Content warning for misogyny, sexism, transphobia, slut-shaming, and people generally being awful on Twitter.
Being a woman who covers sports and exists on the internet is not something I would recommend. Alas, thanks mostly to my professional choices but also to my inexplicable tendency to gravitate towards emotional self-harm, that is exactly what I am. It is, in fact, what I’ve been for quite some time now.
Thankfully, over the years, I have developed some tools to deal with the precariousness of such position.
This is Spencer. He’s making sure you don’t forget your mask. 14/10 not sure what he’d do if anything happened to you pic.twitter.com/7pKEYrI5aS
— WeRateDogs® (@dog_rates) October 12, 2020
I have learned, for instance, to take three deep breaths and go to @dog_rates before letting Dude With Five Followers And No Avatar™ convince me I am a stupid slut with a horse face. I’ve learned to trust my instincts and not wait for two or three strikes before blocking Dude Who Uses Fancy Pseudoscientific Language To Disguise His Misogyny,™ or muting Dude Who Wants To Teach Me How The Internet Works.™ I’ve learned that the most efficient way to deal with hateful nonsense really is to just ignore it, but that being the bigger person gets boring and sometimes a petty quote tweet is really all you need.
Mostly, I’ve learned what to expect and how to prepare for it. I’ve learned, for instance, not to question the sanctity of prominent male millionaires unless I’ve had a good night’s sleep. I’ve discovered that it’s best to drink lots of water and load up on complex carbs before pointing out sexist behavior by athletes, musicians, political figures, or pretty much any man ever. And, obviously, a bit of alcohol and immediate access to a skateboard-riding bulldog’s Instagram really comes in handy in the aftermath of a tweet regarding police brutality, economic inequality, systemic racism, or whatever it is that people with sunglass selfies in cars have decided to speak out of existence that week.
Yet, despite all these years of training, I haven’t lost my ability to be surprised. This weekend, I was reminded that I am still a beginner, a novice, nothing but a tiny helpless speck facing the bottomless sludge-filled hellhole that is Twitter.
And it all started with this:
— UFC (@ufc) October 10, 2020
On the off chance that you are one of those well-balanced individuals who manages to exist beyond our screen prisons, this happened at this Saturday’s UFC in Abu Dhabi. Thanks to a tremendous amount of skill and some disregard for the basic laws of physics, Joaquin Buckley secured a spot in the next two decades of UFC highlight reels and blew our collective minds. It was beautiful, and nasty, and ridiculous, and certainly among the coolest knockouts I have ever seen. Like the rest of the internet, I had to say something about it.
After about five seconds of deep intellectual and existential digging, this is what my clearly brilliant and possibly slightly inebriated brain produced.
I WANNA MARRY THIS KNOCKOUT AND HAVE ITS BABIES
— Fernanda Prates (@NandaPrates_) October 10, 2020
Now, I will say, I am not particularly proud of this tweet. I don’t think it’s insightful, or clever, or even very funny. I’d argue, in fact, that it’s pretty dumb. Boring. Inconsequential. The kind of reaction that one expects to quickly fade among the endless sea of skull emojis and “Damn!” and “Oh shit.”
But then it got an RT. And another. And another. Next thing I knew, I was on a Twitter moment, and the likes and mentions kept coming in. The tweet was well on its way to becoming one of my most popular ever (clearly, I am not very popular), and I was both surprised and delighted at the number of positive reactions. People liked my silly tweet! They were being nice! As my brain filled up with dopamine (or whatever it is that your body unleashes when your pathetic existence meets any kind of positive reassurance), I allowed myself to believe that maybe it wasn’t a myth after all. The Good Internet Night™ was real, and I was living it!
That, of course, was a trap.
It didn’t take long for another, more familiar sensation to replace those sweet happy hormones. My dumb, boring, inconsequential tweet had somehow crossed out of nice Twitter and gone… *Ominous music* Somewhere else. I was caught off-guard. I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep. I wasn’t hydrated. I had no videos of unlikely animal friendships at hand. There was no preparing me for Very Silly Tweet, which so far had garnered only the most delightful of interactions, to turn into…
There’s also this one, so you don’t complain I discriminate based on gender:
And, how could we forget, this:
And that’s me not even getting into everything, because, frankly, some things are beyond my jurisdiction. As one might notice upon further inspection of Very Silly Tweet, though, some took it to mean as a call for penis. There was enough of that, in fact, that I reached out for help: Had I inadvertently used some kind of internet code that my naive Brazilian brain had been oblivious to?
Was my impossible desire to be wedded and impregnated by a concept — not an actual person, not an object, not our future alien overlords, but a word — in fact, a mating call? Was Very Silly Tweet, at its core, merely a verbal manifestation of my subconscious, overwhelming thirst for the D?
Unfortunately, my timeline offered little help in answering those questions. Either the people I regularly interact with felt bad about letting me know that my dangerously horny self had just invited the internet into my vagina, or they are just as oblivious as I am to the hidden codes of knockout impregnation. As Very Silly Tweet continued to spread, I muted it and went on with my life. And by “went on with my life” I mean I told my boyfriend that I did that but instead continued to sneak into the replies and dig through them like a filthy raccoon.
Now, 176 retweets and 2.1k likes later, the confusion around the hidden meaning of Very Silly Tweet remains. Am I a penis-hungry slut? Am I a lesbian? Am I gold drigger (sic)? Am I a dude? Am I doomed to a miserable lifetime of neither being impregnated by real men nor fucked by knockouts?
I remain, as of the time of this writing, in pursuit of answers.