Kurt Meztger, a writer on feminist comedian Amy Schumer’s show, recently published rape apologist comments on Facebook. Fans of Schumer understandably took to Twitter to question her decision to employ Meztzger (and I hope her fans inundated Meztger’s account all day too). In response to the justified questions, Schumer began blocking anyone who asked her about it. I do not necessarily agree with Schumer’s decision to block everyone who questioned her about Metzger. I understand many of those questioning her were supportive fans who felt betrayed; they were justifiably seeking an explanation and went about it in a respectful manner. They had a right to be upset.
However, I am similarly as uncomfortable with reactionary responses accusing Schumer of “failing women.” We need to make a distinction between the right to criticize a celebrity and the right to her attention. Schumer was not reading op-eds that criticized her and then seeking out the author’s Twitter account to block them. She was blocking people who had already attempted to interact with her - people whose interactions had already demanded her time and attention. If she was being bombarded with messages – some of which were undoubtedly harassment – could we view her strategy as preemptive? Should she wait until someone crosses the line into harassment before she blocks them? Is it possible she had already been the target of harassment and she was tired of the abuse? Should she have investigated each account to decipher which were well-meaning supporters and which were misogynistic trolls? Because that sounds like a lot of time and work. I’m all for holding Schumer accountable, but criticism is not the same as demands for attention. We can disagree with Schumer’s response, but it’s also an opportunity to think about the appropriate ways to respond to demands for attention, a fine line that can lead to harassment. When we are denied attention – even if our intentions are justifiable – we should seek to understand the larger context of the strategy. I too wish Schumer had outright fired Metzger. But she asked us to stop asking her about it and it is her prerogative to block those who didn’t. I’m using Schumer as a controversial conversation starter, but it seems no matter how women respond to online harassment they are criticized for it. Could indiscriminate blocking be read as a preemptive strategy? Should it be read as an aggressive act?