Milo Yiannopoulos, Bill Maher, and The Voices We’ve Lost Since The Election

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Over the summer, I wrote an essay on Medium about Donald Trump, the rise of the Alt-Right, and my experiences enduring vicious harassment campaigns on social media. It was a risky essay for me to publish. I wrote it knowing it would lead to a new onslaught of abuse and vitriol, because addressing the behavior of figures like Milo Yiannopoulos, Mike Cernovich and Paul Joseph Watson is like waving red meat in front of Ramsay Bolton’s hounds. But the stakes were too high to remain silent in the midst of the most vicious election in my lifetime, and I knew it was worth sharing my personal experience with a phenomenon most were still dismissing as Internet fringe hatred. Continue reading

I’m Going to Listen to “Fight Song” on Repeat to Raise Money for Planned Parenthood

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By the fourth time a co-worker asked me when I was leaving for DC, I was upset. It made sense for people to assume I would be attending the Women’s March on Washington: I was one of the biggest Hillary supporters at the office. Friends and strangers alike ask me for advice about taking political action, and several people went to me for information about the marches in DC and NYC as if I knew the organizers personally (I do not). It’s flattering to be seen as a leader in these messed up, politically charged times. But when it comes to in-person protest, I’m at a loss. I have anxiety, particularly when it comes to crowds, loud noise, and feeling trapped. I’m not a march person. Continue reading

10 Essays I Wrote In 2016 That Taught Me Who I Am

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What a goddamn year. I don’t want to write a big essay about 2016 and the lessons we should learn from it—if you’re interested in that, go read my closing thoughts on Femsplain, or just throw yourself into the sea. What I do want to do is celebrate myself and everything I accomplished in the midst of the dumpster fire, in true Ella Dawson fashion.

The original headline of this blog post was “Important Shit I Wrote This Year.” Some of these essays were personally important, while others needed to be written for the simple fact that no one else had done so already. Some of them met a backlash, and others were written to respond to a backlash from some other project. But what these essays all share is that they helped me untangle who I am, or that I’m not who I thought I was.

10. How News Genius Silences Writers

Remember that time I picked a fight with one of the most well-funded and catty digital start-ups around? Yeah, me neither! 2016 was fucking nuts. Calling out the product failings and faulty concept of a tool that lets people annotate literally any page on the Internet was a battle I’m glad I picked, and Genius established a better reporting system for abusive annotations as a result (or so I’ve heard). My blog post even wound up earning me my first ever Gawker takedown article (RIP). Months later, I’m still shell-shocked by how quickly that situation spiraled out of control and the amount of vitriol I attracted for requesting a way to opt-out of having my blog about sexual health and trauma scrawled on by arrogant, entitled strangers. Yikes, man.  Continue reading

How to Create the Social Media Life You Want in 2017

As a social media manager, I spent most of 2016 plugged in and over-informed. Trump tweeted something stupid? I read it within 30 seconds.A one-night-stand from my sophomore year shared a Bernie meme? Ugh, that too. A celebrity passed away? I was the first to know, and I’m still not sure what the etiquette is if you’re in a meeting and no one else is aware yet that their beloved childhood celebrity has died.  Continue reading

Hillary Clinton Should Host A Reality Show: “Are You America’s First Female President?”

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I know what Hillary Clinton should do next. She should host a reality TV show.

Hear me out. “Are You America’s First Female President?” would be a weekly, hour-long program hosted by our girl Hill and a crew of her favorite lady politicians and operatives. Think Michelle Obama, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elizabeth Warren offering advice and feedback to the next generation of activists and organizers. Imagine Robby Mook talking how to build a campaign staff, and Sarah McBride on being an effective surrogate.

