Trigger warning for sexual abuse, stalking, rape, domestic violence and large-scale attacks by hate groups.
Last Thursday, I criticized the Linux community for continuing to support and center a leader with a years-long, documented history of unrepentant abusive behavior, someone who has actively and systematically nurtured a hostile, homogeneous technical community, and someone who has long actively chased people from marginalized groups out of open source.
The retaliation has been terrifying.
On Friday night, the home addresses of every member of my immediate family were posted online. I have received literally thousands of harassing, abusive, threatening and violent messages across at least half a dozen separate sites. People speaking up in support of me had their home addresses posted online as well, sometimes within minutes, creating a climate of fear that has functionally isolated me from most community support. I have received slurs of every variety, death and rape threats, and violent and threatening images. They have gone after my business and my family’s livelihoods with slander, intimidation and attempts to cut off financial support, and tried to hack into various of my accounts and systems. They have left pages and pages of stomach-turning comments on the front of every internet community I am a part of and that influences my professional community and peers.
As I was reeling from my family being doxxed and taking steps to ensure everyone’s safety, the tech press was giving a massive platform to an ex-partner – someone I dated for four months more than 3 years ago – who has, after I dumped him, terrorized, threatened and abused me for years, and continues to do so. This is a person who is a known liar, abuser and manipulator, with a long history of stalking, hacking and terrorizing women, who is now being treated as an authoritative character witness on one of his long-term victims – for the sole purpose of destroying my company, discrediting my work, and terrorizing me into silence. This is a person who has hacked nude photos of me and sent them to my employers – yes, bosses, executive team and investors. (I barely left my house for two weeks after and to this day cannot recall a time being more scared, depressed and humiliated). Details of my private sex life – provided by my ex – are now all over the internet and have been used to justify my abuse, incite more of it, and slut and kink-shame me. Valleywag — less than a day after stealing stories from me, plagiarizing content from my Twitter, publishing my comments without permission or compensation, and refusing to properly acknowledge my work and job title — has used its platform to replicate this terrorism and domestic violence to an even larger audience. Nevermind that their original articles had already incited harassment against me (they were posted over and over to the anonymous hate boards that attacked my family); their most recent article on me is an act of pure and spiteful violence following my critiques of their behavior.
The past few days have been terrifying, and my heart is broken.
This is abuse. This is domestic violence. This is harassment.
This is terrorism.
While many are eager to claim that I am actually being abused because I’m crazy, a liar, a fraud, a troll, a hypocrite, a neo-Nazi, a whore, because I’ve had kinky sex, because I dated an abuser, because I’m mean to men on Twitter, because I swear a lot, because I’m a “blogger” that contributes nothing to the field: I am being targeted because of my work speaking up against tech culture. My work is what has made me a target, but it is nonetheless ironically (or maybe predictably) being erased in a frothing media-frenzy to portray me as a useless, insane “PR girl”, a hysterical slut with a social media account, and to generate page views from my pain. (I’m posting this on Pastebin because unlike most of the tech press, I refuse to use this abuse as a machine for eyeballs and ad dollars.)
In case you’re not familiar with my work, let me tell you about it. A few years ago, I started blogging independently about tech culture, giving talks about it, and organizing resistance efforts on social media. In that period, I produced several books-worth of essays that deconstructed in detail harmful elements of tech culture, discussed useful modes of intervention and resistance, and called out collective complicity in oppression across the industry… including my own complicity. I also began using my Twitter account to talk about my experiences with misogyny in tech, call out inequality and advocate for change – and yes, I use swear words on Twitter dot com, and you will handle it because you’re not a fucking three year old. (I might take your cookies and smash your fucking Xbox anyway, though.)
I did this in my spare time until late in 2013, when I started working full-time on Model View Culture, which launched in January ’14. In the past year, Model View Culture has produced a body of tech and cultural criticism the size of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. We have published over 150 authors. Our publication consistently stands against discrimination, abuse and oppression in the tech industry. We have covered sexual abuse and assault, social media activism and abuse, the surveillance complex, engineering mythology, open source community, accessibility, hiring discrimination, mental illness and disability, consent in product design, workplace abuse, the VC industrial complex, suicide, white liberalism, police violence, codes of conduct, team dysfunctions, and systemic discrimination, violence and inequality at every stage of the technology pipeline. We publish and pay a large and diverse groups of writers speaking to their experiences, to their beliefs and to their sense of justice, to their demands for a better tech industry. We challenge racism & white supremacy, sexism and misogyny, transphobia, ableism, classism and other forms of institutionalized oppression rampant in tech.
