Zerlina Maxwell Reacts to Twitter ‘Block’ Reversal After Online Uproar

Trigger Warning: This Article Contains Content Regarding Rape Culture

Zerlina Maxwell is a bad ass who just succeeded in getting Twitter to back down on a controversial and ill-advised decision regarding the site’s ‘block’ functionality.

I spoke with her for her reaction but before that- some background:

Zerlina made waves last year following a segment on The Hannity Show where Sean Hannity attempted to argue that owning handguns would help women protect themselves against things like “evil” and rape.  A survivor herself who’s leveraged her experiences to empower other women, she pointed to statistics of rape in the military, and the fact that two-thirds of women are raped by someone they know, to insist that rape prevention starts by first telling men not to rape.

The reaction online was swift and intense.

Maxwell was bombarded with death threats and threats of rape on Twitter and Facebook for stating the obvious.

Rape culture is pervasive and the argument that victims are somehow responsible for their attacks and the actions of the individuals who would think to attack them is one that we need to eliminate from the conversation because it’s neither real nor accurate.

In her passionate advocacy against rape culture, Zerlina spends a lot of time on Twitter patiently engaging with the ill-informed and open-minded but outright blocking the dangerous and offensive.

Her experiences with the latter gave her the legitimacy to speak up on behalf of women everywhere who have been subjected to online harassment yesterday evening when Twitter announced that they would do away with the site’s ‘block’ functionality.

Maxwell took to Change.org and launched a petition to explain why the decision was “a nightmare”:

Previously, if you were being harassed or simply trolled by spam accounts, you could click the “Block” button which would forbid that user from ever following you and also remove them from your mentions and timeline.  Now, even if you block someone who is harassing you, that person becomes invisible to you but they are free to follow you and RT you into their timeline.

This is a huge and very serious problem for people, like me, who have received repeated rape and death threats on Twitter on a fairly consistent basis.  I utilize the Block button almost every day and while that is not a perfect solution – because users can simply log out to view your timeline even if you have blocked them – it at least forbid harassers from following you and at worst retweeting you into their feed which can simply allow their followers to also harass you.

Thanks to the magic of the Internet her concerns were heard.

Twitter quickly released a statement announcing that they had reversed the decision:

Earlier today, we made a change to the way the “block” function of Twitter works. We have decided to revert the change after receiving feedback from many users – we never want to introduce features at the cost of users feeling less safe. Any blocks you had previously instituted are still in effect.

I checked in with Zerlina to get her reaction to the reversal and she replied:

“happy that twitter went back to the old blocking policy but they still need to address the problem on trolling and harassment which has now reached epidemic levels on their site.  Women in particular are subjected to an online form of gender based violence on a daily basis.    You shouldn’t have to be triggered or hurt emotionally every single time you log in to twitter.  Twitter really needs to address this issue and make their reporting policy more robust.

Along those lines she’s far from celebrating just yet and has some ideas on how Twitter could truly meet their commitment to creating a safe space for their users:

They need a “muting” function, the regular old blocking function, report for spam for accounts that are set up purely to harass people online, and they need to launch a new and improved reporting policy that has real teeth.  When someone threatens to kill you on the street, that’s against the law.  Why should people be able to get away with the same thing online simply because they can remain anonymous?

Twitter’s reversal is certainly a victory– but there’s still a distinction between lip-service and a true and genuine commitment to creating a safe community that we have to make sure that they honor.

The anonymity of the Internet emboldens the worst in some people and makes the notion of threatening someone’s life, or threatening someone with rape, something that happens casually, comfortably and it’s directed at thousands of women every single day.

As much as it’s the responsibility of the companies who help facilitate our online conversations to create policies that protect us as users– it’s also up to the actual community to look out for each other when ugly seeps through.

Trolls react differently to women.  It stops being about the substance of the conversation and becomes a race to say the most sexist, hurtful thing ever. In the wake of Zerlina’s Hannity appearance (wherein she merely stated her opinion) she was repeatedly threatened with gang rape on Twitter.

That’s not okay.

