Last week, a corner of the internet went 100 percent gorillashit over a tweet comparing Taylor Swift’s vagina to a messy ham sandwich. And why shouldn’t it? It is gold-standard content, delightfully shocking and utterly insane.
Several times that day, I returned to the tweet, pleasantly agog. But other people saw something more sinister in it: the glorious advent of the ham sandwich wasn’t treated with grotesque amusement, but with the sanctimonious think piece. The Huffington Post published, “One Awful Tweet About T-Swift Sums Up Society’s Retro Ideas About Female Sexuality”; Us Weekly wrote, “Woman Slut-Shames Taylor Swift, Compares Her Vagina to a Ham Sandwich”; UK site Metro posted an article verbosely titled, “A mum just slut-shamed Taylor Swift in the worst way and no one can actually believe it’s real”; Mashable went the scientific route (“This tweet about Taylor Swift’s vagina isn’t just bizarre, it’s medically incorrect”).
The Huffington Post article rejected the premise that “Jennifer Mayers’” account @southern_mayers is anything but dead serious and dove into exactly why the tweet was problematic:
What’s most problematic about the tweet comparing Taylor Swift’s vagina to a sandwich (if we’re being anatomically correct, we’d wager that Mayers meant vulva, not vagina), is that this isn’t just objectification, it’s slut-shaming.
Women do not exist to be consumed and judged for our decisions, sexual or otherwise. We are people, capable of feelings and desires and emotions. And, yes, some of those feelings and desires and emotions may pertain to love and sex.
Again: What Taylor Swift—or any woman—wants to do with her body and her love life is no one’s business but her own.
Along with several of my coworkers, I’ve been quietly watching Meyers, whose profile reads “Louisiana. Wife, mother, Christian. I love the beach. With #God all things are possible. I am a believer in the positivity of the Lord GUATEMALAN. #Trump 2016,” shout absurdities into the dead net air for several weeks. Her Twitter account’s juxtaposition of over-the-top racism and misogyny coupled with the hilariously banal struck the Jezebel staff as possible performance art—maybe a troll of trolls.
By performing equally over-the-top outrage in response to the ham sandwich tweet, publications like the Huffington Post had embarrassed themselves, we concluded. Sure, some of her tweets were hateful garbage, but it read like hateful garbage intended to show how hateful others were. The news had been played by it own offense hair-trigger.
I set out to contact Mayers a few days ago, deciding to make it my mission to teach the internet how to take a joke for once. She didn’t respond to my requests for a phone call, but eventually agreed to speak via Twitter direct message.
My questions are in bold.
can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Well I’m 44. I live in baton rouge obviously. Married 19 years with 3 daughters. My youngest turned 12 a month ago. I stay at home. My husband supports us all.
Go to Monday evening bible study in addition to Sunday
why did you decide to get a Twitter account?
I needed an outlet. I made it well over a year ago but I was never really vocal until my testimony started to catch on.
And my husband said that I could have one
what do you mean by “testimony”?
Testifying my beliefs in God and having such an intense reaction. Whether good or bad it’s inspiring discussion
what church do you belong to?
when you tweet are you trying to be funny?
Not always. I think people take what I say too literally
Or perhaps the way I word things. I’m not sure
I think it’s probably because your tone is so deadpan. do you agree?
Probably but that’s just how I am
how did you think to compare a vagina to a ham sandwich?
Well it was meant as a visual aid. That’s what I mean by people taking it too literally. As if I have my daughters stand over me so I can examine them. It’s ridiculous.
It merely represents promiscuity in comparison to the puritan ways of Jesus the way he intends it to be.
I personally have trouble figuring out your tone because some of your tweets are so funny, and some are just racist.
I don’t think I’m racist. I speak truth. If it happens to coincide with a particular race then so be it.
what about when you call black peoples “apes?”
or [say] black people are lazy
that seems like the definition of racism to me
A fact is a fact
what do you hope to achieve with your Twitter?
To enlighten people
Make them spiritual
Return America to the way it was
For this first segment of the conversation, I had held out hope that any minute now, Mayers would take off her troll mask for just a second to wink at me or give me some sort of indication that we were on the same side. But her unflashy defense of her outlandishly racist tweets made me question the entire premise—was I just having a patient conversation with a monster?
