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The comment wars: when apologizing isn’t good enough for your haters


This is a guest post by Jenna Myers Karvunidis, whose blog, High Gloss and Sauce, is part of the Tribune’s ChicagoNow blog network.

I’m not a bigot. But if you Google my name it says I am. All thanks to an innocuous post I wrote last fall about my daughter’s pre-school.

It all began when dropping her off on the first day of school. I realized the volunteer dads at this co-op would be tasked with taking my then two-year-old daughter to the potty. Alone. Behind closed doors. Helping her with her panties.

Adults aren’t usually alone with children in daycares or pre-schools, certainly not vulnerable situations like a secluded bathroom (ask any licensed daycare director in the country) and my gut told me this unexamined potty procedure wasn’t cool.

Admittedly, my reaction was sexist. It was the dad part that had caught my attention when I peeked in the classroom. I had falsely assumed the teachers would be taking the kids to the potty as a group, or at the very least, the girls would be in the girls’ room with women like at any other public institution.

My alleged bigotry against all men was taken to task by an obscure, online gender equality movement (akin to feminism, but for men – and angrier) and hence the trouble, and in some ways, the story of my new life, began.

My profile was placed on an “offender’s registry” kept by a group whose hate activity was later reported in the Southern Poverty Law Center in an article that cited my debacle. I was harassed. Packages were sent to my home. My family and I received threats of bodily harm. And now I’ve also got this Google problem.

Nearly a year later, I am still harassed on a nearly daily basis in the comment section of my blog (which is moderated). We are in the process of moving from our home partly as a result of this ordeal. I filed reports with the Chicago Police Department and the FBI internet crimes division. The story is so big and so old in my life, frankly, I’m tired of telling it. But it’s worth telling because of what is to be learned about how to handle conflict on social media platforms.

On the surface, my crime was blogging from a sexist point of view in an effort to protect my child. But after a storm comes perspective and I have a new theory about how the explosion happened. It wasn’t just the post, it was partly my reaction that ignited the rage of my detractors. I became a victim because I didn’t know how or when to respond to criticism, or when it is appropriate to apologize. Just a hint: Ignoring negativity is 90% of escaping it.

All voices are not equal

One of the great things about the internet is we all have the same chance to have our voices heard. The fact that I’m a 5’2″ lady with a southern drawl doesn’t mean I’m drowned out by taller, louder or even more influential people.

But there is a problem in this leveling. The fact is, our knowledge of various subjects are not parallel to one another. We don’t all have the same information, valuable life experience or the same level of integrity.

When accused rapists and batterers and misguided, angry teenage boys left comments on my blog post calling me the “c” word I made the mistake of not recognizing that their words were too beneath me to respond.

It wasn’t until months later, after careful reading and digging that I uncovered who many of these people were. It can be easy to tell an English major from a drop-out based on grammar, but telling a saint from a sociopath takes more information that a blog comment.

Lesson: Be discerning whom who you dignity with a response. “Silence is golden” is a great tattoo for a blogger. Write your peace and stay out of the comment section unless it is to further the discussion with those who present themselves as kind, informed people.

Be candid, but careful 

Before this ordeal, mine wasn’t a highly-trafficked blog. I wrote posts off-the-cuff, similar to how I just speak my mind in person. Deep down my true ideals are that people should be kind to each other and eat good food, but occasionally I make a catty remark. I’m human. And frankly, goody two shoes are boring.

I like to write about Botox and spray tans just as much as about social commentary and justice. When my fateful potty post hit Reddit, within minutes comments starting pouring on to my blog, nasty ones, and I made the granddaddy of all blogging errors: I fought fire with fire.

This is probably a great life lesson as well. If someone calls you a name, let that person be on display for who they are. Haven’t you noticed that what people say about other people reveals much more about the speaker themselves?

And if you happen to be two glasses of wine into your evening and your blog post goes viral with a hate group, shut the computer and go to bed. Don’t roll up your sleeves and call them child molesters. Back away slowly from people who appear crazy. It turns out some thoughts are better left in your head.

Never delete a post due to criticism

I didn’t change my stance that my daughter shouldn’t be taken to the bathroom by volunteers. The school acquiesced and it was all very peaceful. Of course, that was the real world. The Internet raged on. I was genuinely remorseful about casting the volunteer dads in a bad light and I never meant to offend anyone with my post, so I removed it. Simple, right?