It’s great that Twitter has reinstated the ability to “block” that kind of ugly but it’s also about damn time that we sincerely get to work on outright eliminating that kind of ugly. How we go about doing this is a conversation that everyone should participate in because it should matter to you, whoever you are,  that an innocent women — a rape survivor who’s perpetually revisiting one of the ugliest things that could ever happen to someone to try to prevent it from happening to other people — is having that brave action greeted with threats of more rape on a perpetual and consistent basis.

It should matter to everyone because it’s intolerable.

When you simplify what Zerlina’s been through it’s also incomprehensible.  My brain struggles to make sense of it and yet I know that it’s a real thing that’s happening to her and other women all the time.

Rape culture deserves no place in our culture– and since our culture is defined by the conversations and creations of the people within it, it need not have a place in our culture.

So yes, Zerlina Maxwell is a bad ass.

I’ve known her for years and it’s been a great joy to see the rest of the world wise up to just how much of a bad ass she actually is.

Yet all that said, I’d love to see the rest of us make her life a little easier.  I’d love 2014 to be a year where Zerlina and women like her at the forefront of fighting rape culture don’t have to work so hard because everybody’s doing it.

I don’t know what that looks like in terms of Twitter’s policy or in terms of what hashtags we use or what Tumblrs we visit or what nonprofits we support.

I just know that it’s about damn time things start to change.

#Justice4Daisy RallyToday, Maryville, MO Rape Victim Has Voice


Anonymous, love ‘em or hate ‘em–and I am rather fond of them–get results. And yes, some Anons have gotten jail time for doing what they felt was right. Here’s what they’ve been doing for the past week and a half, and it has been completely legal and really right on.

On October 14, Anonymous launched a Twitter blast #Justice4Daisy to support and bring attention to the Maryville, Missouri rape of  two girls, 13 and 14. Daisy Coleman, the 14 year old, has written eloquently about what happened to her when she and her friend snuck out of the house and drank with senior boys from her high school, one of whom had sex with her while she was unconscious as another boy videotaped it. Her 13 year old friend was also raped. Rape means someone sexed you without your consent. If you are drooling drunk or passed out you cannot give consent.

Daisy was dumped in front of her house in freezing weather. Three hours later her mother, hearing what she thought was a dog scratching at the front door, found her with ice chunks in her hair. Daisy was bruised and bleeding, and a trip to the hospital showed that she had been raped.

Her assailant, Matthew Barnett then 17, is the grandson of Rex Barnett, who served as member of the Missouri House of Representatives from 1994 to 2002.  Barnett was initially charged with sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child, but two months later the charges were dropped. Jordan Zech, another senior, videotaped Barnett raping Daisy, and that video was passed around school. Zech was charged with exploitation of a minor. Those charges were dropped also and the video “disappeared.” One boy present that night was sentenced in juvenile court for his assault against Coleman’s then-13 year old friend.

The Nodaway County prosecutor dropped the felony cases against the youths, one the grandson of a longtime area political figure.

The incident sparked outrage in the community, though the worst of it was directed not at the accused perpetrators but at a victim and her family. In the months that followed, Coleman lost her job, and her children were routinely harassed. When it became too much, they left, retreating east to Albany [Missouri].

Daisy has attempted suicide and been hospitalized. Her mother lost her job, Daisy was harassed and bullied at school.  The family’s house burned down.

But last week, two Missouri officials — Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and House Speaker Tim Jones — called for new investigations into the case (and one hopes, the cover-up).

At that time, Nodaway County Prosecutor Robert Rice stated that the amount of evidence was inadequate to prove a criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt, and that Daisy refused to cooperate. He posted similar coments on social media.

Daisy’s mother Melinda Coleman told the AP that she and her family cooperated with investigators and that any accusations that they refused to testify are untrue.  The local CBS channel reports

Melinda Coleman, Daisy’s mother, told CBS News’ Crimesider during a phone interview on Friday that the family never stopped cooperating. She said she only invoked her Fifth Amendment right after the felony charges were dropped in the case and after Rice and a rape advocate talked her into doing so.

She told Crimesider that Daisy was suicidal and in the hospital at the time she invoked her Fifth Amendment right and that she was told by both Rice and the advocate that even if she were to continue cooperating with the investigation, the only remaining charge was a misdemeanor and it would only serve as a “slap on the hand.”

