“Stupid p * pass. Slut. S * ka. Give me a blowjob. I’ll rape you. Kill yourself.” There is not a single day when Maja Staśko would not find some vulgar, unacceptable comments in her e-mail inbox. The activist says enough! This is why her new book entitled “Hejt polski” is now available in bookstores, in which Maja Staśko documents the process of hatred with which she has been struggling for a long time.
Kaja Gołuchowska: Why did you decide to publish this book and can you call such a collection a book at all?
Maja Staśko: I think it is. The book is the result of emotions and experiences. It seemed to me that folding it into a traditional, paper form that will not disappear in a few seconds, but will stay forever, is symbolic. All this internet buzz, which is mainly based on hate and evoking negative associations with very specific, often excluded social groups, such as women, feminists, disappears very quickly. That is why people allow themselves to send joyfully threats of death, rape, ridicule and humiliation with impunity.
More and more new content, built on top of those, appears immediately – it is difficult to dig into each individual one. This makes people completely lose the sense of responsibility for words, because there is so much and it is so standardized. I hear: “But you are on the Internet, you don’t know where you are?” It’s like saying that people can be raped because we are in the world, or we have gone out on the streets and we can be raped because it is perfectly normal.
This is how hate is normalized, this is how violence on the Internet is normalized. I wanted to show it by extracting it from the space of total impunity and disappearance, temporariness. Because it exists and stays in us. Not only in this book, but also in the body. It happens that one experience of hating is enough for a person to take his life. In fact – to be murdered.
“Hejt polski” is a new book by Maja Staśko
Photo: @majastasko / Instagram / Ofeminin
KG: Is there a message in this book that is especially stuck with you?
MS: For me, the most painful each time was the witch-hunt, provoked by great influencers, reaching millions of people. It was not about death threats, because they are well aware that they would automatically be punished for it. However, it was enough that they ridiculed my views, manipulated and showed me in a negative light. They also told lies about me. For example, the fact that I hate men, so everyone was attacking me, wanting to show me that I was wrong when it really had nothing to do with reality. They also mocked my and others’ experiences of violence. Any such material caused hundreds, if not thousands, of this type of hate.
Specific names appear there. “Stanowski hit you”, “You’re a fucking whore worthless. Look what Stano wrote.” It was enough that Nitro once wrote that I was an idiot, I received hundreds of the same messages from others. For me, such situations were the most terrible. It only takes one man with the power to incite hundreds of thousands of people to cheat another person.
KG: You think if you were a man it would be different?
MS: I have the impression that if I were a man or had money, contacts, it would certainly be much easier. It is very much about power relations. I see one big youtuber recording something about me, followed by a number of others who support him and follow the same narrative. In fact, it is a constant patting on the back and building a team of people who have the power to do campaigns on others.
I am convinced that this book would not be as thick and would have a different meaning if I were a man. Most of the hate is focused on my sexuality, my appearance. On whether someone would rip me off or someone would rape me. These are all words that affect only women. In the internet space, this is a great scale. The research of the “STER” foundation shows that 87 percent. women have experienced online harassment in their lifetime.
Inequalities, especially in the gender and economic fields, are of great importance when it comes to hate. It is about living off a man who seems weaker.
KG: There is a debate about where criticism ends and hate begins. How do you classify it?
MS: I have the impression that this difference between criticism and hate is deliberately invoked and blurred in order to justify hateful behavior as an element of criticism, freedom of speech. In fact, it is very easy to recognize the criticism that relates to an argument, not to a person; on not manipulating these arguments; on not taking it out of context, but presenting the whole.
Every time I say that I have experienced hate speech and show these messages, I get messages like: “Don’t get criticized”, “You forbid freedom of speech.” I feel that they are not created to really put myself on the side of criticism, but to blur and belittle what I experience. These are ways to justify violence.
Criticism has absolutely nothing to do with hate. It is substantive, based on arguments, respect for the other person. Its purpose is to discuss, not to humiliate the other party. Hejt has one goal and one consequence – to humiliate, ridicule, hate, silence a person. Of course the differences can be discussed, but criticism really has nothing to do with hate.
KG: Your online activity, and in particular its beginnings, consisted of pointing a finger at the behavior of various people in the public space or the phenomena that constitute violence are wrong. A lot has changed on the web since then. What do you think about call outs and cancel culture now?
