks why you told her kids not to talk to you that way, you can just tell her that you don’t like being mansplained to, and that you’re surprised that she does!
But seriously, just invite your friend to a bar.
Mostly I sit on my thumbs on Twitter and follow the golden rule of the internet: Do not engage with shit posters. But occasionally someone says something so offensive I just can’t help myself. My question is this: Is it ever a good idea to respond to social-media trash talk, or is it just always a waste of time (or, worse, giving the trolls what they want), even if it’s something you feel strongly about?
Feeding the Trolls
YOU’RE THE WORST. I HATE YOU. LIBRALS R DUM! Just kidding, just getting you in the mood.
When it comes to whether or not to talk to trolls, it depends on what your goal is. If your goal is to change a troll’s mind, you actually have a better chance of getting your medical license, learning to do brain surgery, going to the troll’s house with an extra brain you had lying around, and literally changing their mind. Trolls became trolls because they are dummies with bad ideas that they like to scream. They’re not about to get any good ideas. No matter how often good ideas are tweeted at them. Don’t waste your time.
But not everyone who is yelling at you on the internet is a troll. Check out their timeline. If it’s nothing but yelling at people, and RTs, and conspiracy theories they’re a troll. If the profile picture is of a Black person, and it’s all yelling at people and RTs and they use the phrase “cracker” a lot, it’s a white troll pretending to be Black because they’re racist. That sounds really specific, but that describes about 75 percent of my personal trolls. But if the timeline of the person yelling at you also includes some fun personal tweets, pictures of dogs, non-political opinions, and you know… normal shit, then they might just be a normal non-troll person who is passionate about this particular issue. That doesn’t mean you can change their mind, just that they are actual humans with minds that have the capacity for change. So you can engage with them if you have the time, and the spoons, and can do it without getting your feelings hurt. But you could also just pop some popcorn and watch something on Netflix instead and I promise you it will be more entertaining and satisfying.
BUUUT, I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten a DM from someone saying, “I read that conversation you had with that racist idiot, and you answered a lot of questions I was afraid to ask, then I read several articles and books and now I’m trying to be a better white person. All Lives Matter! Bye!” Okay, I said they were trying, not that they were succeeding. If you do choose to engage with trolls, keep in mind that you’re not doing it for the person you’re tweeting at. You’re doing it for the other people who are reading. There may be people who can learn something from your tweets, and at the very least, if you’re using your troll-bashing to stand up for marginalized people, then at least those marginalized people can see someone standing up for them. And that is incredibly valuable.
So yeah, basically, first figure out if they are a troll or not, and if you love yourself still don’t engage. But if you love being right more than you love yourself, only engage with the ones who aren’t professional full-time trolls and do so in a way that uplifts the people you want to uplift. Also, and this is important, don’t tweet any mean things at me.
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