Hillary Clinton's powerful letter to a 24-year-old writer living with genital herpes is striking a nerve on social media.
Clinton penned the letter to writer and activist Ella Dawson in response to Dawson's recent essay on Medium, which chronicled the harassment she faced from the Alt-Right after opening up about sexually transmitted infections online. In the piece, Dawson also discusses her long-standing support of Clinton and recent developments in presidential race.I HAVE AN IDEA. I'm going to start scrap-booking my harassment. Get a big photo album to save tweets like this: pic.twitter.com/pMI1MeO5gT— Ella Dawson (@brosandprose) September 6, 2016
Dawson shared the letter in a Tuesday tweet, prompting a story on the Washington Post.“Hillary Clinton, The Alt-Right, And Me” by @brosandprose https://t.co/9gO6wwdivm pic.twitter.com/x0K421MlvO— b!X (@theonetruebix) August 30, 2016
Clinton praised Dawson for speaking candidly about genital herpes and taking a stand against the hateful rhetoric that women often encounter on the internet.Thank you, @HillaryClinton, for reading. I'm incredibly moved. To be accurate, I'm ugly crying. #ImWithHer pic.twitter.com/kt5tAVWrFX— Ella Dawson (@brosandprose) September 6, 2016
“I am so grateful to you for not only speaking out against the stigma,” Clinton wrote, “but for also taking a courageous stand against the ridiculous, but very real, barrage of hate you received online.”
"The erosion of civil public discourse is one of the most concerning developments in our society today," Clinton went on. "As you point out, the internet is not a friendly place for women, and you are not alone in facing the relentless onslaught of baseless, personal attacks."
Dawson shared her reaction to Clinton's letter in an interview with her alma mater's newspaper, the Wesleyan Argus.
"When I wrote my essay on Medium, I never expected Hillary to read it, or even hear about it," Dawson confessed. "I’m not a journalist or a celebrity or even part of her campaign — I’m just a blogger who has seen some hell online. For her to have read my essay and then taken the time to write to me was incredibly moving. It’s recognition and support at a level I never thought I would achieve at any point during my career. I’ll be honest, I started sobbing."Dawson's piece candidly describes the emotional impact of being targeted by online hate groups over the course of two years.
"I expected a backlash when I began writing a blog about what it’s like to live with genital herpes. Speaking from personal experience about a taboo topic like sexually transmitted infections was never going to be easy, and I prepared myself to face judgment from strangers online. Social mores about sex may be changing, but women who frankly discuss their sexuality — and their feminism — meet pushback from an online culture of outrage and shame. What I could not have anticipated in my wildest nightmare was becoming a favorite target of the Alt-Right."After Dawson's STD Awareness campaign #ShoutYourStatus, she was featured in a cruel video on the fringe conspiratorial website InfoWars, she received an onslaught of vicious hate speech.
These experiences made Clinton's recent speech on Donald Trump and the Alt-Right particularly moving to her, Dawson explained.“It may be hard to understand what receiving this level of harassment is…” — @brosandprose https://t.co/aeB8skuDUu pic.twitter.com/SuQZ9M1p1o— Joel Kelly (@joelkelly) August 29, 2016
"I have never seen a politician understand the danger of the Alt-Right," Dawson wrote. "It made me sad that a fringe hate community has become so central to American politics that a presidential candidate has to make a speech about them. But it also filled me with genuine, raw hope for the first time since I became an activist."
Though the attacks Dawson endured from this particular corner of internet bear resemblance to those launched at Leslie Jones, feminist writer Jessica Valenti and countless other women, however, the stigma of sexually transmitted infections added a layer of harassment.
More than 15 percent of Americans between the ages of 14 and 49 live with genital herpes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the condition remains largely taboo, and those who speak openly about it are often slut-shamed.STI's aren't a consequence. They're inevitable. Help end the stigma around herpes: https://t.co/3rIgIrZQWW #TEDx pic.twitter.com/JmvJndllEe— TEDxTableMountain (@TEDxTableMtn) May 15, 2016