Social justice warriors often claim to oppose “online harassment.” They recently pressured SXSW into holding an all-day summit on the topic. Yet in the same week, a mob of online SJWs bullied a young web artist so severely that she attempted to commit suicide.
Paige Paz, also known by her online handle ‘Zamii070,’ is a Mexican-American artist from Tucson, Arizona. She is the author of Basin Vale, a webcomic about a teenage vampire named Alessa trying to find the rest of her coven. She also runs a Tumblr blog, where she publishes fan art based on the animated series Steven Universe.
A strange target for a vicious cyberbullying campaign. Yet that’s exactly what Paz has been on the receiving end of. For over a year, she has received increasingly vitriolic attacks from anonymous social justice warriors on the internet who accuse her work of being “problematic.”
For months, Paz had faced accusations of “racism” and “transphobia” for her drawings from the Steven Universe fandom on Tumblr, the popular blogging platform that has become synonymous with overzealous and vitriolic online activism.
Paz was accused of racism, for allegedly drawing characters’ skin colours slightly lighter than they are in the series, and “transmisogyny,” for use of what one Tumblr blogger called the “transphobic boys in dresses trope.” A multitude of other posts could be found accusing her of “whitewashing” characters and being “offensive.” One supporter of Paz has identified over 40 Tumblr blogs that were dedicated to attacking her and her artwork.
Paz’s most grievous sin, in the eyes of Tumblr, appears to have been her drawing of the character Rose Quartz. Paz’s drawing of the generously proportioned character, which can be found here, was accused of being too thin and thus “fatphobic.” Tumblr is well known for its community of vitriolic “body positivity” campaigners, who believe that fat people should be considered an oppressed minority.
Paz frequently referenced her fragile mental condition on her blog, but this did not stop the abuse. “Mental illnesses aren’t a get out of jail free card,” said one of her anonymous detractors. “I’ll continue making fun of her lazy art as well as her bigotry until something changes.” Others told her she should kill herself.
Then she tried to.
Early last week, Paz posted a message on her Tumblr blog telling her followers that she was “going to sleep forever” and that “this will be the last you’ll hear from me… I’m sorry.” No further posts appeared on her blog or social media channels for three days.
The news quickly spread throughout social media. The GamerGate subreddit KotakuInAction, known for its criticism of social justice warriors and their knee-jerk hostility to alleged offensiveness, helped spread the word on reddit. Fans tried to get in touch with Paz’s family to verify what had happened. Eventually, Paz posted an update confirming that she had been hospitalized after attempting to commit suicide.
Nonetheless, the abuse continued. “I hope you f***ing die,” wrote one Tumblr blogger after Paz posted a second update from her hospital bed. “LOOK EVERYONE! A PRIVILEGED LITTLE WHITE GIRL PRETENDED SHE WAS GONNA KILL HERSELF! LET’S ALL FUCKING RUSH TO DEFEND HER LIKE SHE’S NOT AN OPPRESSOR!”
“She should have f***ing killed herself,” agreed another Tumblr blogger.
A write-up of the story in Fusion took a shockingly apologetic tone. As in, it apologised for the abusers. “A sizable chunk of the critiques being leveled at Paz are grounded in the very legitimate fear that creative works featuring people of color, queer people, and women are often overlooked and undervalued.”
Acknowledging that Paz’s treatment was “awful and completely uncalled for,” the writer stressed that it’s “not as simple as pointing the finger at the fandom,” citing another writer who lamented the fact that “valid critical discourse” had been “undermined” by “mob fury.”
Although some die-hards continue to level abuse at Paz and her artwork, there are signs that the mob may be dissipating. Many of the attack blogs indexed by Paz’s fans have been deactivated since her suicide attempt. Paz has since released a long video explaining the events of the past week from her perspective