It’s STD Awareness Month 2017. Please Show Up For Us This Year


This is the story of a little hashtag that turned into a big shit show.

STD Awareness Month 2017 has only just begun and I am already exhausted. Still exhausted, to be accurate, because of what happened last year. Remember early April 2016? Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton were squabbling over the Democratic nomination. Donald Trump had a lock on the Republican nomination but was dismissed as a wildcard with no real hope of winning by most mainstream publications. Prince was still alive. It was an innocent time, relatively speaking, and a small group of herpes-positive writers decided to start a hashtag campaign called #ShoutYourStatus. Continue reading

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


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

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


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

That Time Hillary Clinton Wrote Me a Letter


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

An Open Letter to the Bachelor In Paradise Producers, From an Abuse Survivor

Co5fYxCW8AEqIJCHi there. You don’t know me, but I’m a loyal fan of The Bachelor and its spinoff shows. I’ve been watching the franchise since the third season of Bachelor Pad, and despite being a Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies major when I was in college, I’ve defended the show through thick and thin. Remember when you made Britt and Kaitlyn compete to be The Bachelorette? I blogged angrily, but I watched. When Kaitlyn got slut-shamed all over the place for sleeping with Nick? I tuned in early, and then I blogged. I’m a proud member of Bachelor Nation, accepting roses from even the worst of seasons (let’s be real, JoJo was a bust). Continue reading

BACHELORELLA: JoJo’s Season of The Bachelorette Is Terrible. We Are All Terrible.


I haven’t written about The Bachelorette this year because, to be honest, it hasn’t been good. I’ve never gone into the final five so apathetic about a Bachelor or Bachelorette’s choices. Will JoJo accept the proposal of the Ken doll with facial hair, or without? Will they break up a month after the finale, or two months after? What will she title the tell-all memoir about the failure of their relationship? In a moment of resigned crankiness I sought out Reality Steve’s spoilers, hoping there would be some shocking plot twist to motivate me to care. Meh. Let’s be real: this season sucks. Continue reading

Why I’m Taking a Summer Vacation From Activism

IMG_9796Banff is gorgeous. Canada’s oldest national park is overwhelmingly beautiful in a way that nowhere I have ever been can even begin to imitate. Oceans of evergreen trees spill across hills overshadowed by craggy, white mountains. The river running alongside the resort town is the purest and loudest blue. I spent eight days in the Canadian Rockies listening to brilliant speakers at TED Summit and what will stay with me longest is the view. This indoor city cat fell in love with hiking trails overlooking the rapids. I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t notice that I had no cell phone reception. Continue reading

My Abusive Ex-Boyfriend, His Fraternity Brothers, and Me


I’ve been trying to write this essay for a few weeks. Every time I sit down to start, only bile comes out. The hurt I want to document goes deeper than a neat thesis statement. I feel betrayed, and betrayal is more like an infection than a broken bone. There is no way to easily reset it and wrap it in plaster. Betrayal burrows into your nerves and sets up camp for the long haul. Its scattershot symptoms are hard to explain to a doctor when you’re not confident in exactly what is wrong, and it’s easy in those moments of sloppy articulation to feel like you’ve made it all up. I keep waiting for the fever to peak before I put words to this. No matter what friendships I sever or pointed Facebook statuses I write, this strain of anger doesn’t have an easy cure. The struggle to write is the only inoculation available to me. Continue reading

When Revenge Fantasies Come True: Female Rage, Pop Culture and xoJane


Nope nope nope.

TW: discussion of violence and sexual assault

I’ve had a lot of conversations this week about justice. Justice is a difficult word for women—in the age of #FreeKesha, Jian Ghomeshi, Woody Allen flitting around Cannes, and a known abuser running for the highest public office in the United States, pure justice is a dated concept. “Justice” is too often doled out by the people who deserve it the most. An exhausted realist might argue that for women, for people of color, for the LGBTQ community, there is no justice in the justice system. Continue reading

Maybe He Doesn’t Hit You


This essay was inspired by the hashtag campaign #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou, started by Zahira Kelly (@bad_dominicana) to share experiences of emotional abuse. If you are worried you are in an abusive relationship, click here to get help.

Maybe he doesn’t hit you but he warns you that he has a dark side he will make every effort to prevent you from seeing. You’re cuddled up in your narrow, squeaky dorm bed and it’s a weeknight, still early in the relationship, and he has these boy band dimples when he smiles. It sounds like such a cliché that you do not take it seriously. Whatever this spoiled, exceptionally dressed teenager throws at you will be no problem. He is sweet and funny and has a talent for saying exactly the right thing but in the most inventive assortment of words possible. On some late Wednesday night, or maybe it’s even the same night, he promises, “I won’t let you down” under the glow-in-the-dark stars glued to your ceiling. You are not old enough to know that this is an impossible thing to promise. Continue reading