She said there was never a deposition before the felony charges were dropped and that she believes the charges were dropped for “political” reasons.

Yesterday, October 21st, special prosecutor Jean Peters Baker was appointed to investigate the case.

The #Justice4Daisy rally will be broadcast live at 6pm CT on the Missouri Torch website.

Melinda Coleman, Daisy’s mom sent this message to attendees:

Maryville Police Department will be providing portable lighting, a podium, and portapotties for the #JusticeforDaisy rally. They are encouraging everyone to gather at the Northeast corner of the courthouse for the event. I will be putting out parking recommendations shortly but parking around the square will be prohibited. Look for updates to come and thanks for all everyone’s doing to help make this a peaceful demonstration.-Courtney Cole

Justice for Daisy Coleman Wants to remind everyone that it was the Nodaway County Sheriffs who botched the case, not the Maryville Police Department….

We would just like everyone to know that we Maryville is NOT a terrible town. We love so many people there and really were happy there until 1-9-12. Some families there are truly great friends!!! The school was incredible and tried so hard to protect my children…..above and beyond the call of duty…

A lot of people did support as much as they were able. To those people I am so grateful! And to the people who tried to defend us but were also terrorized and threatened……I’m sorry you suffered for us but I love you dearly for trying to help us. We wanted to stay in Maryville. We would have stayed if there was a fair investigation and I had felt my children could be safe. I left for fear for our safety from the family that thinks it’s a little mafia….their threats were very violent.

I would never condone an violent protest and all of the protestors have been asked to simple carry a daisy or daisies. A reporter told me innocent people in Maryville were being threatened. I checked in to that and found out that the only “threats” have been people sending daisies to the courthouse. I think that sounds nice and not very threatening. I do NOT condone violence in our defense. I don’t want others terrorized as we have been. I want everyone to have peace. I also believe that having only Matt Barnett’s mother speak at the press conferences after Sheriff White and Robert Rice, the Prosecuting attorney, clearly illustrates the connection of their family and the powers to be. It was a press release……not a pep rally.

Texas Hits a New Low. Even for Texas.

Hornet Signs of Waco, Texas came up with this really tasteful truck decal of a bound woman in the truck bed. See, you like stick it on the tailgate and your fellow peckerwoods slap you on the back, exclaiming:

Sheeeee-yit, BradleyJoe finally figgered out how to git hisself a date. And she’s blond! Hey BradleyJoe, how kin she make us a sammich and git us sum beers with her hands all tied up?”

Oh yeah, that’s real knee-slapper.

The owner said the woman was actually an employee who posed for the photo which was then put on anther worker’s truck.

“It wasn’t our intent to make that the branding of our company but more of what could we do with it,” said Brad Kolb.

Kolb said he’s received a lot of complaints, but also a lot of orders too.

The decal was designed to show how realistic the company’s products can be. And because it’s really funny, right? What, you’re not laughing? What are you, some kinda liburel fimmininst?

At least not everyone in Texas thinks abduction is as amusing as Hornet Signs’ Brad Kolb:

Concerned and frightened citizens raised the alarmas the truck was spotted in traffic. Police were called, but there wasn’t a victim in the truck at all. Instead, what people believed they saw turned out to be a decal plastered on the tailgate of the truck for marketing company Hornet Signs.

Here’s Brad Kolb’s response. He feels bad that people got all sandy-pantied over his realistic decal, would like to donate to the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children, and wants to make headlines not for making disgusting misogynistic decals, but for being part of the solution to violence against women and children. Oh and he’ll give even more money based on the number of Facebook likes he gets.

GOP Candidates Continue Rape Tour: Romney Supports “God Intends Rape” Dick Mourdock


The raping of the American Dream and the citizens of this country by banksters continues, and GOP candidates still want women to bear the fruit of “legitimate rape.” Indiana candidate for US Senate Richard  Dick Mourdock said during a debate Tuesday:

I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.

