Ashley Judd Pens Impassioned Op-Ed About Abusive Twitter Trolls and Violence Against Women

Ashley Judd is speaking out against violence against women and the connection between online bullying and misogyny in an impassioned op-ed piece for Mic.

Judd was targeted by sexually violent Twitter trolls for make an “unsportsmanslike” comment against players on the Arkansas basketball team, and opened up about her own personal experiences with rape and incest in the powerful article.

At a conference championship game on Sunday, Judd (who’s a huge University of Kansas basketball fan) posted a seemingly innocuous tweet about players on the Arkansas basketball team that said they were “playing dirty & can kiss my team’s free throw making a—.”

However, she then was on the receiving end of so many sexually charged threats that she deleted the original tweet, and vows to press charges against the abusers.

She writes that instead of having conversations about March Madness or basketball, she must “as a woman who was once a girl, as someone who uses the Internet, as a citizen of the world, address personally, spiritually, publicly and even legally, the ripe dangers that invariably accompany being a woman and having an opinion about sports or, frankly, anything else.”

Entitled Forget Your Team: Your Online Violence Toward Girls and Women Is What Can Kiss My Ass, the vocal and active woman’s rights advocate wrote:

I routinely cope with tweets that sexualize, objectify, insult, degrade and even physically threaten me. I have already — recently, in fact — looked into what is legally actionable in light of such abuse, and have supplied Twitter with scores of reports about the horrifying content on its platform. But this particular tsunami of gender-based violence and misogyny flooding my Twitter feed was overwhelming.

Tweets rolled in, calling me a cunt, a whore or a bitch, or telling me to suck a two-inch dick. Some even threatened rape, or “anal anal anal.”

I deleted my original tweet after the game, before all hell broke loose, to make amends for any genuine offense I may have committed by describing play as “dirty.” (Of course, other people, including my uncle who is a chaplain, also expressed fear that the athletes would be hurt badly. But my uncle wasn’t told he was a smelly pussy. He wasn’t spared because of his profession; being a male sports fan is his immunity from abuse.)…

What happened to me is the devastating social norm experienced by millions of girls and women on the Internet. Online harassers use the slightest excuse (or no excuse at all) to dismember our personhood. My tweet was simply the convenient delivery system for a rage toward women that lurks perpetually. I know this experience is universal, though I’ll describe specifically what happened to me.

I read in vivid language the various ways, humiliating and violent, in which my genitals, vaginal and anal, should be violated, shamed, exploited and dominated. Either the writer was going to do these things to me, or they were what I deserved. My intellect was insulted: I was called stupid, an idiot. My age, appearance and body were attacked. Even my family was thrown into the mix: Someone wrote that my “grandmother is creepy.”

 The Divergent actress went on to provide examples of such gross abuse on Twitter, and then continued to write:

The themes are predictable: I brought it on myself. I deserved it. I’m whiny. I’m no fun. I can’t take a joke. There are more serious issues in the world. The Internet space isn’t real, and doesn’t deserve validity and attention as a place where people are abused and suffer. Grow thicker skin, sweetheart. I’m famous. It’s part of my job description.

The themes embedded in this particular incident reflect the universal ways we talk about girls and women. When they are violated, we ask, why was she wearing that? What was she doing in that neighborhood? What time was it? Had she been drinking?

She then shared the tweets of people who tried to help and “identify and dismantle the twisted logic of this entire incident.”

The Harvard Kennedy School of Government grad continued on to write,

I am a survivor of sexual assault, rape and incest. I am greatly blessed that in 2006, other thriving survivors introduced me to recovery. I seized it. My own willingness, partnered with a simple kit of tools, has empowered me to take the essential odyssey from undefended and vulnerable victim to empowered survivor. Today, nine years into my recovery, I can go farther and say my “story” is not “my story.” It is something a Higher Power (spirituality, for me, has been vital in this healing) uses to allow me the grace and privilege of helping others who are still hurting, and perhaps to offer a piece of education, awareness and action to our world…

Supported by friends and a brilliant psychologist, my therapy was astonishing, as all such healing work is. I felt like I had the chance to finally speak, fight and grieve, and be consoled and comforted. But then, on literally the very next day, I received a disturbing tweet with a close-up photograph of my face behind text that read, “I can’t wait to cum all over your face and in your mouth.”

The timing was canny, and I knew it was a crime. It was time to call the police, and to say to the Twittersphere, no more.

I’ve spent valuable March Madness time writing this. I have 6 versus 11 seed upsets to pick and opponents to scout. So for now, I am handing it back over to those of you who are unafraid to speak out against abuse like I have faced, and those of you who are righteous allies and intervening bystanders. You’re on it. Keep at it — on the Internet, at home, at work and in your hearts, where the courage to tackle this may fundamentally lie. We have much to discuss, and much action to take. Join me.

Read Ashley Judd’s entire piece here; the full essay is definitely worth the read.