I'm Lena Chen, a writer, activist, and media producer who's been called a "skank" (by Bill O'Reilly) and "a small Asian woman" (by The New York Times). My favorite part of my workday is the hate mail.For the unlikely story that is my life, read on.
Usually, misogynistic viewpoints upset me. And then there are times when a presumably intelligent person makes such a sexist ass out of themselves that it’s almost hard to feel outrage over their ignorant assumptions. This is one of those times.
Jeremy Pham, a Dartmouth student on an exchange program at Wellesley, spent last weekend calling Wellesley students “a bunch of whores”, threatening to sue an online impersonator, and advising people not to “fuck with [him]” lest he “plant a dagger in your ass”. What’s with the hostility? Pham was peeved that someone was “writing false posts under [his] name”. He was referring to this post made on the website Wellesley FML:
Though Jeremy Pham’s name is absent from the post; though Wellesley has several students who do not identify as women; and though anyone, Wellesley student or not, can post to Wellesley FML, Pham clearly believed that the above poster was attempting to impersonate him. And if there was potentially one Wellesley student mocking his lack of sexual prowess, then surely the entire campus must be conspiring to cockblock him. The natural response? Sending a misogynistic, epithet-laced email over Wellesley’s online “community” forum, a discussion list read by not only the entire student body, but also by faculty and staff:
I don’t speak much, since I’m pretty reserved by nature and I’m never really around either (I’m always doing projects at the other school in Cambridge). But since Wellesley girls apparently insist on writing false posts under my name, as well as treating my friends that visit here like crap just because they’re not 5’9 and don’t possess the male-dominated social space of the MIT fratboy that’s fucking the shit out of you nightly, I present to you…what normal, rational people think of you girls:
1) You are all a bunch of whores. No, seriously. The stereotype that Wellesley girls obsess over men is so true that it’s not even funny. Go to a normal school like Dartmouth (where one of your girls won’t leave after 4 terms because she wants to milk the place for all it’s worth) and you’ll see that nobody there obsesses to the degree that the people in the 5th percentile here do. Consequently, you all make poor decisions. Which is why people on the Internet laugh at you. Which is why people on the Internet will laugh at you even more when I make a reddit post detailing my experiences here.
2) You are all undeserving of the education and opportunities you have received. The sense of entitlement here is actually kind of incredible. Just to make sure it just wasn’t me, my friend visiting right now notices it too. And he’s much more outgoing, friendly, and chill than I am. But he’s not 5’9, so sorry girls. But there are some insecure dudes littering the streets of Commonwealth for your amusement.
3) You are all too easy. Some of us refuse to participate in the orgy of sexual tension here because we want to be respected for who we are, not what we are. Of course, for others, it’s as easy as dropping the MIT/Harvard moniker. I mean, what idiot thinks a meaningful relationship can develop out of a superficial encounter at a party? Seriously, WTF. At my school, there aren’t that many relationships. But at least we’re honest about the fact that most of us are just merely infatuated with the other party, and not actually “in love.”
Do not make up shit under false pretenses. Do not treat my friends like shit. Do it one more time, and I will sue you. It’s so funny that there’s this Wellesley Community discussion group thing going on, but if you girls can’t do something as trivial as leave me alone to do my own thing, you guys have no shot at forming a cohesive community. No fucking chance.
And I’ll just sit back and enjoy the schadenfreude.
Jeremy, who does not at all harbor a Napolean complex, has demonstrated — with his sweeping generalizations — the intellectual laziness which probably got him rejected from MIT and Harvard in the first place. (That he was accepted to Dartmouth and to the Wellesley exchange program is nothing short of a minor miracle.) And I know I’m not the only one who’d like to ask Jeremy how a girl can simultaneously be a whore and picky about height.