Removing the post in question would assuage my detractors and stop the perpetuating of the negative male stereotypes they so abhorred?

We’re all entitled to our personal opinions but removing my public one was the nice thing to do?

False and false. Removing the post emboldened my critics. To quote a supportive email I received, “they got their teeth into something more their size and (couldn’t) stop yipping about it”.

Never let a troll dictate your content, no matter how scared you are, because it will never end. Be strong, but not confrontational. Don’t delete a post, especially a post that a Gawker Media site has linked to.

Know when and how to apologize

I had genuinely upset some very troubled people who, for all their faults, were still human beings. And they had a few good points. I can’t imagine being a man in today’s world, with the hysteria about child molestation and feeling like a pedophile if you so much as glance at someone’s kid. It’s indeed not fair. So I apologized.

I had a genuine mind-opening experience and wrote about it. If you offend a member of your community, a general rule is to do the right thing and apologize, right? But if you offend someone on the Internet, carefully consider before apologizing. If you do, make it brief, and be prepared for a possible onslaught greater than the original offense. I followed none of these rules and stoked a flame so big I lost four pounds in two days. I do not recommend “internet trouble” as a means to fitness.

You will never win the hearts of everyone. Take a look at YouTube educator Laci Green whose apology for the ignorant use of the derogatory term “tranny” for transgendered people earned her globally famous harassment, threats and stalking.

The sad truth is while social platforms lend a great voice to causes and unheard opinions, the anonymity of the Internet allows people to eschew proper behavior. In real life, if someone acknowledges they cause you pain, you try to accept it and move on.

In Internet life, an apology is an invitation to sing the I Told You So song and invite other hyenas to rally. This was said to me in an email of support, “A profuse apology was not enough: they wanted you naked and crawling in mud while flagellating yourself until your back bled.”

One remark could define you

Is who uses what bathroom in preschool my soap box issue? I wouldn’t even put it in the top ten. I care more about clean food and being a good parent than I do nitpicking other peoples’ business. Beware of writing about issues you’re not ready to fight for. If I had this debacle to do over again, I’d write about the same issue, minus addressing the gender of the potty helper and stress the importance of being critical of school policies in general.

Keep going

People always ask me why I keep writing. I could have deleted my blog, or started another one under an alias or stuck my head in a Word document and emerged with a feeble attempt at the great American novel (and I still might) but the truth is I’ve got something to prove. I’m still here.

I won’t be shattered or shamed into silence. I do have other opinions besides gender-assigned restrooms at preschool. Besides, I like my blog. I like the instant gratification of writing to an immediate audience and the ChicagoNow community is priceless.

Mine is an extreme example. I do my best to ignore my new, nasty following these days. I don’t write to the critics who read me every day. When I write a post, I imagine it’s an email to those who get me. I write as if the only person reading is my best friend.

In short, write to the audience you wish you had and eventually they will read. Try to stay out of dust-ups with haters, but if it happens, tread thoughtfully. And for the love of God, don’t put your home address anywhere on the Internet.

Jenna Myers Karvunidis can be reached at high.gloss.chicago@gmail.comor on twitter at @HighGlossSauce.

Free images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Comments
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  • Vintagehatcollector

    Jenna – it sounds like you truly offended exactly 1/2 the population.  Calling people you truly offended “haters” does not really translate into “Gee I said I was sor-ree” very well.

    Maybe you need to do a little more self introspection, and try that apology to those “haters” you offended.  I doubt they hate you so much as they hate your continued bigotry and ugly accusation.

  • Bombay

     You will not be “shamed into silence” and will attempt to shame others into silence by calling them haters.   Perhaps this is why your struggle will not end and your apology not accepted.

  • Kimski

    I have followed this from the beginning, and it is obvious that you didn’t learn anything from the experience, because you continue your poorly hidden insinuations.

    “I became a victim because I didn’t know how or when to respond to criticism, or when it is appropriate to apologize”

    Not really true is it?
    You were never a victim of anything else but your own bigotry, but I’m more than willing to believe you don’t actually know how to respond to criticism. It probably has not been happening too many times, in your sheltered and pampered existence as a mommy-blogger and housewife.

    You became a _target_ because you continue to paint the male half of the population as child molesters, and presented with the true facts regarding sexual predators, you admitted to being a bigot and refused to apologize without making demands in return.

    And now you continue, by stating that the attacks were coming from ‘accused rapists and batterers’, which makes you a bigot AND a liar, Jenny Karvunidis.

