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Mean Tweets: The perils of being a feminist online

By Apartment613 on September 13, 2016

Post by Corey Tamas.

Mean Tweetsis a popular segment on Jimmy Kimmel Live in which famous people read tweets that slander or insult them, and then the audience has a great laugh while the camera captures the stars bewildered response. Its low-brow and simple, but it works because Cate Blanchett or George Clooney have nothing to be scared of if some everyman from Twitter calls them ugly or stupid. Trolls think theyre speaking truth to power, but its more like watching peons powerlessly throw incoherent, misspelled shade at royalty.

Is it still funny, however, when vicious and insulting tweets are leveled at those actively trying to champion feminist causes and awareness in their community?

Jessica Ruano, producer and director of The Ghomeshi Effect – an intense theatre work about sexual violence in Canada that goes live in January 2017 – has some thoughts about it. After all, since undertaking The Ghomeshi Effect, shes been subjected to a nonstop barrage of insulting, harassing, or threatening tweetsvery much like those you might see on Jimmy Kimmel, but with a more personal tone that gets very mean.

In fact, shes decided to share those tweets in a special event: Mean Tweets LIVE: The Ghomeshi Effect, this weekend at The Gladstone.

Most of the time I can laugh it off,she says After all, most of their accusations and comments are ridiculous.But she, understandably, isnt happy about it, either. Twitter users have posted hundreds of tweets, belittling her for working in a rapecentre (with rape in quotes, like its a code for something else?), accusing her of misappropriating money from the Ontario Arts Council so she can travel the world in luxury (when no money had yet been disbursed), and even illegally, scamming the government to pay for slander.

I felt hurt and sad and upset that people I don’t know are going out of their way to mock me, make up stories about me, and to try to prevent me from getting arts grants.

She adds, Perhaps they could consider volunteering for an organization that fights for the rights of those who have suffered an unjust verdict. I think some people have been ‘trolling’ me because they’re bored and they think it’s fun to waste someone’s time.

Ironically, its those same mean tweets which prove her point about attitudes around sexual harassment and rape that shes trying to make with The Ghomeshi Effect: The most aggressive attacks claim, on one hand, that the courts have found Jian Ghomeshi not guilty and how that should stand as sacrosanct and unquestionable, forever and ever amen. Then, on the other hand, shes angrily chided, Why isnt your play about false accusers and the ruined lives of innocent men who go to jail?In doing so, they create a bizarre and agenda-driven logic where courts are only trustworthy if theyre ruling against an alleged victim, not when theyre ruling for one.

Mean Tweets LIVE: The Ghomeshi Effect is at The Gladstone this Sunday, September 18, at 7:00 pm. Advance tickets are available online for $25, which includes a catered reception. You can tweet nice things at @ghomeshieffect and @jessicaruano.