When his email prompted a flurry of responses, Jeremy seemed to quickly realize the error of his ways:
Let me first begin by apologizing for my tone and perhaps the language that I used to address some of my own feelings as being one of the few, if not only, males on campus. It isn’t easy for me to be accepted in the Wellesley community. Wellesley has been be a wonderful learning experience and many people here have been welcoming to me. At the same time, hearing “What are you doing here?” when walking through the halls and being judged solely based on my looks can be hard for me. I hope you can understand that.
I fully respect women; strong, intelligent, and engaged women. I’m just concerned that people think of me as a male danger, and I understand that oftentimes comments get misconstrued as they oftentimes do on FirstClass. So why did I write my post? This all began when someone posted a recent comment referring explicitly to me on WellesleyFML. The fact that someone posted a negative comment using my identity without my permission naturally angered me as it would most people. I quickly wrote what I did with this emotion and some of the other incidents in mind.
From most of my experiences here, women time and time again at Wellesley have proven their intelligence. This occurred to me once again tonight when a group approached me and my friend while we were eating dinner. While we sat, a group of about 30 students approached us. Most wanted to talk to me and truly cared about my experience here. Others approached me with just anger and one even threw a glass of water at my face. I apologize for those who are angry and I would like for us to move forward from this point.
A college community is the perfect place to learn from one another. I have learned that many people do care about community and how I as “a man” can fit into it. This was my original hope when I wrote my first post. I do care about this community and do want to learn different points of views about a multitude of topics. But to do this, we need to respect each other. I hope that we can equally show each other some kindness and respect.
I can only be a productive and positive member of this community if we work together. But it can be hard when I feel ostracized here. However, many here have respected me and I have equally respected those around me. Just like you, I want to continue building community. So how will we move forward?
Uh, say what? As the recipient of some pretty disrespectful attention due to my blog (Sex and the Ivy), I can sympathize with Jeremy’s feelings of alienation. However, I’ve dealt with far worse situations than he has, and I’ve yet to send out mass emails with blanket assumptions about the recipients’ character, sexual habits, and taste in men.
Indeed, those unconvinced of Jeremy’s sincerity had good reason to doubt. While he e-bemoaned his ostracization from the Wellesley community, some students noticed that his Facebook status had been updated with the following:
alright so because someone wrote some false post about me on the intarw3b at wellesley, i wrote this post calling them all entitled whores and whatnot; clearly as a troll (and to some extent, you have to admit that that is true) on the open forum @ wellesley and there was a SHITSTORM of responses. while the whole community is out protesting and acting all butthurt, i’m just sitting around lol’ing. you fuck with me, and i’ll plant a dagger in your ass. simple as that.
Screenshot from Wellesley blogger WhatEstrogen.
While Jeremy was hammering in the final nail to the coffin containing his online reputation, Wellesley students — water-throwing girl aside — demonstrated that they, unlike him, were capable of differentiating between the views of a misogynist and the views of all other men. Commenters on Wellesley FML assured male visitors that guys will continue to be welcome on campus as long as they do not threaten to insert sharp objects into girls’ bodily orifices. A male commenter even chimed in on WellesleyBlue, an online community for alums, to say that he had crashed in his girlfriend’s dorm for five months and only ever encountered “friendly and welcoming” behavior at Wellesley, despite his illegal presence (which was never reported).
And then — a plot twist! More from the verbose Jeremy Pham:
I’m really sorry for ever coming here. And calling all of you whores. Clearly, some of you are still very upset about my Community post, but I have learned a lot about the difficulties that a woman faces every single day in America. It brings a tear to my eye (metaphorically) to know that some of you are very passionate about women’s rights, but I feel that your energies are misdirected. Sure you will deal with me and eradicate me from this campus in style, but your problems will still be there. Your inability to get to the root of the issues that plague our world will still be there. While other guys give me fist pumps and brag about their conquests at this school, I must endure the brunt of your criticisms so that you may all be united under the banner of activism.
And it worked perfectly.
