Can Leslie Jones please be the reason we retire the nonsense notion that harassment is the price you pay for a ticket to fame?
All too often, for far too long, we have shushed public figures who dare to speak up about the way the public treats them.
It comes with the territory, we claim. We pay your salary, we tell them.
Jones, the target of petulant boy-men who didn’t want the original “Ghostbusters” sullied by females, went public this week with the vitriol spewed at her on Twitter, retweeting screenshots of some of the racist, sexist tweets she has received since her “Ghostbusters” reboot opened last weekend. By Monday night, she had sworn off Twitter.
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On Tuesday, Twitter barred Milo Yiannopoulos, an editor at Breitbart.com, for his role in the harassment. Yiannopoulos called Jones “barely literate,” said her work was “terrible” and encouraged Twitter users to harass her.
“People should be able to express diverse opinions and beliefs on Twitter,” Twitter said in a statement to BuzzFeed. “But no one deserves to be subjected to targeted abuse online, and our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others.”
It’s a departure for Twitter, which has long come under fire for doing too little to combat abuse.
Better late than never. But Jones deserves the lion’s share of the credit here. She refused to accept the narrative that says venom is a dish best swallowed alone. Anyone who’s so much as written a popular blog post knows the cardinal rules for dealing with online harassment: Grow thick skin. Hold your tongue. Don’t feed the trolls.
Jones wasn’t playing that game, and her courage resulted in the ouster of a bully who mistakenly believes his free speech rights grant him the right to harass people.
A similar scene is playing out at Fox News, where chairman and chief executive Roger Ailes, is in final negotiations to leave the network following several employees’ sexual harassment allegations, according to news reports.
Host Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit alleging Ailes sexually harassed her during her 11-year career at Fox, and several other employees – including Megyn Kelly – have reportedly come forward with similar allegations after an investigation of Ailes’ conduct by an outside law firm.
We teach our kids to speak up when they’re being bullied. We tell them to find a trusted authority figure and talk about the harassment. We would never ask them to suffer in silence.
This week hasn’t been good for much in the way of adult role models. I’ve started hiding the newspaper from my kids.
But if we’re looking for examples of people courageously standing up to their tormentors – and effecting change in the process – we have a couple of clear-cut cases.