19 August

The Fight For Free Speech: How A Gutsy Young Female Entrepeneur Was Bullied Into Silence By Politically Correct Vigilantes On Social Media

by Jon Katz

A couple of months ago, I wrote about my delight at finding a good groomer for Zinnia, my three-year-old Yellow Lab and Therapy Dog. Kiley, a young and bold entrepreneur who learned to love animals while growing up on a nearby farm, had rented a tiny space off the same road our farm is on.

I liked everything about her.

She started a dog grooming salon called Ruff Around The Edges. There are only one or two other grooming places around here for dogs; they are all hard-to-find appointments.

Kiley had very little funding and no money for advertising but is strong and resourceful. Her salon is spare, only the basics, a tub, and a ramp. No frills, no crates, no decorations, or cute photos. No fancy brushes or equipment.

I was pleased to find her. I can’t bend over anymore low enough to brush Zinnia the way she needs and deserves, and she is so often in vile muck and swamp and manure-coated pasture that she needs regular cleaning and maintenance.

Because she is rarely on concrete, her nails grow to paws, which is unsuitable for therapy work.

I’m big on being a proper steward for my dogs; it’s my job to see them get the care they deserve. I took to Kiley immediately; I like her affectionate, businesslike, but not sappy way of dealing with the dogs. She knows how to talk to animals.

Kiley had no room in her first salon to keep dogs when the grooming was over, so she texted the dog owners when they were done, and we picked up the dogs after learning they were ready.

Zinnia, the Queen of Chill, was nervous.

She had never been groomed before, and the Covid epidemic kept me from socializing her as broadly as I usually would have beyond the Mansion residents and the refugee children she grew up with and loves.

Kiley did an excellent job with her, she was calm and soothing, and Zinnia settled down and did what was asked. Kiley is not sappy; she talked to Zinnia firmly and respectfully, as I’ve seen farm kids do with cows. No baby talk or loud cooing. She and Zinnia were a good fit – no drama with either of them.

When I picked her up an hour later, Zinnia looked cleaner than I remember seeing her, and I very much appreciated the brushing, nail clipping, and bath she got. She looked great. All the swamp and dirt were gone. Her nails were clipped correctly; her ears were clean.

I was impressed with Kiley that first time and wanted to spread the word about her.

I like to use the blog for good when I can, and since Kiley was starting, I thought she could use the attention. We have almost no media here, and the blog can sometimes help people get noticed. I look to bring attention to the many good people I meet.

I wrote a piece about her that I felt was sincere and accomplished what I hoped it would. She got a bunch of new customers and now can’t take any more. I have to make my Zinnia appointments two months ahead, and Kiley is moving to a bigger space next week.

Good for her; she deserved it and would have succeeded independently. I was pleased to give her a push.


(Baby Zinnia)

At first, I got many compliments from women all over the country and dog lovers.

I was amazed when my post about Kiley, which I was pretty proud of, became one of the uglier episodes in my rich and often tumultuous blog life.

It also did a lot of good, and Kiley thanked me for it and said she loved every word. But this is Facebook America in 2022, and sincerity is a crime waiting to be condemned.

When I asked Kiley how she came to love animals, she said she grew up as a farm girl and was always around animals. I quoted her as saying that.

I was almost instantly attacked on my blog posts and e-mail by two distinct groups.

On the right, some macho men from the west ridiculed me for taking Zinnia to a groomer, saying I was an elitist, lazy, and a sissy.

At the same time, a group of women called themselves feminists accused me of being sexist, insensitive, and yet another clueless example of white male privilege.

I was charged with what one  called a “micro-aggression” (and what another said was pure “white male privilege.”  And yes, sexism, of course.  I am, after all, a privileged white man, one of the least popular things to be in many quarters.

The term “farm girl,” they said, was offensive. I replied that I never referred to the adult Kiley as a “girl,” which she is not. It was how she described herself. They didn’t believe me.  They said I was a liar.

