I’ve No Idea What To Title This Post. But It’s About Naomi. And It Feels Important.
I love Naomi Dunford.
Why? Well, she’s one heck of a prototypical Quirkipreneur. She does business and blogging *her* way, by gawd, and no one is gonna stop her or tell her it’s against the rules.
She’s what my Grandmother would call (in a hushed voice) a “mouthy broad”.
She cusses up a storm on her blog. She wears tight t-shirts on video, then cusses even more. She is utterly transparent in the areas of her life she chooses to reveal and the rest of it is none of your gawd-damn business, thank you very much.
Whether you care for her shtick or not? The way she carries herself as herself, with no holds barred and no apology has given a lot of women in business on the web (and off, I imagine) permission to be ourselves… able to follow or break the rules as *we* choose, not as is dictated to us by any established standard.
She’s grown into an
unlikely hero of mine.
Then last winter? She closed her online store and dropped out of sight, just as nasty speculations about her personal life seemed to pick up steam on the internet.
Almost everyone I knew wondered what on earth was going on. A lot of us missed her snappy wit and humor. A lot more of us missed the information and inspiration she’d provided to us over the years. Some people snickered and giggled and pointed fingers about the gossip, and other people found the snickering and giggling and gossip distasteful. Me? I was somewhere in the middle.
Such is human nature.
We brush it off, and pretend like we don’t gossip. That’s those other people. Wink, wink, nudge nudge.
But this week?
I can’t brush it off anymore.
Because those of us who follow the the mini-business-online-marketing world? We’ve found out a lot more of what’s behind that gossip than we ever wanted to know.
If you have no clue what I’m talking about, go and read this:
Death Threats and Hate Crimes, Attacks On Women Bloggers Escalating and then this: Sometimes The Bad Guys Win
Done? Ok. Now that you’re sitting there in stunned silence (like I did for a full 10 minutes after reading the second post) indulge me with a few rambles, will ya?
I’ve been threatened before, by both on and offline contacts. I’ve been stalked online, harassed across different services, and had folks try to ruin my reputation in some really nasty ways. It was scary as hell, and it cost me a potential career path – but I’ve never been through anything like what these two people are facing.
And when I brought this topic up this week on our quirki-biz TweetChat? The majority of attendees seemed to have at least one personal story of abuse, threats, harassment, or stalking, all connected to our careers as female artists, writers & entrepreneurs.
See, when you’re creative and push the boundaries? You piss people off. When you’re successful, you piss people off. When you’re different, when you give other people permission to be different, you piss people off. When you don’t sit down, shut up, and do what you’re told, you piss people off.
Sometimes, pissed off people push back.
And, yes, it really does happen more often if you’re a minority, and it happens especially often if you’re a woman.
I don’t like to admit it. I don’t like to
think things are still this hard for women.
I grew up with a twin brother, and we were raised by a mother who was almost obsessive about treating us equally. I had it so drilled into my mind that boys and girls were the same that for years, I was convinced it was makeup, bras and girdles that made us look different from one another.
Seriously, I thought that.
Yes, I can be naive. Hush.
My point is that it’s still very hard for me to really grok that most of the world just doesn’t see the sexes as equivalent. And that kneejerk reaction of “Oh, its because she’s a woman…” ?
Yeah. I don’t do that.
I’m skeptical whenever I hear the “because she’s a woman” claim.
I was skeptical in Naomi’s case, too. After her first post on the topic about violence against woman bloggers, I wondered to myself if maybe she was over-reacting, taking things out of context inadvertently, or, yes, ok, I admit it… for split second, I wondered if she was playing it up, consciously or unconsciously. (I’m really sorry about that, Naomi. Really. If it helps, it was only for a split second. Swear.)
But the more I looked
into this situation?
The more I saw that said yes, there are specific, clear elements in what’s happening to her that are happening because she is a woman, and they wouldn’t be happening to her if she were male.
And they probably wouldn’t be happening in quite the same way if she weren’t such a… well… a mouthy, gutsy, broad.
And when I saw today’s post from her, the one entitled “Sometimes The Bad Guys Win”? It hit me like a ton of bricks.
The reason she is at risk in this particular situation really is because she’s a highly visible successful woman, a woman who got where she is by tossing aside the rules about how she was supposed to behave. One of the rules she tossed aside was becoming a business partner with a married man, and spending time alone with him. That, combined with her in-your-face shtick means she fits the image of a Jezebel, and that’s what seems to be at the core of the threats against her.
Clearly, there’s a lot more going on here.
This isn’t just about misogyny.
Dave is probably the one most at risk, and the one who has almost certainly lost the most already. There’s a poisoned family and religious dynamic involved, and clearly twisted issues of control. There’s a website that views itself as a snarky white knight, so fiercely determined to expose the supposed evils of the marketing world that it doesn’t bother to get its facts straight or actually check into who might really be at risk because of its “exposé”.
To reduce it to misogyny is almost a disservice, especially to Dave and his family.
And yet, misogyny IS a part of this, obviously.
And so is our willingness, as human beings, to give credence to gossip – even gossip that is clearly malicious.
And for that? I’d like to apologize.
Because as this situation developed, before the threats were made public, back when I started seeing and hearing the rumors?
I believed them.
And I’m *so* not proud of that.
