Season of Fear

By Maria Padhila

I’m afraid I almost didn’t write this. And I almost didn’t write this week because I’m afraid.

Poly Paradise at Burning Man. Photo by Eric.
Poly Paradise at Burning Man. Photo by Eric.

I’m afraid someone is going to shoot a photo of my 51-year-old white lady ass in yoga pants and post it to a Reddit page with other photos of women in yoga pants. There are a half-dozen sites devoted to women in yoga pants alone, I understand, but I’m afraid to look at them for fear some virus will take over my computer and I won’t be able to get my work done.

I’m afraid the poster will make chuckling comments about how he shot these photos of women in yoga pants and then went home and spanked it to them. And I’m afraid all his little virtual friends will pile on, and I’m afraid they’ll all make crappy comments either saying they’re going to spank it too, or that they’ll make crappy comments about how bad my ass looks. I’m afraid to make that last honest comment, because you’re not supposed to be offended if a lot of trolls make fun of your ass. You’re supposed to ignore the trolls.

I’m afraid that there are so many trolls: so many people out there with this bizarre psychological twist that makes them so desperate for any kind of attention that they’ll engage in any way they can; people so hurt, so tense, so crumpled and knotted that they’re desperate even to make people angry, make people hate them; people so desperate to look strong, look smart, look superior to the rest of us, just to try to prove they’re alive, that they exist, that they are here.

I’m afraid of how single-minded they are, like sharks or jellyfish, just drifting, scanning, engulfing, biting, hissing: “See me, see me, see me, feed me, feed me, food, food, I eat your energy, I eat your fear, I eat your confusion.”

(I’m not afraid of people spanking it, by the way. But I’m afraid people will use against me the fact that I don’t think spanking it is wrong.)

I’m afraid that people will take the photos I’ve put up on the internets, to show to friends, and do whatever they please with them. I’m afraid that there are photos of my own daughter out there. I’m afraid that some variation of what happened to Amanda Todd will happen to her. I’m afraid to even talk about Amanda Todd, for fear that someone will stumble across this via a search engine and then decide to attack me or the ones I love. I’m afraid I can’t protect them. I’m afraid they’ll smell my fear. I’m afraid to reveal what I’m afraid of, because they’ll use my fear as a weapon against me somehow.

I’m afraid that I really don’t care if some dweeb on Reddit is spanking it to pictures of my 51-year-old white lady ass, because really, how does that hurt me? I’m afraid of my lack of concern that this should somehow be seen as a violation. I’m afraid that it means I’m not a real feminist or a real mom, because I can’t see how someone else’s illness could really hurt me.

I’m afraid I don’t think someone taking a creeper photo of my ass means they’ve stolen my soul. I’m afraid that if I just find them pitiable, they’ll turn meaner, looking for more attention feeding. I’m afraid that the next person I look up to write about in the poly community is going to turn out to be sketchy as hell and have all kinds of skeletons. I’m afraid that happened just this week, and I’m afraid to look under any more rocks.

I’m afraid of the way the trolls are protected and coddled by people who ignore them or defend them, saying, “It’s their right,” and “It’s free speech,” and “It’s legal.” I’m afraid to clamp down on anyone’s free speech for fear mine will be the next to go. I’m afraid for the women who started this website. I’m afraid about everything I’ve written online, everything I’ve revealed, because there are people out there who will use it, who will grab my soul. I’m afraid to just let it go and ignore the trolls, because I’m afraid they’ll escalate, escalate to real life assault and worse. I’m afraid some of these trolls are running for elected office. I’m afraid I’m living too much of my life online.

I’m afraid to speak out about what happens to me anymore, afraid if I do I’ll end up like this woman, who has been undergoing a troll pile-on for months and months, who has been trolled by no less than Richard Dawkins. I’m afraid if I comment I’ll be taken down as a dumb ugly cunt who doesn’t know her science and is just whining. I’m afraid that someone who can’t recognize the extent of their own privilege, who remains willfully ignorant of their privilege and their ignorance and their illnesses, will attack me by saying I’m speaking out of privilege.