A Fusion reporter had also looked into whether or not Mayers, a “horribly offensive, white-supremacist, Trump-supporting, Christian housewife” is a hoax. They found no evidence to support her existence:
Outside of Twitter and her WordPress blog, Mayers the 44-year-old Baton Rouge resident, seems to have virtually no online footprint. A Lexis Nexis search revealed several other women with the name Jennifer Mayers in Louisiana, but the oldest one was 38. On Facebook, just one Jenn Mayers comes up in the Baton Rouge area, but she is a meditation-and-peace-loving marketing consultant, not a racist mom. Mayers, if she is real, doesn’t seem to have much of an online life outside of Twitter.
Fusion also found that Mayers’ default photo was lifted from a swamp adventure travel company.
I called Broadmoor Methodist, a real church in Baton Rouge that only shows photographs of white people on its homepage, and asked if they had any members by the name of Jennifer Mayers or Mayers. They said that they did not.
This suggested that Mayers was not who she said she was. At least I had something else to ask her.
is Jennifer Mayers your real name?
Are you stalking me?
no, not stalking! just reporting. I just called up Broadmoor Methodist and they said there is no member there by the name of Jennifer Mayers.
would you tell me who you really are?
They wouldn’t give out that information dear even if they wanted to
Of course they would, I asked and she looked at the roster of members.
Oh come on. You’re trying to troll now
I’m just trying to understand who you are and what you want
Would you like to get on the phone quickly and tell me more?
I don’t want anything. I didn’t ask for this
That’s true, though you did say you were trying to enlighten people.
I mean moreso the “fame” it’s all just absurd how it took off so quickly
I started to feel like I was attempting to report something that did not need reporting in the first place. Why did I or Fusion or anyone else care who the real Jennifer Mayers was? Why did we care about her intentions?
When we first came across Mayers’ account, one of the funniest things about it was that she seemed content to tweet continuously and passionately at only a few hundred followers. Now, because one of those tweets had found its way into the viral internet, she was being bombarded by media requests and background checks. Why couldn’t we let this person quietly exist?
The one indication that Mayers was intending to take her troll fame to the next level was the publication of her e-book, something called An Elegant Life, which was published on July 9 (in the midst of her sandwich-induced fame) and had received five one-star ratings, one of which accuses Mayers of being “an act of parody gone wrong.”
In the book’s introduction, she responds directly to her Twitter hate:
No matter how often I get verbally raped and persecuted daily on social media for my beliefs, I am determined to fight on. The strength from God and knowing that He chose me to be his Messenger will not allow me to stop. I hold no anger in my heart, because the non-believers know not the hatred they spew and the negativity within their hearts...
Social media is my cross and I will gladly be a martyr for my beliefs. Words are my wounds but I will always overcome.
Okay. Our conversation continued:
To be honest, I wanted to talk to you because I thought you were intentionally playing a character. Was I wrong?
what do you mean?
I won’t deny egging people on
If they are especially rude and vulgar to me ill push to get a reaction
That makes sense.
Alot of the messages I get are a million times worse than anything I post. The hypocrisy is astounding
Telling me to kill myself. Or that my daughters will be raped by black men. That I should have been swallowed. Attacking my appearance
Some girl said I should be beheaded for “insulting” Taylor Swift I found that to be a bit extreme
Definitely. Do you want this period of attention to end?
But because it’s aimed at ME it’s perfect acceptable I guess. So I take it and keep pushing
Fusion’s use of the word “hoax” has stuck with me, because it implies that the person behind the account has a victim in mind. But who is Jennifer Mayers for? She certainly isn’t for me—I gave her ample opportunity to say she was, and, although it was easier for me to believe that this woman was offering a sendup of the worst of the internet rather than earnestly standing behind her own frantic bigotry, there wasn’t much proof. She isn’t for Republicans—her material is even too vile and silly for their mainstream. Is she for the sluts? The Huffington Post? The KKK?
It is the first impulse of writers and reporters to respond to the news with the question, what’s really going on, but that question is only important to ask when there actually is something going on. In our hunt for the truth about Mayers, it’s pretty clear that there wasn’t much truth to be found, or resolutions to be had. Was the status of women and minorities demonstrably improved through publicly shaming this chimera? Was the humor of this potentially sincere troll heightened? Certainly not.
We plucked this imaginary woman out of nowhere, as we love to do, to be what we wanted her to be. If anything, we gave her an excuse to write a bad book.
At the end of our conversation, I thanked her for talking.
“No problem hon,” she wrote back. “You can write anything you please I will be ok with it.”