I mixed up my terms. I said “macro” aggression and should have said “micro-aggression.” That mistake has been corrected in this piece.

(Microaggression is a term used for daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental slights, intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative attitudes toward stigmatized or culturally marginalized groups.

I will ask Kiley when I next see her. Still, I would be amazed if Kiley considers herself a marginalized group, especially when labeled by people who call themselves feminists but seem to care little or nothing about women.

I imagine that would make her furious. Kiley is not afraid of me or of speaking her mind, as is true of strong women.

If you know academics (I was one once), then you know one of their favorite tricks is inventing,  expanding, or sanitizing language to meet their passions and prejudices at the moment. Anything to make things more complex or obscure.

Another popular new term coined by academics to mangle the language is macroaggression: (A macroaggression is an act of racism towards every one of a race, gender, or group. An example of a macroaggression would be individuals spreading misinformation about COVID-19 and placing blame on Asia.”)

Or labeling white men, perhaps.

I was being accused of microaggression, but the critics seem to me to be a perfect match for the people criticizing me, targeting me because I am a “privileged white male,” even though none of them have ever seen me spoken to me, or know anything about me.

That’s called macro-aggression.

The left and the right do it all the time. Labeling people is one of our national diseases.

A “progressive” might jump on the term “micro-aggression” to label something they disagree with, and an extremist on the right might prefer “woke.”

The mixup was patronizing, perhaps, but offensive to a marginalized person. Really?

How sexist is that?

The language suffers from this perversion of words, and so does truth, perspective, and productive dialogue.

I said “farm girl” was Kiley’s term, not mine, but it was the right one. She mentioned it again when I saw her yesterday.

She was a girl during the period she was talking about, and women on the farms around here often proudly refer to themselves as “farm wives,” and when they are young, “farm girls.”

I don’t look to other people to tell me what to call myself.

At no time did Kiley or I refer to her adult self as a “girl.” I sometimes call Maria “My Girl,” which is a term of endearment she does not object to; I have never referred to any other adult woman as a “girl.” I would have to be stupid to do that, and it’s now how I see mature women (and I’m not stupid.)

The righteous posse that suddenly appeared online started calling me a liar and said it was my language, not hers. (I didn’t see anyone else in the room, and Zinnia doesn’t talk.).

They said I was distorting the truth, which they could tell by investigating and poring over my posts.

They insisted I was a sexist and insensitive symbol of “white privilege” and “micro-aggressive,” two of the new missiles being deployed by the angry academic warriors of the left.

Extremists reveal themselves by never accepting anyone else’s truth and branding all disagreement as lies.

This is Donald Trump’s true legacy, legitimizing denial and lies as a substitute for truth and discussion. Both sides seem to love it and have adopted it, turning our national dialogue into poison, just like the piece about Kiley.

Aggression is too direct and straightforward an idea for the new ideologues, “micro-and-macro – aggression” broadened the number of targets since people who commit “macro” aggressions are targets too. You only have to be insensitive, confused, or out of date to be a “micro-aggressor.”

The idea that every white male (as opposed to any white person) has experienced a privileged existence in many ways is undoubtedly true, making them instant bigots or stupid people who never get it.

I encountered this thinking when I began writing about my Amish friend Moise and was denounced for enabling and supporting (and excusing) the Patriarchy. Anything less than condemning him was a crime.

I believe white privilege to be a genuine social phenomenon, but whether that makes all of us racists, bigots, and insensitive morons is open to discussion, at least to me. But it doesn’t get much discussion.

My simple tribute to a new dog groomer had become one of those intense and disturbing online brawls. Instead of stroking my ego with praise, I was under attack. And much worse, Kiley’s impressive achievement was being completely ignored.

On the right, I was being labeled a “pussy,” a “faggot,” and a “woke elitist” for arguing that it was important for big hunting dogs like Zinnia (she jumps into every foul puddle or swamp she can find or any dog to be brushed and groomed from time to time.