I believe we have produced more critical content from diverse voices than any other tech media.
Model View Culture is not perfect. It is not a panacea. It is not done, or complete. It is one year old, just getting started, and there is so much more for us to do. But we have been an influential, if small, part of the growing attempts to call out and dismantle fundamental problems in the tech community.
This work is what people are desperate to stop, by any means including trying to get my family killed by SWATing, trying to convince me to kill myself, terrorizing my supporters, stalking me (I have had multiple men stalk me for 6-14 months at a time), hacking my computers and accounts, “exposing” my sex life, cutting off my funding, belittling and erasing my writing, plagiarizing my content, sending constant rape and death threats, and ceaselessly holding me up for abuse to hate groups.
This has been my life for almost two years. I’m sad to say that part of you starts to get used to it. But I also want to tell you about what it does to me and other victims of these attacks.
Because of my work, I can no longer make public appearances, speak at events or have anyone know where I am or what I’m doing. I can’t have friends over to my house because no one can know where I live. My social life consists only of a few close friends who I feel I can trust. Many of them also undergo the same shit I do – other people don’t understand and find it too stressful to be around. I am traumatized by what is now years of active stalking and abuse; abuse committed by tech workers and unaffiliated individuals, by anonymous harassers and influential figures in tech, and by media both in tech and mainstream. My sex life is fodder for 8chan and corrupt journalists trying to destroy my company because it is competition and it poses a threat to their press-release factories, funded by startups and venture capitalists and uncritically reproducing their propaganda. I receive anywhere between dozens and thousands of harassing messages each week. Anything bad that happens to me is considered “normal” and “expected”, and any reason to expose me to abuse is sufficient. People say I am a “professional victim”, suggesting I am somehow profiting off my work, but I am now unemployable in the field I once loved and make a fraction of what I used to make as a tech worker. I spend an enormous amount of money and time securing my safety. It is no longer safe for me to do media appearances as media abuses me, demeans me, violates my boundaries, steals my content and holds me up for abuse, offering no support or protection: every article has resulted in more stalkers and harassment. I am frequently cut off from support because people who support me are afraid to be targeted as well.
That’s just my everyday. Then there’s these recent attacks. Frankly, I am devastated, depressed, vulnerable, non-functional, anxious, paranoid and isolated. I’ve visibly lost weight since last Thursday. My heart hurts and my body aches. I feel humiliated, exploited, and am in physical pain. I’m frightened for myself, my family, my friends, and people in my community who have supported me. I am trying to keep working but honestly, it is incredibly difficult. I had a lot of plans for Model View Culture in the beginning of this year, and unfortunately most of them are going to be delayed by at least weeks as I try to put my self-esteem and sense of safety back together, take the needed steps to protect myself, family and community, and process these feelings of fear, anxiety, trauma and anger. It’s devastating to admit the toll this has taken on me, to accept that it is having such a significant impact on my work. I fear that people won’t want to write for Model View Culture anymore because doing this work is actually dangerous. As is, we have to publish far too many articles anonymously, because people fear losing their jobs and their safety for speaking out and telling their stories. I am asking myself how I can actually continue like this and run a company under these conditions. No other tech press is operating under this level of violence and terrorism, and we don’t have corporate money or VC funding to help us defend against it.
It’s intimidating. I ask Model View Culture readers and community to be patient during this time. The truth of the matter is that as much as people want abuse victims to be fearless, to come out on top, to not be stopped: at some point, this is simply not realistic. That said, I’m not stopping, I am not going away, and I will continue, even if it happens a little slower or a little later than I planned. Changing tech is my life’s work. I’m only 28, so you’ll probably have to deal with it for at least the next few decades. This is a set-back for my health and my ability to work, but I’m here for the long-term.
I am sad that my new normal is, well, this. But so be it.
To everyone who has supported me in this time: Thank you so much. I haven’t been able to respond to so many of you because it hasn’t been safe to, but I appreciate and value your belief and faith in me.
To everyone else: Go fuck yourself.
