(NOW: You can read Dategirl every day on the Daily Weekly!) Dear Dategirl, Do you ever read and/or respond to the online comments that readers post to your columns? I ask because I've been following them over the past month or so, and I've noticed that quite a few are condescending, judgmental, and sometimes openly hostile. We all have a constitutional right to free speech and our own opinions, but I'm gobsmacked by the prejudice, fear, anger, and venom in some of these comments. I think it is a frightening commentary on society. I've noticed such comments not only in your column, but on many other sites as well. Do you have an opinion on this issue?—Surprised by the Hate
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I've also noticed the recent uptick in creepy comments, and can only guess my column got linked to on some Woman-Haters'-Club website. Your question is a bit off the love/sex beat, but as I went back and read some of the more egregious statements, it became clear that the kind of hateful, misogynist postings you're talking about actually are relationship-related. Ask any woman about the most common insults thrown her way, and she'll inevitably tell you "fat" and/or "ugly," followed by "slutty." It doesn't matter what she looks like. I know beautiful, slim women who have vaguely public personas and field the fug/fat/slut e-mails constantly. Naturally my first reaction to a hateful screed is anger, but I try not to go there. How can I argue with someone who writes "So, so, so, disgusted by all the fat pigs trying to pass themselves off as women these days." Or "Single moms are the greatest source of future generations of slutty daughters the world has ever known." What would I even say? "No, most Seattle women aren't fat slatterns, desperately trying to trap some guy into marrying them." Or "'Single mom' doesn't translate to 'slut' in any language." In other news, the earth isn't flat. Why bother? So instead of twisting my panties into a knot, I try to eke out a little compassion for them, as I'm clearly some bastard combo of Buddha and Jesus. It's obvious that the majority of these haters are lonely and unhappy. Loneliness is very hard on a person, and while it sometimes manifests itself in depression, it can also turn into anger, which is where we're at here. During bleak times I've cycled through bitter-bitch and can't-stop-crying. It's not fun, nor is it an attractive look for either gender. Some of us go to therapy or sweat out our fury at the gym; still others go online and let their dark side off the leash in the comments section. A lack of sex, or even just another human's touch, can also have a devastating impact on a person's psyche. One of the cruelest men I've ever known was in extreme denial about his homosexuality for religious reasons. He tried desperately to date women, but nothing ever worked out because he was hopelessly attracted to men. The result: a nasty, bitter guy who repelled anyone crazy enough to get close to him. I'm not saying that all haters are closet cases—he was just an extreme example of what happens when you shut down that part of yourself. Whether you do it willfully or not, it can fuck with your head and manifest itself in ugly ways, as we sometimes see in the comments section. So the next time you read something nasty, think about where it's coming from. Then you can turn the other cheek—and ask them to kiss it. firstname.lastname@example.org