    Learn to deal with the fact that you’re being held accountable for your admitted bigotry.
    I’ll bet that’s a first, too.

    Here’s what happened, if anyone wants to read the truth: 

    http://register-her.com/index.php?title=Jenna_Myers_Karvunidis_–_Bigot                                                          

  • andybob

    This post is a masterpiece of self-serving revisionism. Ms Myers Karvunidis is a monument to how so many women in our society simply cannot get their heads around the fact that men are human beings with dignity and value. She still fails to grasp the damaging nature of her actions. No-one has ever denied that she had every right to designate who should accompany her child to the toilets. Don’t want the fathers to accompany your daughter? No problem. I’m sure many fathers wouldn’t want man-hating feminists fiddling with their sons either.  
     
    What upset people fair-minded people (a fact which Ms Myers Karvunidis conveniently leaves out) is that she threatened the school with legal action unless all of the fathers were disbarred from any potty duty with any child. She supported this outrage by citing easily debunked Women’s Studies statistics about the overwhelming majority of men being rapists, pedophiles and perverts.
     
    Ms Myers Karvunidis had contributed to the kind of anti-male hysteria that feminists have whipped up over the decades to justify legislation such as VAWA. Men’s rights activists are confronting this kind of bigotry in an effort to protect the rights and welfare of men and boys. We confronted Ms Myers Karvunidis – and it shocked her. Women do not expect to be called on their misandry.
     
    When she tried to prevent the fathers at her daughter’s pre-school from fully participating in their children’s lives, Ms Myers Karvunidis expected to get away with it – and be patted on the back. What she got was righteous anger from men who have had enough of being demonized as inherently psychotic and unfit to be around children. When radical feminists at Radfemhub were exposed by MRAs for sharing – among other outrages – their violent, gendercidal fantasies, they got the SPLC to denounce us as a hate group. Of course, Radfemhub are generous financial contributors to the SPLC. Vigilant MRAs even captured a screenshot of the SPLC’s founder thanking the radical feminists for their financial support. They are forever discredited.
     
    Jenna Myers Karvunidis made outrageous claims of being harassed and threatened by MRAs. We urged her to go directly to the police with her allegations. We also asked for evidence of this “harassment” so we could condemn it directly and unequivocally. We’re still waiting. There was no harassment. She simply made it up. We have encountered this type of thing before. Feminist commits egregious anti-male bigotry. MRAs constructively criticize this bigotry. Feminist ‘feels’ attacked by constructive criticism and interprets this as harassment. Feminist cries, white knights shake fists, MRAs shake heads. Variations of this scenario have played out for millennia.
     
    Spin it however you like, Ms Myers Karvunidis, what you did was wrong and you were held accountable for it. One ‘insignificant Mommy blogger’ as you insist on perceiving yourself, had the power to interfere with fathers participating in the lives of their children just so you could score a few points with women readers (anti-male propaganda plays well to this crowd – ever watched Oprah or Dr Phil?) Be content to be a walking, talking cautionary tale to other ‘insignificant’ women who want to try their luck at demonizing men. That is your Google destiny. Embrace it    

    • http://www.facebook.com/JennaKarvunidis Jenna Myers Karvunidis

      “What upset people fair-minded people (a fact which Ms Myers Karvunidis conveniently leaves out) is that she threatened the school with legal action unless all of the fathers were disbarred from any potty duty with any child.”

      False. I never threatened legal action against the school nor did I ask them to change their policy nor did I ever care who did what with the other kids. I asked that *my* daughter not be taken to the potty by strange men and the consequence was that I would remove her from the school. 

      I don’t even know why I dignify this tripe with a response considering how obstinate and unreasonable your side is. It’s like you purposefully invent a story that never happened just to have something to rake me about. It was ONE post over a YEAR ago. Don’t you people have a new target to harass?

      • nigeles175d

        Myers Karvundis, your ad hominem attacks, lies and continued bigotry fail to function as argument, simply immature “name calling”. Playing the “damsel in distress” is alsl beginning to fail too. Hypocrisy appears to be your strong suit.

      • Kimski

        After following this case for more than a year, I’ve reached the conclusion, after a considerable amount of careful thinking, that you must be as dumb as a doornail, Jenna.