Some specific “fucks yous” go out to:
The Linux community, I hope you realize how fucking toxic and broken your “community” is after standing by silently as me and my entire family were terrorized after I criticized Linus Torvalds. I think you are cowardly and spineless and I stand behind everything I said. I also think you need to seriously look at the clear ties the Linux community has to 8chan and GamerGate which led many of the attacks on me. Andrew Auernheimer aka a blast of trash from my past: you started whining and crying the day I dumped your ass and you haven’t stopped since. May the ouroboros eat YOU, easily mistaken for a snake, and may you spend the rest of your days as you have to date – pathetic, prospectless, alone and heartbroken, ever-pining over women who hate your guts and clinging to any last scrap of fast-fading relevance. Milo Yiannopoulos, a failure of a human being but tremendous success as an opportunistic sell-out scumbag who has spent months digging up details on my sex life and leading harassment campaigns against me. Valleywag, particularly Valleywag editor Dan Lyons — a white man who is 26 years older then me and uses my sex life for clickbait while citing Yiannopolous and Weev as a credible source in order to take me down. Also Jason Calacanis, who has supported my long term stalker Loren Feldman and is basically a shitstain of a human being who we should kick out of tech forever. Vivek Wadhwa, who is building his career off women in tech yet is transparently a misogynistic asshole who has used this opportunity to get back at me for criticizing his profiteering and patriarchal brand of “allyship.” Also Elizabeth Spiers who continues to refuse to get the FUCK away from me after MONTHS of me asking to be left in peace. Get the fuck over me and move on with your life as a has-been. You are literally 10 years older than me, yet are relentlessly picking on a young woman with an up-and-coming media career like you once had. You look jealous and petty, and your ongoing obsession with me is creepy as fuck.
In the remainder of this post, I am addressing my community. I realize that following my tweets can be difficult and not very coherent, especially as I have navigated the emotional roller coaster of the weekend. My anxiety is through the roof and I haven’t gotten much sleep. While I don’t think I should have to explain and rehash my sex life, analyze terrorism against me at length, and somehow summon words out of a fog of anxiety, fear and depression, I want to get my views on the record. They have been dismissed, erased, deemed irrelevant, misconstrued, twisted and deployed against me. So here they are, FROM ME.
They have made it too scary to defend me, so I defend myself:
I, unequivocally, support ourselves and stand behind us.
OK for real. I wanted to start by discussing my past sexual history. Since we are already so deep into my sex life – released non-consensually and with the sole aim of terrorizing me – let’s talk about it.
Over three years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to Andrew Auernheimer aka Weev. I had no idea who he was prior to this friend telling me about him and introducing me. I was not involved in the infosec community (still aren’t), was fairly new to tech, and arrived in Silicon Valley years after his most high-profile attacks on other women in tech. As many of you have conveniently forgotten, (even those of you who wrote them!), articles about him painted him as a charismatic, counter-culture hacker taking on powerful and corrupt systems – someone who expressed a number of “controversial” (i.e. sexist, racist and homophobic) views, but these were glossed over as satire and mischief. I was happy to do the same, something which I deeply regret and deeply apologize for. The industry was, as it always has been and remains, enamored and worshipping of the “edgy” young white male hacker who ostensibly reflects a challenge to the status-quo, but in actuality just re-creates those systems under the guise of liberalism, satire and “mischief” aka misogynistic and racist terrorism. Frankly, I was also enamored. At the time, I was really early in my career, didn’t give much of a shit about social justice, didn’t particularly understand how fucked up the industry was, and was laboring under the profound delusion that my career success meant some kind of feminism. I think I was starting to undergo some type of political realization or awakening and was in some clumsy and inept way reaching out for an alternative framework, a tech “counter culture”. Of course, the “alternative” framework I discovered was some abusive piece of shit who would crawl into my life, use me for money and housing, and then spend years after punishing me for it.
I am also not the only victim of his predatory and exploitative behavior towards his partners and ex-partners. At the time, I was in a bad place (which he gleefully exploited) and frankly looking for some strings-free fun and (unhealthy) emotional support. A good time seemed like having a completely doomed relationship with a notorious, emotionally co-dependent bad boy that I could fuck for a few hours and call daddy in a hotel room, then leave after giving him $40 out of the ATM because he had no money (stemming from a blanket refusal to work, preferring to just take money from women who feel sorry for his miserable existence). It worked for me at the time, it satisfied something I was looking for, and it made my life feel edgy and exciting, even though I know recognize it as a a huge mistake and deeply regret it. But, it happened.