Each episode would have a different challenge to boost the cast’s presidential skills: drafting legislation, wrangling congressional support, writing their State of the Union address, practicing interviews and debates. The contestants would be women, non-binary and trans folks from diverse backgrounds. No one gets eliminated and no one goes home: the winners of each challenge get a vote, and whoever has the most votes at the end of the show wins a donation put toward their future campaign. But everyone leaves with a mentor matched to their specific goals and needs, and a fierce crew of fellow cast members to strategize with and support for the rest of their careers. Continue reading

What Herpes Activism Looks Like In Trump’s America

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I still remember the day I wrote my first blog post about having genital herpes. It was January and it was cold and I was sitting in my childhood bed with my laptop, wondering if I was seriously going to do this. The essay poured out of me in a rush, the words ready to be written after months of holding on, collecting, coming together into something worth the risk. I expected to be afraid when I hit publish, but I was overwhelmed by relief. I cried a little bit. I was out.

That was nearly two years ago. Writing about herpes ceased to feel scary, or even risky, at some point in 2015. That first initial confession about my STI led to the discussion of other topics, buried deeper, even more shameful: my history of abuse, my mental illness, my sexuality. There are a few topics left that I haven’t gotten to yet. I know that my boredom when it comes to talking about herpes—and let’s call a spade a spade, it is boredom—is a rare accomplishment underlined by success and privilege. I’m over it, y’all. I’m not ashamed of it, I’m not surprised by it, and while I still get angry about stigma, I don’t have much left to say about stigma either. Stigma is bad. People and publications and pop culture that perpetuate it is bad. Herpes itself has become pretty whatever. Continue reading

In Trump’s America We Wear “GRAB HER BY THE PUSSY” Wristbands

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Someone is selling “GRAB HER BY THE PUSSY” wristbands on Shopify. Someone thought it would be a good idea, a funny idea, to put Donald Trump’s words about sexual assault on a wristband. Someone thought it might even be profitable. That person is a man named Kyle and he has two small children with his wife. That person has nearly 300,000 followers on Instagram. He has 5,408,163 page likes on Facebook. I don’t know why I’m surprised by this when the man who said the quote is now the President Elect of the United States. I don’t know why I’m surprised that this quote is turning into an edgy rallying cry by actual humans who actually exist. I don’t know what to say. I haven’t known what to say all week. Continue reading

That Time Hillary Clinton Wrote Me a Letter

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I get a lot of hate for talking about herpes. Like, a lot. We’ve been over this before. In August, I wrote an essay on Medium about how much of that hate comes from fringe anti-feminist groups online, now better known as part of the Alt-Right. You can read that essay here. This election is remarkable for too many reasons to get into, but in my experience of 2016, seeing Donald Trump validate the strangers who torment me online hit home the most. Hillary Clinton’s speech in Reno about Trump’s indirect empowerment of hate groups marked the first time I’d seen a public figure recognize what had happened to me as a real issue. In my essay, I thanked her. Continue reading

Who I Am Now

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I got my first tattoo in September. After years of sketching the Golden Gate Bridge on every spare corner of notebook paper, I woke up one morning sure of the decision to commit to its lines for life. My TED coworkers—almost all of whom have tattoos as well—offered their advice, and our site comment moderator recommended an artist in the West Village not far from the office. That Friday I hesitated on the sidewalk out front, intimidated by the bright lights and tough, masculine staff, before stepping through the front door. I was terrified but I was sure. It marks the only moment I’ve been sure of anything this fall. Continue reading

What to Do When the Internet Is Making You Miserable

Is your phone on silent? Good.

Spend an extra ten (fifteen twenty thirty sixty) minutes in the shower and burn it all out of your body. Washing away stress is such a quaint description—scald off all the shit and the sludge and the slurs and the grime. Towel it away and put on your favorite outfit: the nostalgic t-shirt you stole from an ex-boyfriend turned yellow at the neckline, or those tacky “BYE HATER” sweatpants you bought for five dollars at Rainbow during a clearance sale. Or maybe a leather jacket, or that old team jersey. Wear what makes you feel like yourself and run your hands over the fabric, part armor part embrace. Remember that night you met your best friend? Remember that road trip to your new city? That was a good day. This is a good body to live in. Continue reading