        First you admit to being a hateful bigot, when presented with the facts about men not being your alleged 99% of rapists in the population. Then you go on to calling victims of female on male rape for sexual predators themselves, to which you offer no excuses without making demands in return. That is besides mentioning, that you indeed did threaten the school with legal actions. You even bragged about it, as if you expected a pad on the head in return, which you now apperently deny ever happened. All this, while at the same time presenting yourself as a victim of your readers rightful anger for your bigotry.

        Finally, with this article, you suggest to the readers that they do not respond to what you call hateful replies to your open bigotry, which you then in turn seem incapable of doing yourself. With this last reply you have truly shown the world your blatant lack of consistency in everything you write, as well as cemented the reason for you being exposed on Register-her.com for eternity.

        Good luck with the ‘victimhood-claiming’, which seems to be the only way you seem capable of handling your biased points of views on one half of the population, that has just had it with you self-proclaimed feminists and your bigoted man hating.

      • Philipmole72

        I only recently found out about this whole controversy. I’m a dad, and I appreciate that fact that you were willing to apologize. To all the rest of you out there – please leave her alone.

        • nigeles175d

          You demand that we do not hold Myers Karvunidis accountable. Are you her husband as well as a demonstrably irresponsible father? Like most misandrists you refuse to hold women accountable for the damage they have done.

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.elam Paul Elam

    It appears, Jenna, that you have perhaps learned that you cannot just demonize men these days without it being treated as the bigotry that it is. But rather than apply the lesson forward, you have simply changed to demonizing men’s activists because they were the ones that called you on it.

    The problem is that when you were going after the fathers at that school, you were at least talking about something that really happened. And now you just stirred up the pot again, this time with lies.

    If you had any evidence at all of a campaign to harass you, I would know about it because I “led the charge” in this case. I posted the article to reddit. I own register-her.com where I had you placed on the registry. And I, as well as others at the other website I own, wrote follow up articles to keep the heat on you. That is public knowledge. All of it was done to deal out the public embarrassment that you righteously deserved.

    But if you have been terrorized out of your home and had threats and strange packages at your door, and reported it to the police and FBI, then it is incredible that I have not had so much as an email from them.

    Well, unless you reported it and they decided there was no reason to talk to me.

    If you have real evidence that what you are saying is true, then publish it, and I will make a public statement harshly condemning those actions. Until you do, I choose disbelief, and rightly so.

    You should actually do what you claim to be doing in this article, maturing and learning. Unfortunately, even though you are penning words on those matters of growth, you are actually just proving that you have really learned nothing.

    We react poorly to bigotry in this culture (for the most part). It is what we do in this society. Ask Tracy Morgan, Michael Richards, Don Imus or any number of other people whose bad ideas and mouths got together and sent them careening into a ditch. 

    When people say really ignorant, hateful things, decent people react with indignation. Maybe you should practice some of the maturity you are writing about and just accept that this is what is supposed to happen.

  • WelshRabbit

     Jenny,good on you for acknowledging mistakes and apologising, unfortunately some people will never be pleased no matter how much reparation is given.

    As with the feminist movement,there are some very vocal men on the internet who see all females as inferior and judge the entire gender based on the one or more ladies who blew them off on a date, they effectively wallow in self self pity and have used the male equality movement as a reason to victimize themselves and cover up their true intent and true beliefs.
    Both gender movements should be distancing themselves from these individuals if they want to be taken seriously.

    Those who have thrown rational calm debate out the window and took it upon themselves to harass Jenny,invoking fear into her personal life have got serious issues and should be putting all the time they spend abusing someone on the internet into getting psychological help.

    Real supporters of either movement should be educating on a equal footing,not attacking those they believe are wrong into submission.

  • Girius

    I view this as a phony apology with passive aggressive insults for her “apologees”

    This woman is apparently married to a weak man who tried to buy her a way out of the jam by offering a “donation” to Paul Elam if he would quit the registration. Absolutely sickening. A housewife who not only lets her husband pay for her entire life – while she takes pot-shots at men – but who also tries to clean up all her messes.

  • BitchesToRemember.Wordpress.co

    BitchesToRemember.Wordpress.com
    Jenna is one of several bitches profiled. Warn all men about her!

  • Marc

    Nitpicking other people’s business? Really because Sunday really proves you can Not not do that. You ma’am are a low class low blow sexist woman. You hate when a man gets more attention than you. You hate when a man does what you do and get recognized for doing the same thing. You are nothing more than a jealous person that is follow by throngs or mindless morons that eat you sauce like it’s the best garbage in the world. You are a hipocrit and nothing less.

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