MS: I believe that the callout element, when used by people who have been silenced and not previously had the opportunity to talk about their experiences and point the finger at their torturers, is very important. We operate in a system where prosecution offices and courts do not function and most perpetrators of violence go unpunished. We are talking about 67 percent. cases discontinued, 40 percent cases with a suspended sentence and multiple sentences with a restriction of liberty for one or two years. It’s practically impunity. Not to mention the fact that 92 percent. women simply do not report rape because they are afraid, ashamed or do not believe in justice. If these systemic, legal methods fail at every step of a victim of violence, showing power by identifying the perpetrator in public is an expression of strength.
KG: You’re talking about sexual violence, cases that should undeniably be brought to justice. What about situations based on breaking certain social rules? The ones where the situation is not so obvious.
MS: #MeToo started with a callout to its torturers. It has developed in such a way that you can now call out for a misused word. People who criticize and who have done something wrong deserve criticism. Like, for example, Anna Lewandowska, who put on a fatsuit for humorous purposes. I’m glad I criticized her, but that doesn’t mean she’s going to be banned from the community just because she made a stupid gesture. She should apologize and that’s it.
You have to be understanding with yourself. People who have the power and specifically use ranges to rape on others are quite different from public figures who make some stupid mistake, such as throwing a burger on the floor, after which they experience a mass campaign. When someone makes a stupid gesture, then a million different influencers show up wanting to cash in on it and say, “This is the worst man in the world.” And how do we call a person who used real violence when the whole arsenal went to a person who decided to make a stupid gesture and will be held accountable for the rest of his life and will become a walking meme?
It just pays off to arouse very strong negative emotions towards someone. Thanks to this, people start writing, engaging, creating articles. I know youtubers and influencers make money this way, but it’s getting paid at someone’s expense. Recently, Krzysztof Stanowski talked about Ogi Ugonoh that he hates white people and hates white culture. As a result, it is still facing the witch-hunt. Other people picked it up.
People see a bigger problem in saying a bad word, not in YouTubers who create witchcraft. It is those who consider themselves arbors of online value determination who are the abusers. And those who call or cancel are most often the people who are their victims. This is a big field for abuse.
KG: There are internet creators who, after making a mistake on social media, had to resort to psychological help. Is it worth it?
MS: After throwing a burger, which became an example for me, how you can hate a person for a stupid gesture and how you can bully a person, I had to start taking new anti-anxiety drugs. I went to a psychiatrist and asked for help because I couldn’t cope anymore. This is shocking for me – it was the hardest for me because I made a stupid gesture. We live on a level of tremendous emotions and, what’s worse, it keeps escalating.
Stanowski’s material about me was disgusting. It was a material full of undermining the experiences of people after violence, including my own experiences. He insulted me for my appearance, making the harassment a compliment, because “no one will try to molest me”. When now – after two years – I watched his material about Ogi, I realized that it was a completely different level of campaign. It is racist, violent and frightening in terms of visual and sound. The net goes deeper and deeper into the witch-hunt, and lashing. It also takes more incentives to harass a person. And more will be needed. I am afraid for more people who will experience it.
I wonder what to do with it. There is total consent to this. Other influencers are afraid to object, because they don’t want to experience what Ogi and I do. I am not surprised because it is terrible. However, joining the creation of harm-based scopes is also violent on their part.
I have open cases with the Public Prosecutor’s Office regarding the death threats and rape I receive. Such proceedings take years. Society cannot agree to such behavior.
In my appearances at pre-fight conferences in the HIGH League, I was finally able to defend myself and say something with my words without manipulation. After the conferences, people started writing to me apologizing and confessing that they had started noticing the violence I was talking about. However, these are just ordinary people with no ranges. We need the words of great creators who would say unequivocally that what is happening there is harassment.
KG: I have a feeling that cancel culture is more and more often a mouth-closing tool and something that demotivates many people from sharing their experiences online because they are simply afraid.
MS: The tool that was used to give the abused people space for themselves has been taken over by those who hurt, by the perpetrators. It has been used by them, and they are now making victims of themselves who allegedly have to defend themselves in some way.
We know this mechanism well. In domestic violence, it is the perpetrators who often blue card their victims. It is the perpetrators who make victims of themselves, saying that they have experienced psychological violence, and they turn these poles. And a person who is abused with PTSD may unfortunately be manipulated and believe what the perpetrators are saying.
Gaslighting is where the victim begins to doubt absolutely all of their experiences, words and the harm they have experienced. She begins to believe herself that it was she who perpetrated the violence. When a person talks about sexual violence, he hears that the perpetrator is the victim of her slander, witch-hunt.
KG: Now similar things are happening on the internet.
MS: Yes. And these are our tools, we did it during #MeToo. It was our vote, and now it turns out that those with the greatest reach are taking it over and using it against us.
Maja Staśko won her fight at the High League gala. “We fought like girls – that is with strength and determination”