Oh, sure I thought the vendetta against Dave was wrong, and I felt bad for him, and for Naomi. I left room for doubt, and I wasn’t “sure” about what happened, and I declared that it was none of my business what they did or didn’t do together. I did my best to “judge not” about what may or may not have happened with Dave’s family and kids, too. I thought it was hateful and wrong for anyone to splash this info across the internet, and to try and destroy their respective businesses and reputations. I didn’t think the gossip was relevant to my opinions of them as marketers and consultants, but remarkably, for reasons I don’t really understand, I believed that the core of the gossip was true.
Gossip about people I don’t really know, other than through their blogs and their products and maybe a quick exchange on Twitter now and then.
Gossip that didn’t fit with what I do know about them. (Honestly, would Naomi go silent because she was ashamed of an affair? Does THAT sound like the Naomi Dunford we know?)
Oy. I’m so not proud of that. And now that my head is back on straight and I’ve come to my senses, I’ve remembered that we never, ever know what’s going on in someone else’s world. We don’t know why they make the choices they do, or what the real story is.
And, I might add, there is a lot that we still don’t know.
So I’ve realized anew just how devious this sort of rumor can be, how and why victims of crimes are often victimized a second time when they speak up about it.
The strange thing is that I was telling myself those truths, all along, that I didn’t really know what happened.
Yet I was still falling for the rumor mill.
“Where there’s smoke, there must be fire” and all that.
Yes, I said “Bullshit.”
(And no, I don’t cuss all that much, so take note.
Let’s say that the cussing in this post is in Naomi’s honor.)
Sometimes, where there’s smoke?
Someone threw a smoke bomb.
I really believe that’s what has happened here. A lot of smoke was put out there, in the hopes controlling a situation that had clearly spiraled out of control. Maybe the intent was good. Maybe it wasn’t. Again, I don’t know.
But I’m kinda pissed that I fell for that smoke bomb, even in a small way – because I knew better.
I’m even more pissed that a site that purports to expose internet scammers fell for what amounts to an internet smoke bomb, and that because it fits his current “marketers are all scum” narrative, he refuses to consider that he might, in fact, have been scammed himself this time.
But that’s a whole ‘nother rant, for a whole ‘nother post.
So bottom line?
I still love Naomi.
Maybe even more so, after this. And although I have a lot less exposure to Dave, I still respect his work a very great deal. I’m sorry I doubted them both.
So I’m humbled.
And I’m thinking, again, about just what it means to be visible on the web, just as I do every few years.
And I’m thinking, again, that as much as I try to stay out of these battles? I can’t seem to keep my mouth shut.
And I’m thinking, again, how much trouble it’s gotten me into in the past, and just how much trouble it might get me into in the future.
Because I never dreamed that someone as gutsy as Naomi would attract this sort of hatred based on internet rumors.
I’m still stunned.
But I think I’m past the speechless stage.
Way past speechless, judging by the length of this post.
Honestly, it feels very, very odd to be discussing other people’s personal business like this. But you know what? It needs to be discussed, because we forget this stuff happens, we willingly push it out of our minds.
But we need community support should it happen to us, and we can’t give or get that support if we’re all being silent, and keeping our heads down, and pretending it’s not really going on, or that it can’t happen to us.
So I think you can expect more from me on this topic.
Not so much about this particular situation (which isn’t my business) but about hatred, and control, threats and abuse, and maybe how to protect our fledgling or established businesses and creative, quirky efforts from it.
Oh, and yes, for those of you who read this whole, lengthy diatribe? You can expect an illustration from me about this. But you’ll have to wait just a bit, because I want to get it just right.
While you’re waiting, if you have the courage? Feel free to drop into the comment section below. All I ask is that you respect each other’s space, as always – no lectures, shoulds, shouldn’ts, tsk-tsks or must do’s. Deal?
Update 1 (sept 4) As of this moment, I’ll still be allowing all comments through after the intial moderation for spam. But this isn’t an extension of the Salty Droid comment section, and this isn’t the place to wage a battle over who is right. Please keep that in mind, when you drop your two cents in, ok? Because if things get nasty, I will start moderating. Deal? Oh, and also… to those of you coming from Salty Droid’s site? If you’re going to post here, please actually *read* the post, and respond to what I actually said, rather than just using this as another place to sound-off. Thanks
Update 2 (sept 10) A lot has been said around the ‘net since this post went live, and a lot of mud has been slung. Some folks think I’ve been hoodwinked. Some think I’m a duped sheep. I’m not. I consider this stuff from all angles (a skill I learned in previous nasty firestorms) and maybe, just maybe, it’s possible I see some different patterns than others.
Remember this mess did not start with an expose’ about Internet Marketing. It started with a family drama that was aired in public as a manipulation tactic. And given elements of that drama, the family history, and events that all sides agree happened? I see damn good reason for Naomi to feel at risk, whether she is or not. I also see why she would link the threats to sexism. That’s based on the public exchanges, without anyone knowing what threats she may or may not have received privately.
Given both her persona, and the problems in her business? She makes a lousy poster-child for the feminist cause. Those troops were never going to rally behind her. But as others have said? NOTHING she may or may not have done makes death threats (or violent language that can be perceived as death threats) OK. And nothing makes dismissing claims of death threats OK, either.
If you want to blast Naomi? Blast her for her admittedly lousy customer service. Blast her for using the same manipulative marketing tactics she teaches. Blast her for having at least considered tax evasion. I’m sure as hell not going to defend any of those things. And go on… blast her if you think all internet marketing is a scam (even though I disagree with you on that point).
But don’t shame her because she said she felt threatened as a woman.
And don’t try to embarrass me into backing off of that point.