I pointed out to one of the dissatisfied macho men that it’s no different for a dog than getting a haircut. That shut one of them up.

I’m a big boy, a five-time best-selling author, and a veteran of decades of online writing. I can take care of myself. Kiley is much more vulnerable.

I had an appointment to bring Zinnia to see Kiley this morning; I did not have a chance to speak with her since I wrote the piece, and I wanted to hear her thoughts.

I said I’d like to photograph her and Zinnia again, as I like to do in my daily writings about my life.

She looked uncomfortable and asked if it was all right if we skipped the photo today. She was distressed.

She said the comments she read about me made her angry, and she didn’t trust herself to stay out of trouble if she talked about it. She went to some trouble to say the problem wasn’t me or what I wrote.

She’s just a businesswoman starting a new business, she said.

When she was young, she was a farm girl and had no apologies to make for it. That was the truth. She saw openness as dangerous; she saw her anger as unhealthy.

She said she loved the piece I wrote and appreciated it; she said I should feel free to write whatever I wanted about it.

Still, the atmosphere online was so hostile, intrusive, and unreasoning that she thought she needed to stay away from it. It just made her furious and sometimes frightened.

What, after all, is a young woman who grew up on a farm and is starting a business to make of all this cruelty and hatefulness? What am I?

She said he might change her mind about talking about it. She is busy, working hard on her business, and she isn’t looking for distractions. Those people have absolutely nothing to say to her, I thought. Why should she respond to them? She may be much wiser than I am.

I told her I respected her honesty and feelings and would not pressure her for a photograph or provide details about where she was moving.

I have no idea what Kiley’s politics are; they are not my business. I suspect we would disagree on many things. So what?

I hoped she would feel free to talk about this one day; she should be praised, not silenced. They should be free to speak their minds.

I said the country’s atmosphere is poisonous, but I felt compelled to challenge people like the trolls who came after me when I could, so long as it didn’t dominate my blog or my life or turn me into a raging lunatic just like them.

That has happened more than once.

Ignoring them is a reasonable alternative, but I sometimes feel I should make a case for free and civil speech.

I was sorry, I said, that she thought it was dangerous for her to speak up. That is a sad commentary on the land of the free and the brave.

I was afraid at first that Kiley didn’t like what I wrote or was upset with me, but it was much worse.

She feared that saying what she thought could hurt or endanger her or unleash her anger. She said she didn’t feel free to speak her mind in America in 2022.

For me, this episode illustrated the sickness raging in our country.

I wrote a nice, affirmative, and supportive piece about a young woman working hard and sticking her neck out to start a new small business in a small town in upstate New York, one of the most challenging things a young businesswoman could do.

A true feminist would be pleased to support a woman like that. Maria was.

What should have been a pleasant interaction between a writer and a worthy young woman sticking her neck out – a happy success story all around –  was turned into just another shitstorm, another irrational name-calling collision that accomplishes nothing and obscures something quite worthy. I remembered what it was I hated about Middle School.

That is what political extremism does to free speech. It kills it.

None of the women who called themselves feminists praised Kiley or talked about her impressive achievement, especially when small businesses fought for their lives. None even mentioned her. She was the whole point of the piece.

Their only interest was in assaulting a man as one more cretinous result of white privilege.

I think it makes them feel good.

These cruel people are pimples on the ass of life to me, and so are the testosterone-stuffed lug-heads on the other end of the spectrum. Some people think it’s a sign of weakness and elitism to take proper care of your dog.

Sometimes I think my life comes right out of a Monty Python skit. There is no left or right, only broken and hallow people who increasingly mirror one another and shout and whine.

I am proud to be calling them out. That’s the side I want to be on. But more and more, I delete them and, like Kiley, get on with my business. They are not worth it.

“These are people who need to find something to do,” she said.

This would be funny if it weren’t so sad and outrageous. A young woman tough enough to start a business all by herself is afraid to speak out about her identity and values. I didn’t want to laugh; I wanted to cry.