Then removed his head from his ass long enough yesterday to say

I don’t think God wants rape.

and apologized to anyone who misinterpreted his original remarks.  Because  in Dick Mourdock’s world, if you you took offense at his statement that God intended you to conceive from a violent, brutal, forced sexual assault, then that’s your problem. Not his. Mourdoock’s comments on conception from rape points to a fundamental crack in the GOP platform on rape, since Missouri Representative Todd Aiken, also running this election season, thinks:

If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

Responding to Dick Mourdock’s remarks on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, President Barack Obama said:

This is exactly why you don’t want a bunch of politicians, mostly male, making decisions about women’s health care decisions. Women are capable of making these decisions in consultation with their partners, with their doctors. And for politicians to want to intrude in this stuff, oftentimes without any information, is a huge problem. And this is obviously part of what’s stake at this election.

Mitt Romney still stands behind Mourdock and continues to endorse Mourdock’s run for the US Senate. The Christian Science Monitor reports that the Republican GOP candidate is:

 not asking the Indiana state treasurer to take down an ad Romney filmed Monday in support.

Rap Group Odd Future Kill the Cupcake Dead

If  you ever needed evidence beyond the absurdist creations on Cupcake Wars–Cheeto topped cupcakes, anyone?—that the gourmet cupcake craze is over, rap group Odd Future have proven without a doubt that the frosted, twee fad food is absolutely dead.

Before Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA)–a foul-mouthed Los Angeles based rap group signed to Sony Records, fond of the usual conjugations and variants of that four-letter f-word; tired, overused, crude terms for women;  expressions of violence including kidnapping, rape, and murder; sexual epithets; as well as  expounding anti-gay sentiments–played Chicago’s Pitchfork Festival in what music critic Jim DeRogatis called

the most controversial booking in the seven-year history of the Pitchfork Music Festival

the band, accompanied by their publicist, passed out cupcakes to volunteers manning the festival’s outreach booths for LGBTQ awareness, domestic violence resources, and rape victim advocates– groups whose message was specifically geared

to counter what they [the organizations] saw as dangerous expressions of hate, violence and homophobia in Odd Future’s music.

DeRogatis called Odd Future an

unexceptional live hip-hop act, no better or worse than a hundred other mediocre ones you’ve seen before, albeit even more than usually foul-mouthed,

while Chicago Sun Times’ Thomas O’Connor recounted that

the 45-minute set was a very average hip-hop show…nothing radical.

In a break between songs (which O’Connor described as)

hate speech…more like listening to Oi! (a racist punk subgenre) without guitars

replete with plenty of

f–k you bitch…f–ckin ‘ho…smack you, bitch

ad nauseum, lead singer Tyler the Creator acknowledged the recipients of his cupcake diplomacy with

“A big shoutout to the domestic violence groups out here”

then launched into one of the group’s masterpieces “I Got a Gun (You Better Run).” I guess that passes as humor? Irony?

As Odd Future closed with “Pidgeons,” with its chorus of

Kill people, burn s—, f— school

Tyler the Creator dedicated

this beautiful song to everyone who don’t like me, every protester … everyone writing a faggot-ass review of this show.

And what did Tyler tweet to fans along a photo of himself holding a box of cupcakes out to a volunteer?

Went And Gave The People Who Don’t Like Us Some Cupcakes.

Yes, the cupcake is dead, its final death throes not cause by perky bakers with squeaky, childlike voices and frilly aprons squeezing swirls of rose-scented, pink sparkly butter cream onto variations of red velvet bombes; but by crass performers who shallowly grandstanded the treats as calculated sop for the ignorance they spew.

[HT: Pop N Stuff/WBRZ.org, Thomas O'Connor]

photo: screenshot from the Food Network show Cupcake Wars

Rape, Assange, Wikileaks and a Reminder to Wear Rubbers While in Swedes

Tarring & feathering

“Rapist” is one of those words that evokes a guttural, unwelcome, sudden, extreme and violent response, and for the past  few months, pretty much that’s what the media been calling Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, making him seem super icky and creepy. However this interview in the Guardian gives perspective on Assange and Wikileaks.

I can’t believe I need to say this, but we need to examine with tweezers at the Swedish law Assange is alleged to have violated. James D. Catlin, the Melbourne barrister who represented Assange in London, wrote

Apparently having consensual sex in Sweden without a condom is punishable by a term of imprisonment of a minimum of two years for rape….Now, three months on and three prosecutors later, the Swedes seem to be clear on their basis to proceed. Consensual sex that started out with a condom ended up without one, ergo, the sex was not consensual.