To all the people berating me for making poor dating choices in my mid-20s, many who haven’t seen their mid-twenties in ten to twenty years:
Guess what, assholes. Mistakes. Were. Made.
Can you really tell me that you haven’t fucked the wrong people? Maybe ones of the dudes I fucked was worse than your partners, but I’ve always been an overachiever.
Like I have previously stated: At least I fucked weev in shame and private unlike the EFF, TechCrunch, the NY Times and all the rest of your favs.
To be honest, dating men who are emotionally and physically abusive has been something of a pattern for me, due to the fact that I have disproportionately fallen into these relationships as a former abuse victim AND due to the fact that so many men are abusive, predatory, manipulative and lying scum.
Fuck them, and misandry forever.
In response to Andrew’s allegations that I am a racist, hate-filled neo-Nazi who shared his views, that I am simply a troll or performance artist: I do not, and have never shared Andrew’s views, and he didn’t teach me shit. Most of our relationship consisted of fucking in potentially disturbing and unhealthy ways, talking about his upcoming trial, sharing photos of red pandas, me bitching about work, watching My Little Pony (i know, i know) and him trying to get as much money out of me as he could. I smoked a bunch of weed, he drank and we ate lots of takeout. As far as his trolling techniques, they seem to consist primarily of convincing people who can actually code to do things for him, then taking the credit for them, so I wasn’t really interested in acquiring these “skills” even if I did have a naive fascination with what I then saw as his “innocent” pranks and how they functioned. While it wasn’t a big part of our brief-lived (four month) relationship, he often made comments that were racist, homophobic, anti-semitic, misogynist and transphobic. I alternated between being like “hahahaha”, “satiring” back to him (including making similar comments), and telling him to knock it the fuck off. In private conversations he assured me that he was just a performance artist, that it was satire and trolling, and that he was actually a feminist (lol). He was always laughing when he said really horrible things. Like the anti-intellectual, self-centered, callous, cavalier and “edgy” white liberal that I fancied myself (And was) at the time, I laughed too and played along. As much as there is lots of feigned outrage from white people about it, this discourse was frankly not much different than that I saw and still see constantly in the tech workplace and at events, online and in the community. Tech prides itself on being “not overtly -ist” when it actually is, despite almost everyone’s vehement protestations. For those who attempt to distance themselves from the racism, sexism, and transphobia of the industry by congratulating themselves that we don’t “say those things”: you are full of shit. The tech industry is chock full NOT ONLY of “subtle” issues that let us continue to feel like good people because we don’t use slurs, but actual constant and overt abuse, discrimination, and violence – often under the guises of “irony” and “satire”.
And I have absolutely participated in it.
People demand to know why I won’t “defend” myself from the “charges” made by my ex. Yes, they contain a number of outright lies and inventions as well as self-serving exaggerations, distortions and manipulations. Frankly, I’m not going to indulge this circus by refuting and responding point-by-point to the details of an abusive relationship I had years ago. As to the overall tone of the allegations, basically that I used to be an oppressive asshole who held much different values than I do now… well I don’t feel a need to “defend” or “deny” that because the truth is, I had for years and years of my past been whole-heartedly complicit in the systems of inequality and discrimination that plague our field. I thought that if I made six figures and did well in my career, acted like “one of the boys” aka white male patriarchs, or played along with them, and was as vulgar, violent, self-centered and cut-throat as the “successful” white men around me, that was “feminism.” I gave a shit about my own advancement but for many years didn’t really give a shit about anyone else’s advancement. I didn’t recognize my role in the tech industry as a privileged white woman, and didn’t do much of the internal and external work required to divest from those systems. As I started my political awakening, I was primarily concerned with the advancement of white women like myself and didn’t give much thought to broader systemic issues, or how I was complicit in the oppression of other groups. My attitudes, beliefs and behavior were 100% born of my alignment with white capitalist patriarchy, and I benefitted enormously (And still do) from it even as it has abused me.
Here are two categories of things that are both true.
