Imagine: you get a Facebook request from someone you don’t know. You don’t recognize the name, or you think you do but aren’t quite sure where you might have met them. You click through to their profile, maybe out of curiosity, or to figure out who they are.
You open their page and the first thing you see is… your face?
It happened to Libby Schofield. She’s a second year English and gender and women’s studies student who’s been writing and publishing creative work for years, both in print and online.
“All my online experiences have been within these safe communities, of my Facebook friends, and my Twitter followers who are really great people. I’ve never had trolls,” says Schofield.
At least, she hadn’t until this February. On Valentine’s Day, Schofield uploaded a video to her Youtube channel called “Get Home Safe”. The text of a poem she wrote appears on screen in time with a recording of her reading it.
The poem was designed as a response to the experience of her male friends’ near automatic response to offer to walk her home. “Get home safe,” it repeats.
“Because there’s a chance I won’t/because after dark in this public place I’m already guilty if I walk home alone too late,” the poem says.
“It’s never a bad intention,” Schofield says. “Just the fact that it (the narrative of women needing an escort) exists is what bothers me.”
Schofield set her two minute, 40-second-long baby out into the world, where it’s since racked up over 1,100 views. In an attempt to avoid unkind messages, she disabled the comments.
It wasn’t until about two weeks later, when she got the strange friend request, that she realized how big of an impact the video had. The person she clicked on had shared the video from a Facebook page called Post Tumblr Stress Disorder.
The page downloaded and re-uploaded the video, titling it “Insane Feminist Fears The Patriarchy” and sharing it with their over 40,000 followers. By Schofield’s count, when she saw the post it had over 100,000 views and about 300 comments.
“I immediately had this kind of sick feeling in my stomach, because that’s not one of the things I expected to happen,” she says.
While some of the people who shared the video were sharing it because they liked it, many of the comments were of the sort she had feared.
She scrolled through them and saw people refer to her as a “bitch”, or make disparaging comments about her appearance. She says the most memorable comment was someone hoping she “get stabbed.”
She says many of the commenters seemed offended.
“It was like my expression of feeling unsafe, or sharing the experience of feeling unsafe as a woman was threatening to their masculinity.”
Schofield says that while the comments were upsetting, it was that her video was taken and re-uploaded that bothered her. She shared the link on her social media platforms and asked her friends to report it to Facebook. By the end of the month, the post was gone.
While the experience was unexpected, Schofield says she’s undeterred. Seeing people aggressively denounce her message has only lit her creative fire.
“Reading all these comments like ‘feminism is stupid’ and ‘I hope you die because you told me you feel unsafe and that threatens my masculinity’… I think all those kinds of comments validate what I want to do, which is continue to write and make content that critiques the way society teaches us to think.”