How The Hateful, Misogynistic DMs I Get From Internet Trolls Affect Me Every Single Day

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For little girls who dream of growing up to be women writers and journalists, the specter of misogynistic hate from Internet trolls is unlikely to be something they learn about in their school assembly on cyber-bullying, but it is a very real phenomenon, and I have plenty of first-hand experience and advice for them when they're ready.

You see, since I walked across the stage to receive my MFA in playwriting in 2009, I've made my living by writing.

Sometimes I have paid all my bills with my prose. Other times, it's been relegated to a side gig supplementing my paltry income.

And in whatever capacity I've written, I've always covered those things that I'm the most passionate about, which means I primarily write about topics that women's magazines put in the "lifestyle" category — typically essays and news stories on mental health, body image issues, and romantic relationships.

There's a thing that happens when you write on the Internet.

Sometimes, if a story piques another website's interest, they will ask permission to syndicate it on their site. It's essentially the digital media version of television stations picking up re-runs of TV series they didn't originally air. Minus the royalties, of course.

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It's always a good feeling knowing your work resonated with others, and getting the opportunity to have that work shared on another, potentially larger platform means it can reach even more people than it already has, which is always awesome.

All of that said, there is, of course, a little bit of a trade-off that comes along with being a woman whose work is shared among a wider audience.

Here's what I mean.

When I woke up this morning, I noticed that I had waaaay more social media and email notifications on my phone than I usually do. I did that thing that all the self-help and productivity books say you shouldn't and immediately started trying to play catch-up. We're talking before I'd even put my glasses on.

From the sudden influx of messages and, more specifically, from what they said, I quickly understood without anyone having to tell me that a personal essay of mine must have picked up and republished somewhere big.

You see, I can always tell when that's happened because I immediately begin receiving even more messages than I usually do from men who insist on explaining to me that, because I am fat, I am unlovable and my opinion has neither value nor consequence.

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It's totally perverse that upon reading one message from a gentleman who described his extreme degree of hate for me that my first thought was, "Ooooh, yay! I got picked up!" But that's exactly what happened and it was exactly how I felt.

If you had told me when I first embarked upon this career that I would ever be so quick to let hate mail roll off my back, I would never have believed you.

Yet. Here. We. Are.

The story that got the white men of America so enraged with me this week was one I wrote about a man giving me a backhanded compliment when I was ordering coffee at a deli on my way to work. It was about my own relationship with my body, and how that relationship has grown and changed over time.

How this subject matter, or any I've ever written about for that matter, translates to their need to loathe me and to let me know which specific, violent acts I deserve to have them carry out on my person, I have no idea.

And frankly, I don't care to try and figure it out for them.

As a woman, I have come to learn that any time I speak my mind on the Internet, there some people will have a problem with the fact that I exist and that I am fortunate enough to be in a position in which I can share my perspectives, opinions, and beliefs with others.

What the trolls sending me hate mail don't realize is that when they hit "send", the only message they deliver to my inbox is that the world needs people like me to continue speaking up.

I'll be honest. Hate mail used to really bother me. A lot.

Now it's just a reminder that my words have an impact. So come at me boys, but don't expect me to stop any time soon.

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Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer and culture editor living in Brooklyn, New York. She has a passion for lifestyle, psychology, pop culture, and true crime.