1. I am queer, mentally ill and a woman. I have been through a lot of hard stuff because of those things. I went through some Carrie-style shit when I came out in middle school. I have had an anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder since I was a kid. Some of my first “real” sexual experiences included being molested and a victim of statutory rape. Later in my life, I’ve been raped at knife point and dragged across the floor thinking I would die that night. I’ve been punched in the face by my “lovers”. I showed up to my first real job interview with a barely concealed black eye and bruised ribs. I’ve finished school while I screamed bloody murder into an apartment complex at night pleading for help from anyone who heard. As a working professional I’ve been sexually harassed, verbally and physically intimidated by managers, underpaid, overworked, denied promotions, humiliated, and subjected to hostile work environment after hostile work environment. I’ve been threatened with revenge porn by multiple exes, and coerced into doing things I think are unethical by people in positions of power over me. I’ve had hacked nude photos sent to my bosses and investors. I’ve been stalked over the course of months and years, been slandered and abused by media, and disowned by my industry for being a woman who spoke up. I am one of the most visible women in tech – not as a respected and valued member of our industry, but as a target. I live in constant fear of the tech community and am terrorized on a regular basis. I am held up for all to see, a public example of what they will do to you if you speak out – and it seems “anything goes” more and more each day as organized hate groups grow in numbers and strength while the tech community grows in apathy.
2. I am a cis white woman who has uncritically profited from white supremacy, cissexism, ableism, classism and other forms of oppression. My success, visibility, and achievements are fundamentally built on the oppression of others, and I spent years not giving a fuck, lending any semblance of a hand, acknowledging my role, or working to dismantle the systems I’ve been part of. Most of my privileges in life happen as a direct result of a white supremacist capitalist system, and I too long stayed silent and comfortable.
From an essay I published in autumn 2013 on my personal blog, called “Finding Out You’re a Sexist, Misogynistic, Homophobic, Classist, Racist Asshole and Hypocrite”:
“I can only cringe and hate myself when I think of all the times I have totally fucked up and became part of the very problems I hate. Yes, I have slut-shamed, body-policed, name-called, bad-joked, appropriated, derailed, co-opted, silenced, objectified, stereotyped, trivialized, slurred, punished, isolated, insulted, benefited, and stayed silent with the worst of them. A highlight reel of my life profiting uncritically and even participating in the systems of misogyny, classism, racism, cis-normativity and homophobia that oppress my friends, my family, my fellow humans would not endear anyone to me, least of all myself.
It fees horrible to talk about. But I am because we all must realize how complete, how intersecting, how deeply fucked up the system is, and the role we play in it. It’s easy to become invested in an image of ourselves as good human beings, without blame or participation in the oppression of other people. Sometimes we even imagine ourselves as a helper to them, a healer, an ally, without even thinking it through.”
I have made many sexist, racist, transphobic and homophobic comments that were abusive and violent in my life. I have consistently failed to stand against discrimination that affected other people. I’ve often prioritized my own needs and success above that of more marginalized people. For years, I made no effort to use my privilege and power to help others. I have *literally fucked a neo-Nazi and harbored him with money, emotional support and yeah, kinky sex.* My internalized misogyny and the racism I have reproduced affected real relationships and hurt real people. Because I have had access to white, cis, class and educational privilege, I have been able to protect myself, get amazing health and mental health care, and attain economic security that many suffering the same and much, much worse do not have access to. In the workplace, I got the perks of diversity in tech efforts while more marginalized people were left behind, and I didn’t say shit. I benefited and continue to benefit enormously from white supremacy in the tech industry, able to amass financial resources to start my own company and escape the day-to-day grind of the abusive tech workforce, which is not an option for so many.
All of the above things are true. As a cis white woman I have both abused and been abused, been a victim of violence and someone who commits violence, been punished by the system and also benefited extensively from it.
I refuse to run around insisting that I’m not an oppressive asshole instead of actually doing the work of dismantling the system – inside me and outside me. I heal myself, and I also work to ease, destroy and amend for the pain and oppression I have inflicted on others, that I participate in, benefit from, and bear responsibility for taking down.
I also want readers to note that the “redemption” narrative that people are looking for me to manifest here is hugely problematic, centering white people’s feelings and experiences, our personal growth over dismantling oppressive systems, and our need to feel like we are “good people.” As I’ve written in the past, I don’t believe that “good person” as a framework to approaching systemic inequalities is useful. I don’t think I am a good or bad person. I am a person who has done good things and bad things, and I try to do more good things as I grow.
I don’t wish to offer excuses for my past. I cannot undo it, nor change it. I remain complicit in and benefit from many systems of oppression, I still have an enormous amount of work to do to divest of my own investment in the system and how I enable it to continue, and I have a life-time of work to do against it, work that I try to do each day.
This is work that the tech industry needs to partake in.
I invite you to get out of my sex life and to join me doing it.