‘Unspeakable Things’- The Predictable Sexist Troll Backlash

Well, it’s been quite a weekend. In the past 24 hours, I have been subjected to a stream of vile sexist and anti-semitic abuse on Twitter and elsewhere. This has become a normal part of my life as a person who dares to write in public whilst being both female and left-wing, but this weekend it’s been particularly full on. Rape fantasies and pictures of dead children were coming faster than I could block individual users. In the end I had to step away from the internet, which was a pain because I need the internet to work.

Today, they moved in on my book, ‘Unspeakable Things’, which was released two weeks ago. On the 20th July, a racist, misogynist Twitter account going by the moniker ‘@TurboHolborn’ posted a link to the customer review page of ‘Unspeakable Things,’ with the instruction ‘let the trolling commence’. Subsequently, over 20 one-star reviews full of vile sexist and scatological language were posted on the UK page of ‘Unspeakable Things’, almost all of them from users who had reviewed nothing else. I’ve taken screenshots. Amazon ratings really do matter to the publishing industry, and this is an obvious attempt at sabotage. Clearly, this book, and the fact that I’ve written it, is making some bedroom misogynists incredibly angry. Somewhat ironic, given that there’s a whole chapter in the book about how structural sexism works online.

I am sick of this bullshit. Criticism is one thing – and the book has received its fair share of that from writers who think it’s too personal, too politically strident, too left-wing, too queer or too dark, as well as rave reviews from critics who love it for precisely the same reasons. But this is not fair criticism, any more than the men who’ve been sending me death threats for years are merely expressing their opinions.

I am not going to lie back and take this. Here’s how you can help.

-Firstly, you could buy the book! Or pre-order it, if you’re in the USA. I wouldn’t normally ask this so directly, but it’d be fantastic to see this latest bit of sexist sabotage massively backfire. If you’d prefer not to use Amazon, you can support your local independent bookshop here.
[ETA: Only if you can afford it! I’ve just had someone tell me they’ve ordered it despite not being paid till next week, and that is extremely kind but not necessary. You could…I don’t know…borrow a copy and then post a review. Thanks. ILU.]

-If you’ve read and enjoyed the book, please post a good review – every little helps.
-If you haven’t, you can downvote the poor comments – or you can share this post. It’d be useful for the publishing industry to understand exactly what women writers are up against right now.

9 thoughts on “‘Unspeakable Things’- The Predictable Sexist Troll Backlash”

  1. Hi Laurie,
    I have just watched your interview on Australian TV “The Drum” and was so impressed with how articulate and reasoned your opinions were, I had to google you! (Sorry, I had never heard of you before now). I’m now dead keen to buy your book, one, because I loved what you had to say on “The Drum”, and two, I am equally fed up with those small minded individuals who have to slander those who have thoughts or opinions they are clearly scared of! How do we ever grow as a race if there are not those, like yourself, who dare to think differently about a subject!
    I’m really looking forward to reading “Unspeakable Things”. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with my review :-)
    Have a wonderful day!
    Many kind regards,
    Lauren

  2. I have just purchased a copy of your book for my nook & will be reading it soon. As a feminist writer, I look forward to a voice as strong as my own!
    Thank you —–

  3. Hello Laurie

    I have seen your book in the many bookshops around my home city of Bristol, although I confess I have not bought a copy. You know what money is like. But I wanted to say that the whole issue of trolling of activists, women and LGBT people on the internet has seriously dented my belief in freedom of speech and my hitherto libertarian approach to the media.

    Many years ago, I had a friend whose radio name was “Steve Midnight”. He used to DJ and present talk and opinion on a small pirate radio station called Subterranean Sounds (this was in the early 1990’s when there were loads of AM and FM pirate stations, before Labour legalised community radio). I was a naïve activist extolling total free speech on all media. Steve, who used his freedom on the air to play indie and alternative rock and talk about current affairs, told me to “be careful what you wish for”. The internet was just coming in then, and he said that without the mediating presence of traditional press or broadcast editors, the free for all would lead to every cruel person, bully and bigot getting online and harassing their way to attention.

    So true! I am sorry to read that particularly female writers are bearing the brunt of the stupidity of inadequate men. Until people can learn to behave, then I see no problems with having fully moderated sites or in closing off comments feeds.

    All the best.

  4. Brilliant book, devoured it….came in mail today, started reading, could barely put down to eat or do anything else, for that matter. Just finished. Will definitely write a review on Amazon and downvote the poor comments. Your writing speaks to the ages, at least to those of us with open ears, waiting with bated breath for your “realness” and a new growth in feminism,…..I’m a 74-yr old crone, remembering how I devoured the radical feminists back in the day to counter the mainstream feminism that I felt had lost its way from such wonderful radical roots which understood and wrote about structural and always made the connections/intersectionality of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, etc….Been feeling rather hopeful for the future with feminists like you and Jessica Valenti, Dangerous Black Girl/others I have found on the Internet….Though I always found inspiring radical feminist writers in libraries, so many not carried. The Internet is a true lifeline to so many millions for reading and social justice work.

    Thank you for finding your way from “fucked-up girl”, to one of my favorite Warrior Women…..now looking for your other books…hoping for many more words from your lips/fingers…We need you. The World needs you.

    sought approval

  5. Totally silly comment here, but I just thought I’d say how much I loved reading Katy Kay’s second remark saying she’d ‘fucked up’ after calling herself a 74 year old crone – no ‘crone’ speaks bad-ass like that Katy! You rock!

    1. Thanks, Rebecca, love your comment (not silly at all, and I would say that if you had written it about anyone, not just because you wrote it of me….and best compliment I have had in a while…..except from other bad-ass, bodacious feminists……Young and old together, we will totally rock and topple the fucking foundations of chauvinism, racism, homophobia, classism, etc, as we build a new radical feminist world!!!

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