I’m afraid of what I’ll do if anyone ‘chastises’ me or tells me ‘bad form, young lady, bad form’ as they did to her. I’m afraid of these virtual gangsters. I’m afraid for my daughter, growing up around these virtual gangsters. I’m afraid I helped cause all these problems by speaking out in the first place and trying to get a place at the table and pointing out the problems in these communities. I’m afraid I’ll get thrown out of the tribe for telling the chief he’s heading down the wrong road.

I’m afraid we’ve gone too far and insulted and scared these guys too much through making these observations, through not being nice, through not being sweet, through refusing to just get a cup of coffee with them, for god’s sake, these are nice guys who aren’t asking that much, and how are they ever supposed to meet anyone or get with anyone if they’re not allowed to just ask a woman if she wants to have a cup of fucking coffee, and besides, I’m poly, so that means I sleep with everyone who asks, right?

I’m afraid that they’ve all gone ’round the bend and they’ve all started seeking revenge now. I’m afraid I’ll end up living The Handmaid’s Tale. I’m afraid I’m not doing enough to help anyone at all, because I’m afraid to stick my neck out and say what I’m seeing and feeling here. I’m afraid I’ll be labeled hysterical. I’m afraid someone will use what I do and say and write as an excuse to give me a lobotomy and take my child away and take my job and everything else I’ve worked for. I’m afraid they’ll stalk me and harass me and bully me and they’ll never, never give up, even when I’m dead.

I’m afraid that by being honest about my fear I’ve made myself a target. I’m afraid that I gave bad advice when I told other people to express themselves, to put themselves out there, not to be afraid. I’m afraid I’m just going to be misunderstood. I’m afraid I’ll be deliberately misunderstood because it suits someone’s purposes not to listen, not to hear, not to try to understand but just to make their own point. I’m afraid that everything I write will be twisted and jumped on. I’m afraid it’s all a waste of effort.

I’m afraid even to imagine what that mother must feel. I’m afraid even to imagine the fear that child must have felt.

I’m afraid they’re getting worse. I’m afraid of becoming the ones I fear. And I’m afraid of what I’ll do if I ever meet a troll face to face.

I’m afraid I’m going silent. This is how it happens.

12 thoughts on “Season of Fear”

  1. But trolls do push my buttons. I’m so interested in their psychology and motivations. I’m most interested in the trolls who don’t really know they are, who think they’re crusaders for truth. There’s some kind of relationship dynamic in there I can’t get at yet.

  2. It’s sort of a dramatic monologue trying ti capture the feeling I get when I get out there to start researching and exploring. How that process can start spiraling on you. Funny thing is, this is just a slice of the whole meatloaf of fear–there’s job/economy, loved ones, etc. in there as well. It’s so easy–and it makes sense–to let it stop you and shut you up. But when I do a real look, I try ti break it down and go for big long term benefit/lowest risk. Speaking out, so far, falls into that category. So does love. Driving to work tomorrow on the east coast dies not 😉 thanks for comments!!!

  3. Maria,
    This is such a great piece of authenticity. Things spiral out of control and suddenly we are obliterated and catatonic. When this happens to me, I connect to as many people as I possible have the strength to reach out to. Thank Goodness for yoga and yoga pants!
    I bet your 51 year old white lady ass looks better than most! Off to do yoga!

  4. Doesn’t anybody think this whole thing is hilarious? I’m pretty sure it is a spoof on Scorpio and on writers and on the Net in general.

    “I’m afraid I don’t think someone taking a creeper photo of my ass means they’ve stolen my soul. I’m afraid that if I just find them pitiable, they’ll turn meaner, looking for more attention feeding. I’m afraid that the next person I look up to write about in the poly community is going to turn out to be sketchy as hell and have all kinds of skeletons. I’m afraid that happened just this week, and I’m afraid to look under any more rocks.”

    Oh darlin’… do tell…


  5. Maria, a fine exposé of what happens when fear goes viral.. the perfect description of the shadow side of the this pagan season, a side milking the sacred cow of consumerism.. nice work!

