Author Notes: Want to read part 1? Here it is. A lovely article discussing this very group can be found here. This article puts into words things that I’ve been thinking for a long time now. This post discusses cPTSD and triggers in a frank and honest manner.
I was actually having a lovely Sunday, getting things done on my to do list including trying to figure out how to get some fence fixed and knocking out things on the to do list. I was writing; my gladiators were getting married in the manuscript, and while I thought cockygate was a new level of cray cray in the publishing world, I also believed that those who could do something on the legal front were, and most authors believed the slippery slope that it placed all of publishing on.
And then a friend asked me if I’d read a rant. I immediately knew which group and even who wrote it. I’d read his rants before, mostly with a shrug and a “whatever”. This person only seemed to post in the group to rant, and honestly, he didn’t write in my genre, and I ignored them, must like anyone would ignore the rants of a middle aged white guy with privilege who believed everyone should do it “his way”.
This rant was different. Instead of talking in generalities, it was attacking not just my genre, but the women who wrote in my genre. It attacked those of us who believed the trademark set a bad legal precedent, and it was pretty much “if you’re not with me, you’re against me.” It was long and rambling and gave me flashbacks to being screamed at as a child for doing absolutely nothing wrong. Indeed, I hadn’t even been in the group all weekend, let alone discussed the issue in question.
It triggered me.
If you’ve never had a full body shaking, almost going to vomit and can taste bile in your mouth, can’t breathe, tears squeezing out your eyes panic/ptsd attack, you’re blessed.
I replied back to my friend that no, she wasn’t off. This rant was different and holy shit, it triggered me too. We virtually held each other, reassured ourselves that we were going to be okay, and did the talking ourselves off of ledges that those with PTSD do when confronted with a trigger.
My heart is racing just writing this. You see, because of my fibromyalgia, intense stress like that stays with me for days. The intense pain, the racing heart, the physical and emotional damage lingers. I’m still trying to work through it. I can’t hide under a rock, but I can remove myself from situations which could be potentially triggering. Certainly, I believed a professional publishing-oriented group wouldn’t be a place where I’d get triggered, especially one with “no drama” as one of the rules.
The owner of this group inflicted physical and emotional harm on myself and many other female authors. (Men can have PTSD as well. My circle is mostly female so I’ve only heard from women who felt the same way as I did.)
I’m in a sub group for people with chronic illness to find support, and until Sunday, I would have told you it was an awesome place to be. So supportive and uplifting. The moderator told me the main group was “his playground, his rules”. I get that. I really do. I explained that with cPTSD, it wasn’t physically or emotionally safe–it harmed my health–to remain in that group. The moderator (gender unknown), said rules are the rules, I had to remain in a potentially triggering and physically harmful environment to be in the support group. Then, the moderator shut down commenting on the post which was “OMG I was triggered, I can’t stay there, but I really appreciate the support of this group, what do I do?”, and ended the conversation.
The moderators of the group and any sub groups who are standing by the main group are just as culpable in forcing authors to stay in a situation which will be potentially hazardous to their health just to receive the help and support in the sub groups. “If you want our help, you have to put up with abuse.” That is the message being sent.
The good news is that many of the friendships I’ve made extend beyond the group and the information is available elsewhere. So why am I mentioning this?
Because it ties into the fact that unnecessarily a huge dump of toxic masculinity was interjected into this conversation. And yes, by attacking women authors in a female dominated field, let’s just say #metoo.
Books have been written about toxic masculinity. In this case, it’s being demonstrated by a male who comes into a space only to yell or provide anger, expressing his emotions in a traditionally male way.
I get that the moderators of that group were taking serious amounts of heat. Apparently the person behind cockygate is a mod there, and instead of looking at her actions as attacking and bullying authors, they stood beside her. In turn, they received personal attacks. I get that this poster was fed up, frustrated, and had had enough. Still, he acted in anger. He reacted with violence in text. This is toxic masculinity.
Or, as I put it to the moderators. As they say in the military (to put it in male terms), friendly fire isn’t.
There isn’t space here to talk about how those who lead groups, even facebook groups, need to look at themselves and make sure they’re setting a good example. If you set yourself up as a guru in your field, you need to have your emotional shit together. This means looking at yourself, your values, and what you’re saying not just in the context of your own privilege, but also how it could be perceived by others. (An excellent article about that is here, which addresses this issue in the context of the coaching/marketer world.)
Why am I saying this?
Because I want people to know they’re not alone. I’m sure many of us could name half a dozen men who did great things for their industry, indeed even the world, whose behavior toward women has gotten them in trouble. I have no desire to start a coup against the group. I’m out. I’ve got books to write and things to get done. But I do believe that where you are in the online world and what you do says a lot about your values.
My goal is to get some books written, get that fence fixed, and move forward with my healing. I also hope I’ve sparked some thought. Because frankly, when you act in a manner which triggers people with PTSD/cPTSD, you’re not helping the community. Using the fact that you’ve done “great things” for the community as a reason for your rant is inappropriate, because no one I know asked you to. Has what you’ve created and done helped people, yes. But that also doesn’t excuse abusive behavior.
Frankly, that’s just cocked up.