There are real instances of women here actually being alienated from the rest of the Wellesley community. There are real cases of rape and belligerent boyfriends. My hope was that you would all unite to chastise such an extremely contemptible figure so that these issues cannot be ignored. Because honestly, what’s the difference between saying thoughts behind your backs, and posting them live? There is no intrinsic difference. And yet, the perception differs, and so I wanted to explore that today. My hope was that some of these alienated women on campus can venture out of their rooms and be embraced by a community that’s trying to flame me relentlessly. If I had written something benign, only a few people would have acknowledged it, and that would have been that. Nothing like controversy to stir up the day.
While I was writing the apparently insufficient apology last night, the police officer came into my room to make sure that everything was okay. I chuckled and told him that everything was okay. He wanted to offer me protection from the perhaps inevitable fallout from my polemic. Later, he read my letter and told me that it was cool, and it was the best I could have done…
Also, controversies like this happen all the time. Given the knowledge that the ACLU has my back and that I’m protected by the First Amendment, and the fact that friends who were journalists at other schools attempted similar stunts (with surprising degrees of success that resulted from open dialogue), I figured that this could turn out to be pretty sweet. And just so you know, nothing will happen to me. So for those of you seeking administrative intervention, you are only wasting your time. And for those of you seeking media attention, by all means. But understand that it’ll also mean that I get my facetime, and you just can’t spin a 2300 gang up on a lone campus figure in any positive way, especially given that I was trolling (even then, you wouldn’t need that requirement). Also just so you know, assault or throwing water at someone’s face is not protected by the First Amendment (or any). Of course, the event was trivial enough as it was, but if things escalate…
And do any of you honestly believe that I hold these misogynistic views? Please. Get real here. I hold a degree from the best trolling school of all time. I was pissed that you guys used my identity though. And to be honest, this whole debacle IS kind of hilarious. Let’s be honest here. It’s pretty damn hilarious.
Do you also feel like you just watched a particularly bad M. Night Shyamalan film? Jeremy’s convoluted explanation is about as believable as the premise for “The Village”. Even if one accepts his excuse that he was just trying to rile everyone up so that they could unite to battle “real cases of rape and belligerent boyfriends”, that still leaves open the question of whether his actions were at all effective. Because if all it takes for progressive action to succeed is a fake bad guy, then marriage equality would’ve been achieved approximately 241 gay-bashings ago.
And in case those uppity Wellesley girls think they’re in the right, Jeremy would like you to know that he has the ACLU, a campus police officer, the Wellesley administration, and the First Amendment on his side. (Okay, maybe not the Wellesley administration.) So you see, he doesn’t need all you whorish, choosy women with your MIT frat boys and 5’ 9” boyfriends!
But just in case the ACLU won’t sit with him at lunch, Jeremy wanted everyone to know in yet another email that he is, in fact, very sorry for the “general feeling of timidity” he’s provoked:
The mistake I made was that I clumped everyone together and called everyone a whore. For that, I am sorry. I said that all of you didn’t deserve to be here, but I was wrong for saying that. To reiterate, I believe the women here are very intelligent, and have worked hard to go here. There’s definitely an issue of the women here feeling victimized, and I’m sorry for bringing that general feeling of timidity into the community. Additionally, my Facebook status was extremely inappropriate, and I have since removed it. I apologize for that as well.
This surely must be the end, right? Someone must’ve schooled him on male privilege? Not so much. As reported by WhatEstrogen, Pham posted the following to his Facebook status less than a day later:
"Jeremy Pham thanks his friends and appreciates the outpouring of support from all people all across the nation. I have never been prouder to be a Dartmouth student. Thanks ACLU. Jeremy Pham also wonders just how the orgy of cattiness will proceed. Jeremy Pham also thanks Kerry and her friends for the death threats."
Image from SarahPort.
Jeremy, here’s a piece of advice: hire a therapist to deal with your issues over your stunted growth and get a PR team to manage the inevitable professional fallout from this debacle. Damage control is obviously not your forté.
A special thank you to the reader who directed me toward the above gold mine of fail.