If you haven’t fallen down a bizarre rabbit hole of internet trolling recently, well, do we have a story for you. Buzzfeed writer Grace Spelman has been dealing with increasingly weird advances and attacks from the former host of a popular Harry Potter podcast – and the best part is, the guy now runs a feminist website that’s dedicated to combating “female negativity on the internet.”
The drama has been piling up on Twitter for a while, but here’s the rundown: Ten days ago, former “MuggleCast” host Ben Shoen started pestering Spelman to follow him back on Twitter, then moved to Facebook and started being kind of creepy, gushing about how beautiful she was and asking her to join him on his new podcast.
Spelman, like any seasoned veteran of unwanted propositions, politely told him she had a boyfriend and then blocked him on Facebook and Twitter.
Schoen’s response to being rejected went about as well as you suspect it went, starting with a barrage of angry tweets followed by an extremely uncomfortable email demanding to know why she’d hurt his feelings.
Spelman, now thoroughly creeped out, did some digging and found out that Schoen is a co-founder of Feminspire.com, along with Rhiannon Payne who is no longer involved in the project. According to their mission statement, Feminspire “came into existence from the realization that there is an enormous and disturbing amount of female negativity on the internet. With so many messages that range from demeaning to judgmental to exploitative, our mission is to create a media website that speaks directly to women and with them in mind.”
Yeeeeah, about that.
“The moral of the story is: When a guy starts to hit on you, never politely tell him you’re seeing someone else,” Spelman tweeted. “Try to think of a less mean way! Like, saying yes! Especially if they are washed-up internet celebs!”
She added that she was only broadcasting this story because she knew other girls her age and younger had also added Schoen on Facebook and she was concerned for their wellbeing.
Schoen played it off as a masterful Internet prank to get her to “take the bait,” implied he was going to get her fired over it, and was generally straight-up weird and unhinged about the blowback he was receiving – which, coming from the co-founder of a feminist website that’s supposedly a safe space for women’s voices, is pretty freaking disturbing.
The Daily Dot has been doing some good reporting on this story and got the following statement from Schoen:
“I have done more for the cause of advancing women’s rights than any of the people who are criticizing me. This so-called crisis is manufactured by Ms. Spelman as a way to increase her profile as a social justice warrior. I grew up without a father and I spent years protecting my mother from scummy men and dealing with all of the difficulties that come with not having a male role model. Am I rough around the edges? Sure. Am I a predator? Absolutely not. If you read the email I sent Ms. Spelman it was not threatening and was filled with apologies. I even offered to connect her with people who could help her career. I had no interest in continuing contact with her afterwards since I was offended by the manner in which she ended our interaction. I represent no threat to her and her painting me into a villain and sending all of her sycophants after me is incredibly disappointing and immature. My attorney tells me I have a case already but I’m not going to go that route unless Ms. Spelman continues to attempt to unjustly tarnish my image.”
Since then, several other women – including former Feminspire writers who left because of his influence on the site – have come forward on Twitter to say that Schoen has a history of being creepy with women. Schoen spent the better part of Monday night trolling and attacking those women, swinging wildly between “this will have 0 effect on my career” and “take comfort in knowing you are going after the sole bread winner of a family of 9, you stuck up privileged bitches.”
Shoen’s sexist Twitter rants to his female critics inspired plenty of online discussion, including a #ThingsFeministMenHaveSaidToMe hashtag on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Shoen has also given statements to The Mary Sue for their aptly-titled article “Today In ‘Women Don’t Owe You Shit.'”
I don’t truly believe that Grace ever felt threatened. There is a prevailing sentiment out there that all men are predators and don’t know how to approach women without being creepy. She layered my correspondences with her in such a way as to feed into this sentiment. She’s a very smart woman and she knew exactly what she was doing.
In total I had something like 3-5 correspondences with Grace. I have been receiving death threats, insults saying my mother deserved to be a homeless teen and basically anything else you can think of. I never threatened Grace or came anywhere near doing so. After several cordial interactions with her I made a joke about marrying her in a DRIVE THRU. It was a joke and sure it may have been a lame one, I’ll concede that. After interacting with her very cordially I was shocked when she suddenly disappeared from my Facebook friends list. I was upset so I sent her some angry tweets to let off a little steam. Twitter is a public forum so anyone who says that is harassment needs to stop “harassing” me on my twitter feed.
Okay I hope you’re still with me here. So I sent her some tweets when I was angry. Afterwards I realized I had went too far so I decided to write her an email apologizing. Everyone has tried to twist my apology into being some veiled threat when that simply was not the case. I felt bad for telling Grace her followers were because she had a good looking profile pic so I emailed her to apologize and that’s what landed us here. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Your article is printing a flat out lie. I never threatened her career. She started posting private emails and I said I would let her bosses know as that is against the policy of many media companies.
UPDATE: After a rambling UStream discussion on Tuesday where he argued with people tweeting at him, Schoen was interviewed by Charles C. Johnson – the infamous right-wing troll who was banned from Twitter for apparently threatening the founder of #BlackLivesMatter – for the GotNews channel.