When I was little I used to do this weird thing. Well, I did a lot of weird things, but for the purposes of this story we’ll stick to one.
When I was little, and I wanted to change my mind about something – the TV show I wanted to watch, the shirt I wanted to wear, the flavor of popsicle I wanted to eat (you know the kind in the plastic where you have to cut off the end and then you suck all the juice out when you’re done?) – I would go into the closet.
Like, I would literally walk to the closet in our old living room, open the door, walk in, close the door, and perch on our vacuum cleaner for a few minutes. I don’t really remember what I did in there – it was pretty dark. But after a few moments I would reappear, ready to announce my new decision.
Anyway, I have to go into the closet. Metaphorically. At the beginning of the summer I chose a thesis topic (yayyy!) and felt so much relief. I researched. I wrote. I was making progress. And then I changed my mind. Here’s what happened:
I’m taking a class called “The Publishing Process” this summer. It’s great – seriously the best class I’ve had at SCAD so far. The whole semester is spent putting together a book proposal. First, we vetted ideas for our books, and then we dove into each section – the proposal, the table of contents, the sample chapter, and the CV and author bio. We are graded and get feedback on each section and at the end of the semester we revise the whole thing and hand it in as our final project. And then we have a real, honest-to-goodness book proposal we can send out to agents and publishers! So. Freaking. Cool.
Wanting to keep things light and breezy this summer, I chose to do my book on slut-shaming and rape culture. Here’s a little teaser I wrote about it for part of the proj:
Shamed: An Exploration of Ugliness on the Internet. This nonfiction book explores the contemporary phenomenon of online slut-shaming. In an effort to demean and guilt women who willingly or unwillingly express themselves sexually online, anonymous Internet trolls have taken it upon themselves to act as “moral” vigilantes. Acts of slut-shaming often have disastrous – sometimes deadly – consequences for the victims, with few repercussions for the anonymous offenders. What does the prevalence of online slut-shaming today say about our society’s attitudes toward women and sex? By investigating victims’ personal stories, this book brings to light an under-researched crisis. Is the Internet the cause? Shamed reveals something more sinister is to blame.
Good, right? Stop, I’m blushing. So, basically what I’m finding is the people who become the Internet trolls who are attacking these women are doing it because they’re horrible, pathetic people, yes, but it also stems from people feeling powerless, disenfranchised, and being messed up in the head. Additionally, I’m finding that socioeconomic factors are at play. And, sadly, I’ve found that we’re not as progressive as we think we are when it comes to taboos involving women and sex.
SO – I’m writing this proposal and it occurs to me: I SHOULD WRITE THIS PROPOSAL AND THEN USE THAT AS A BASIS TO START MY THESIS WHICH WILL BE THE FIRST CHAPTERS OF A BOOK ON SLUT-SHAMING AND THEN I’LL GET IT PUBLISHED AND CHANGE THE WORLD.
In other words, I had my thesis topic.
But then I found myself in the closet.
Here’s the thing: the stuff I’m finding is really messed up. Like, the stories of these girls who have been exposed and shamed are heart-breaking. Sickening. So, that should be all the more reason to write about this right? I don’t know. I really don’t. Researching this stuff has seriously made me question whether people are generally good. There are comments and websites and memes I’ve found that I won’t post here because I don’t want to give them the publicity, but are just so awful. People hide behind the veil of anonymity the Internet provides and use that anonymity to do truly awful things.
So, now I feel like I should pick a new topic. Can I realistically spend the next year reading and writing and talking about this stuff? I feel passionately about this topic, but maybe I’m too emotional about it to write objectively.
I don’t know what to do. I’m still in the closet on this one.
Would love to hear your thoughts.