  6. “I’m afraid someone is going to shoot a photo of my 51-year-old white lady ass in yoga pants and post it to a Reddit page with other photos of women in yoga pants”. And let’s face it, you’re just hilariously funny – and a good laugh chases fear out of the shadows every time.

  7. Think this is a time when deep, childhood and atavistic fears are coming up. One of my greatest fears is not being able to survive financially, to lose my flat – and I’m being hit hard with that right now, overriding all the other million and one fears I have. But if you can look all those fears in the eye – you’ll see that they are just that: fear. That behind all of fears’ manifestations there is the deep insecurity of being alive on this planet – where things are constantly in flux, and there’s no guarantee of safety,at a time whe earthquakes and hurricanes are raging round the world. In allowing oneself to open up to that deep insecurity, one can find a deeper strength and resilience that can’t be touched by any miserable troll. Thank you, as ever, Maria, for your courage and honesty, for sharing your deepest feelings with us here, so that we may feel less alone.

  8. Brave Maria,

    I feel all this with you…and applaud your bravery for expressing your depth, your truth and the anguish over the state of the human experiment here on planet earth. For all its power, magic and beauty, the internet along with all the smaller/more powerful tech toys that now flood our lives have the power to bring out the dark side of humanity as well. I looked at the Predditor page you linked to and what struck me is how utterly lost, bored and insecure the men there looked and sounded. To me it seemed that all the voyeurism gone wild is a ‘natural’ result of the pain a soul feels when it is living far, far below its Truth and potential. These men, and let’s face it, most of this is perpetrated by males, are deeply, deeply wounded. Our culture and technology allow them to live thru the twisted and wounded frequencies because we don’t know how, as a collective to help each other evolve and be the Shining Beings we are meant to be, that we come here to be.

    Much has been made of how the “Aquarian Age” is supposed to be some shiny new epoc where we all live up to our highest, greatest good and everything is magically perfected… but this ignores the shadow side of Aquarius, which is brought forward so forcefully and beautifully in your article. How do we integrate and heal this shadow side of Aquarius? I do not know…. the lack of compassion, the hubris, the willingness to strip others of their humanity, the willingness to use and abuse technology just to garner peer approval is indeed terrifying. The problem is vast and not easily resolved.

    But this I know… we can see all this erupting and emerging out of the unconscious and un-evolved parts of the collective but we, you and me and any other individual who cares can gain strength from remembering that what goes around comes around… and more importantly, we can each choose more carefully what we are willing to put online and how much we are willing to “live” online…and most importantly we can remember that while fear can sometimes be useful (alerting us to danger), living in fear is not why we are here. If that is where we find ourselves, then only we can make the changes in our lives and in our minds to rid ourselves of this toxic frequency. This modern techno world, created mostly by the hyper-polarized, over-powered and unrestrained Yang/male half of our humanity has created much of this twisted culture: it sexualizes everything. What it doesn’t sexualize it commodifies. Whatever is left over is deemed boring and unimportant and is pushed to the margins. Sadly, this process has left no space in the social world (or in the hearts of those who fully embrace the dominator model) for things like openness, vulnerability and empathy towards one another. We are witnessing the culmination of the destructive power of patriarchy as it moves out of the Piscean shadow frequencies and into the Aquarian shadow realms. I do not blame males for this journey- we’ve all had our co-creative parts to play… but this kind of behaviour that has you so fearful is a sign of the deeply wounded male principal and those who carry the yang part of the polarity (be they men or women) have to come to grips with these shadows and do the healing work to reclaim the Sacred Male energies that have become lost in this experiment called patriarchy. The objectification that these males participate in only takes them further away from what all humans naturally want: to love and be loved.

    I hear you that you feel afraid that you might be going silent…but your voice is needed. Your gifts are needed. Your role in the healing of your self, the community and our tribe is crucial. We need to teach our daughters and our nieces AND our sons and nephews how to remain free, strong and empowered as these shadow realms try to take hold more and more. We need to be smart, strong and not feed the wolf of fear in our hearts, for if we do, then the shadows win and that is not why we are here.

    Blessed Be to you dear sister…. for your courage and bravery and honesty, you are sooooo loved!!!

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