An Open Letter to Middle Aged Liberal Men on Medium.
I have been writing on Medium now for just over two years, beginning in the early days of the 2020 Democratic primary. After my very first article was curated and drew a wide range of responses from people who read it, I decided it was something I wanted to do on a more regular basis, but never did I imagine it would turn into a still small but steadily growing blog with regular readers. After a couple of months though, I quickly learned for the sake of my own sanity, not to check my comments. On the rare occasions that I do I’m quickly reminded of why I don’t, and it has to do with a certain niche of people on Medium who have made it particularly unpleasant.
I almost decided not to write this. Of course there are much more important things to write about and my time would be much better spent addressing the substantive issues that affect the day to day lives of average Americans all across the country. But as time has gone on certain things have been continuing to eat at my conscience and I feel compelled to address them at least once.
First, I should begin by saying I do not mind disagreement at all.
I would not make my living writing about politics if I did. I do not mind people expressing their views, whatever they may be, in the comments on my work. Writing about policy, legislative goals, the way forward, motives, and strategy is going to come with contentious debate which is frankly part of what I love about electoral politics. But when certain types of comments are left by a certain niche of reader on a regular basis, one can’t help making observations and noticing things.
Liberal, middle aged men in particular tend to turn my comments into a cesspool.
Like I said, politics is going to garner disagreement. No matter what has been written below my writing or sent in emails to me, I’ve only blocked two users on Medium for as long as I’ve been using the platform.
One of them stood out, and continues to do so.
I wasn’t going to block the person for simply calling me a disgrace, but I did after skimming through more of their increasingly hostile comments and seeing:
“…Her ENTIRE MO is to bitch about EVERYTHING. She’d be stuck forever in her nurses’ aide gig…because no nursing school would tolerate her harassing her patients with her ridiculous utopian bullshit, which I guarantee she does currently.”
This was a comment left on an article where I merely questioned how hard Biden was going to fight for his infrastructure bill.
This person has been reading my writing regularly and long enough to know my job. Judging from the rest of the comment they left, which was paragraphs long, they are a loyal Democratic voter who supports Joe Biden, who evidently does not like having arguments made that challenge their positions from the left. Great, fine. No problem. Passion and disagreement come with the territory as a writer. But I can’t help wondering, would a man have a comment left on their work with that kind of tone?
Would a man be told all he does is bitch? Would a man be met with that level of blatant hostility and resentment? Would a man writing the same thing be told you’ll never get into nursing school and that you must be harassing your patients because you questioned Biden’s willingness to fight?
I decided that type of comment was not something I wanted to put up with, and blocked the man because it was something he was evidently doing regularly. He then made at least one other account thinking I would not notice, and proceeded to write the same type of comment thinking I would not notice it was him. When I pointed out that I knew it was him, he did not deny it. After a few weeks of ignoring the comments again, I clicked on a comment from a regular, typically disagreeing reader and saw that this man had applauded the comment. This man was going to the accounts of readers who disagree with me just to get an idea of what I was posting, and applauding their one-line comments on work he could not even read.
A fellow Medium writer who I follow on Twitter has also noticed the trend, telling me a lot of the comments on my writing seem to boil down to “listen here, young lady!”
On another piece of my writing discussing my opposition to billionaires and what they represent, another fairly regular reader wrote:
“People like Bezos, Buffet, and Gates count brilliance few others have. This is the difference between them and you. These people are far brighter. Every word you write in the dreadful essay reeks of envy. You loathe them because they have greater intellectual gifts than you do. You deeply resent it.”
This comment, obviously, did not cross any kind of line and I’m certainly not going to prevent this user from sharing their thoughts. But once again, I can’t help noticing the tone. One can’t help reading it and getting the idea that the writer is talking to someone who they see as a silly, naive, jealous little girl. I’m positive men would be met with the same argument behind these comments, but not the tone.
The people who clapped for the comment were men.
I’m not even going to get into the types of comments I was getting during the Democratic primary.
Thankfully comments on Medium are easy to ignore, but I don’t like ignoring them. I don’t like being in the position of feeling as though I need to ignore comments like these for the sake of my mental health, but also being conscious of the fact that there’s also people commenting who feel as though my silence means I can’t negate whatever argument they’re making. There are a number of liberal men who have — judging by literally all of their activity on their account — dedicated their entire presence on Medium to monitoring what I write and arguing with people who agree with me. I like honest disagreement. I like debate. I like productive discussions. Unfortunately, some on this website have made that almost impossible.
Before I even sat down to write this I already promised myself I’ll never write anything like it again. Writing has always been my outlet of choice, and I just needed to get it off my chest. At the end of the day, the issue isn’t the comments themselves. I’m just disappointed at and exhausted by the inability to have real conversations, and I can’t help wondering why there is such a preoccupation with my writing in particular among liberal men. I’m a 26 year old CNA who just wants people to have healthcare, decent, dignified wages, and a government that represents them. I’d like to get to the place where we can have real, productive conversations about how to achieve those things.