Bold Type: I Learned to Value My Words as a Journalist

Bold Type: I Learned to Value My Words as a Journalist

Welcome to Bold Type: Resilience After Harassment, a series celebrating resilience and growth—by journalists, for journalists—in the face of online harassment.

An illustration shows retro images of a woman on the phone

To protect their identity and safety, some writers have chosen to stay anonymous. This story comes to us from C., who is a freelance journalist.

“Are women like me not desirable?” That was the first question that ran through my mind when I first experienced online harassment in response to pieces I wrote.

Years earlier, I came across an article highlighting reasons why you should not date an Asian woman. In the article, a white man wrote about why Asian women are unsuitable dating material. Now, of course, everyone has their own dating preferences and who they are attracted to, and that’s understandable. But this took another tone.

The writer’s message struck a nerve. He painted an ugly picture of Asian women—and one that pushed me to speak out. As it so happened, at the time I had also been brewing two essays about my experiences in an interracial relationship and on feminism, kinks and erotic practices as an Asian queer woman with a white man.

Back then, I was a fairly new writer and most of my articles were informational and based on limelight. I wrote often about the music, arts and film industries. But this moment would be a catalyst for me. It was an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone into what was supposed to be more empowering and feminist writing.

Through the two essays, I debunked the man’s reasons for asserting Asian women are unsuitable for relationships. I could counter each of his stereotypical, racist and sexist comments. I discussed bodily autonomy, feminist values and more.

Initially, the response to my writing and narrative was positive. Both people I knew and didn’t know banded together and supported me in solidarity. However, I think the idea that it only takes one stone to crack a piece of glass is what ended up happening with me.

Then, the Incidents

A few weeks later, I started receiving Instagram DMs from white cis men (some I knew, some I didn’t know) who conflated my advocacy for sexual wellness and education with accusations about promiscuity, citing my personal essays on sexual exploration and kinks. “Why does she talk a lot about sex?,” they asked, trying to prove I slept around. It was a jab at my thoughts and my advocacy; an attempt to shame me and put me down.

Then, after a month, I received more random Facebook messages and discovered that men were participating in various Facebook group chats to demean my character, sexualize and objectify my photos and pick on me. Their misogyny was brutal. They attacked my values, my character and my work. I felt excluded and unsafe.

A year or so after the essays ran, I even received a phone call from two white men who had stalked my profile for an extended period of time. They were bothered by my work (and perhaps my mere existence), so they verbally harassed me on the line. Just as the original author of that demeaning article had done a year earlier, these men felt the need to draw out a hateful response to my work.

Again, the question, “Are women like me not desirable?” resurfaced in my mind. A year later and after months of abuse and a few more months removed from it all, the inward hurt returned. I hung up the phone and blankly stared at my friend who had witnessed the call. I considered responding to the men directly, but I didn’t even know what to say.

Looking back though, I’m glad I had this experience. As a very new writer at the time, with no experience in the journalism world, I did not have the confidence in myself that I have today. I had to grow into that person, and while at the time the situation was uncomfortable, it was a learning experience for me.

Becoming Bolder

I learned to value my own words as a journalist and, in fact, to desire myself. I’ve often heard that someone can only hurt you if you give them the power to do so. Yet, hurt has the ability to change you for the better.

It empowered me to take on assignments I previously would not have considered doing. I grew as a writer and understood that there won’t always be a hundred percent agreement for what you have to say but that, even so, your words matter.

I wish I had possessed all of this knowledge back then because I know it would have allowed me to grow. Often it is our worst moments that bring us our strongest victories. Looking back, I never would have been able to secure the opportunities I’ve had since then.

Always attempt to look at the glass as half full rather than half empty. Every experience you gain as a writer, adds meaning to your journey even if it isn’t apparent at the moment. Take that in and let yourself take every risk and every fall in your stride.

Thank you so much to C. for sharing her story with us and the public. Interested in sharing your own story? Get in touch →

Additional Online Harassment Resources

Illustration created for OnlineSOS by Anna Tóth