I’ve been called many things by many people. I’ve also been called many things by many people who think I’m this Erica Mena, and not the Erica Mena I actually am. It’s because I have a googleganger. And it so happens that, though I am slightly older than her and so have our name on most social media platforms (from before I even knew about her), she is much more “famous.” I use the scare-quotes because she’s a reality TV “star,” famous for being dramatic and pretty, and had we not had the same name I never would have heard of her.
I learned about her, and the reality TV world she is a part of, around Christmas in 2010 or so. Since I’m @ericamena on Twitter, and I use it primarily for literary purposes, I had until then set it to send a text to my phone anytime someone tweeted at me. And one night, my phone blew up. You hear that phrase, but can’t imagine what it means unless you have received several dozen hate-tweets sent directly to your phone in a matter of minutes. It was startling, especially because they were so nasty. It became clear to me almost immediately that they weren’t actually meant for me, but there’s still something unnerving about a large number of strangers insulting you and telling you to go die. I turned off my notifications, responded to a few who were tweeting over and over that they had the wrong user (and even got one or two apologies!), and blocked the rest.
Then I started getting emails for her. Start-up fashion designers, make-up artists, music producers, asking me to work with them, wear their clothes, etc. I even got proofs emailed to me of a photo shoot she did. And then Instagram. I get tagged all the time in weird club scenes. I’m followed by approximately 600 people who think I’m her. Once someone even managed to “chat” me through my email in a way that came right to my phone. That was unnerving, and my husband figured out how to turn all that off, thank goodness. You know, neither of us owns our name.com though. I keep thinking I should buy it, but it’s now a “premium” domain, and out of my price range.
Every now and then I check my direct messages on Twitter, just to see if I’ve missed something really intended for me. And that’s how I first heard the word “thot.” Thot, according to Urban Dictionary, is a slang term for hoe, whore, slut, or any other pejorative you might use to sex-shame someone (usually an attractive woman). It originated as an acronym for That Hoe Over There, and is now it’s very own hashtag on Twitter.
It doesn’t bother me, being called a slut, or a whore, or a hoe, or a thot. Not only because I know these insults aren’t meant for me, but because I don’t really understand why they would actually matter. I’m a feminist, and progressive about just about everything, sex included. I think it’s perfectly fine for women to have “sex for pleasure” as the Urban Dictionary definition indicates is partly what makes someone deserving of being called a thot. I think it’s fine for women (and men) to have more than one partner at a time, so long as it’s all safe and consensual.
Of course the kind of people hurling these insults via Twitter are, to put it mildly, not the great minds of the world. They are the kind of people who watch reality TV, and do it often enough that they become personally invested in the lives of people they’ve never met, and will never meet. They become so invested (dissociative?) that they feel compelled to try to hurt these people because of the perceived hurts they themselves feel at the strangers’ behavior. So it’s not terribly surprising to find the same old misogynistic vitriol spilling out of the virtual mouths of these people.
During the few months when the other Erica Mena was in a same-sex relationship with one of her co-stars I had some hope. Suddenly she seemed like a public figure doing some work for bisexual awareness, and general sexual progressiveness. All of a sudden, lesbians and bi women were tagging me, and praising me. It made me feel a little optimistic about the reality-TV effect. But when she became engaged to Lil’ Bow Wow, all that stopped, and even the lesbians and bisexuals, those supposed bastions of progressive sexual politics, resorted to the tired language of slut-shaming.