The macho men and the name-calling women would be shocked to come to terms with the fact that they are both doing the same thing, which is wrecking the sacred tradition in any democracy of tolerating people who might be different.

That’s the key to any democracy.

Zinnia and I are seeing Kiley in two months, and I told her I am here to help her with her business in any way that I can and that she is comfortable with. On the one hand, I  hope she wants to speak up; on the other; I hope she doesn’t.

She has her priorities right.

She is the feminist hero in this story for me.

I respect her all the more.




  1. It’s heartbreaking to read the vitriol and hatred that spewed out of so many people. What is happening to the world (especially the American world). I am sorry Kiley was so upset by it. I wonder if when comments get out of hand like that you could turn off commenting – silence the uglies?

  2. I am always amazed at how how narrow, stupid and selfish some people can be. I wonder if there is a special place in Hell for angry, self-righteous folks like ones who wrote you.

  3. I suppose if one were to imagine walking out into a crowd and being able to hear all the thoughts of all the people, it would be shocking, frightening, chaotic and loud. I can’t imagine much of the noise would make any sense. That is social media.
    I remember the dust up about which you describe, I think I even chimed in, for reasons only knowable to me….just another note of noise among the chaos.
    Kiley is young, this is her world, she will be fine…and I’m sure you did more good than bad.

  4. Well said Jon. Thank you for expressing both polarities. You hope she speaks up and yet you hope she doesn’t. When we are in charge of our faculties enough to see both poles at the same time.., the tension of opposites releases, and slides into neutrality. We then sit in full view of both but not ruled by either. Ahh intelligent freedom. So enjoy your writing Jon. Glad you continue.

  5. Jon…I didn’t even finish your post. I am so sick and tired of people concerned about how we address others, what we should have said and what we should not have said. This is out of control as far as Iam concerned. Why don’
    t you just ignore some of this stuff? You can’t win.

  6. The term is “microaggression,” not “macro-aggression,” and in no way does it mean aggression toward everyone in a racial group. Please do a little research before pontificating.

    1. Microaggression: a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority.
      “students posed with dry-erase boards documenting their experiences with microaggressions on campus”
      indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group.
      “they are not subject to daily acts of microaggression.”

      I appreciate the correction; however snarky with the message. I’ve gone through the piece and made the appropriate corrections. I am still in the grip of Covid 19; I might have missed one. As compassionate a person as you seem to be, I’m sure you’ll forgive it.

      Reading this over, Monty, it’s clear that I mixed up the terms. Microaggression is what you are accusing me of, not macroaggression. I put definitions of both of them in the piece. Macroaggression is something else, and I inserted a definition of that also.

      I’m curious how you justify tagging Kiley as a marginalized person victimized by some who quoted her as a farm girl growing up. How sexist. I take from reading these definitions that you are quite guilty of macroaggression by labeling me as a “privileged white male,” thus one who need not be treated with respect or paid attention. Your demeaning of Kiley is kind of disgusting.

      I’m beginning to suspect this is a false flag episode of Monty Python.

  7. A survey aired on TV stated: A large percentage of college kids don’t want to room with another student who belongs to a different political party then he/she nor do they want to date a person who has different political beliefs. I don’t remember quizzing my friends or dates on what their political views were. Those types of issues never came up. Maybe we were all shallow, but we were just concerned with being young and having a good time. I guess I’m a lost soul because there are Republicans I would vote for and Democrats I would vote for. Even in the primary election one has to check either Democrat or Republican. This further divides our country. I think some feminists are nuts although I would label myself a feminist but I’m not goofy about it. Having a man say I look nice today or have a man put his hand on my back is not sexual aggression. Calling a former farm girl a farm girl l is not sexist. If you grew up on a farm you were a farm girl or farm boy. As far as grooming your dog, that’s part of pet ownership. I can’t bend over very well, so if I get another dog – off we would be to the groomers. Besides I’m not a lover of ticks and fleas and grooming helps get rid of those disease carrying pests. And starting a new business for men or women is scary especially in today’s world. Give the gal credit. Jon, your business, but I would wear out my delete key.