Consensual sex without a condom is rape? Well, in Sweden, if there’s no condom, it is.

I spent ten–celibate, in case you were wondering–days in Sweden this summer and wonder how many bands and attendees at the rock festivals knew this “condom or it’s rape” law. I hope it’s info that gets added to their tourism packets. I guess now all Swedish citizens are aware of this quirk as well.

I’m all for using condoms until everyone is tested and trusted, but this  Swedish law is intrusive, repressive and downgrades rape–forced sexual intercourse–to a level with

You’re hot, the rubber broke and the drugstore is closed, oh let’s do it anyway…

Rape is very serious for the victims and those around them, that’s a given. And rapists who don’t use condoms should have an enhanced penalty added.

But to falsely accuse someone of rape because of consensual rubber-less sex is really loathsome behavior which makes all woman look bad and re-victimizes those who have been assaulted and violated.

Later after bareback mounting, Anna Ardin, one of the two women, threw a party for Julian Assange at her apartment, while the second woman Sofia Wilén tweeted and texted about her sexual activities with Assange. They were not all upset and freaked out, either. Think more “Sex in the City” than “Without Her Consent” which starred Bebe Neuwirth as Melissa Gilbert’s attorney Gloria Allred in a based-on-the true-story Lifetime Movie.

Ardin, a gender equity officer at Uppsala University who should know something about communication, boasted on Twitter about the intelligent people she was hanging out with. (Um, euuwww, really classless). And then tried to delete her tweets.

Assange’s solicitor writes:

In the case of Ardin it is clear that she has thrown a party in Assange’s honour at her flat after the “crime” and tweeted to her followers that she is with the “the world’s coolest smartest people, it’s amazing!”. Go on the internet and see for yourself. That Ardin has sought unsuccessfully to delete these exculpatory tweets from the public record should be a matter of grave concern. That she has published on the internet a guide on how to get revenge on cheating boyfriends ever graver. The exact content of Wilén’s mobile phone texts is not yet known but their bragging and exculpatory character has been confirmed by Swedish prosecutors. Neither Wilén’s nor Ardin’s texts complain of rape.

This was a classic honeypot set up: Attractive, willing woman  flirt with international man of mystery. Assange should have known better, like has he not read James Bond? Or even the Hardy Boys?!

Okay, back to the main point: Because there was no condom it was rape.   Uh, that’s a little to nanny state in the bedroom. Sorry Sweden, but this is pretty embarrassing for you.

In the 1990s I was in a couple situations I wouldn’t classify as “rape” but they were definitely less consensual and moved faster than I would have preferred, though the men in each case prolly thought they were being all suave. I pretty much closed my eyes and thought of England and chalked it up to

I won’t have my face broken or be killed and I don’t have to ever see them again, but ugh, I am a moron.

I was not amused about what I’d gotten myself into–without drugs or alcohol, mind you– and recognized my part in it. Hardline feminists might call these situations rape; I call it very poor character judgment on my part, miscommunication and a lot of naivite.

I have encountered women and men, close friends and acquaintances, who have been raped, whose lives were cruelly altered by the actions of others, who have been stalked and beaten, brutalized, assaulted. Anna Ardin and Sofia Wilén had consensual sex without condoms which is a technical foul. Then, barrister Catlin writes:

neither Ardin nor Wilén complained to the police but rather “sought advice”, a technique in Sweden enabling citizens to avoid just punishment for making false complaints. They sought advice together, having collaborated and irrevocably tainted each other’s evidence beforehand. Their SMS texts to each other show a plan to contact the Swedish newspaper Expressen beforehand in order to maximise the damage to Assange. They belong to the same political group and attended a public lecture given by Assange and organised by them. [emphasis mine] You can see Wilén on the YouTube video of the event even now.

And it took Swedish prosecutors three times to figure out how to take the case.

After admittedly consensual sex Anna Ardin and Sofia Wilén went to Swedish authorities to report that sex with a Very Important Leaker ended without a condom, which as Kirk Murphy points out

just happens to be the pretext for Interpol to issue a “Red Notice” informing the world’s police forces of charges against Julian Assange.

And violate rape victims again.