  8. Here’s an interesting…and ironic…juxtaposition, given the topic and the dog grooming profession: One of the YouTube creators I follow goes by the moniker, “Girl With The Dogs.” Her videos get millions and millions of views, and she has 1.62 MILLION subscribers, and I’ve never seen a comment by anyone who is stupid enough to complain about her calling herself a girl. Her videos are brief, interesting, funny, and educational. Check her out between chapters of one of the books you’re reading. 🙂

    1. It’s a good point, Mary; the messages can be cruel, but I never get the sense they really speak for anyone but themselves.

  9. Jon, you’re extremely confused. Nobody accused you of macroaggressions; they accused you of microaggressions. Macroaggressions are indeed overt, intentional instances of racism. Microaggressions like the term “farm girl” are a lot more subtle. You certainly didn’t engage in macroaggressions, but you were, in fact, guilty of microaggressions.

    1. Yes, you are correct, Kelly, and I fixed the mistake. I am relieved that I don’t know enough about microaggressions to get it right the first time, but I have better things to do, as Kiley herself suggested. Knowing everything doesn’t make me smart or wise, obviously.

      I notice you didn’t engage in the point of this piece, which is that it is not a crime to support a woman starting a business, and she should not feel threatened or silenced by the inane bullying of people like you.

      That doesn’t seem to matter to you once you’re done with nitpicking; you have nothing more to say, and no thoughts beyond cutting someone else. You are the problem, Kelly, not the solution.

      The irony to me, Kelly, is that nothing in my piece was even fractionally as aggressive as your short message. You haven’t bothered to be “micro” aggressive, whatever that really means; you’re the real deal. You have absorbed one of the great lessons and practices of Mr. Trump: take your worst qualities and pretend they are virtues. It doesn’t harm me, or help Kiley, but it makes you seem very small.

      1. It’s not fixed—why do you say that it is? You use the wrong term over and over in the piece as currently published, as well as the wrong definition? How can you possibly address your critics if you don’t even represent their criticism accurately?

        1. Kelly, you might want to read the piece once more before you blow yourself up with self-righteous fury. I inserted dictionary definitions of both microaggression and macroaggression to make it clear to my readers and me what I am saying.

          I changed the text to reflect what is accurate in the use of those terms.

          I find your suggestion that Kiley is a marginalized person or one incapable of speaking for herself or defending herself deeply offensive, both to her and to me. I know you were looking to hurt, not inform, but thank you for correcting me and spurring me to read these definitions. I do myself no favors by printing things that are inaccurate. It’s a shame nobody taught you how to communicate in a civil way, believe me you’d do better.

          I find these terms incredibly confusing and just more academic mind speak, (as a former academic) and I have no intention of using them. But if I use them, I should get it right. And perhaps you can tell me what this has to do with an ambitious young woman setting up a dog salon in a small town in upstate New York. I won’t hold my breath. I should think a real feminist might at least mention Kiley and her achievement once while in the heat of assaulting me over a mistake.

          I’m moving on. I guess you don’t have much to keep you busy, but I do.

    2. Kelly, Here is the dictionary definition of microaggression and yes, I used the wrong term and fixed it. I’m thinking of a title for this drama: “The Feminist Who Cared Nothing About Women, But Is Eager To Find Reasons To Hate Men.” Could be a book idea.

      Microaggression: A statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority.
      “students posed with dry-erase boards documenting their experiences with microaggressions on campus”
      indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group.
      “they are not subject to daily acts of microaggression” I would say you qualify as someone who is committing macroaggressions.

      I changed my piece and inserted definitions of micro and macroaggression to make it more accurate. Unlike you, I don’t find it shameful to admit mistakes, I make them all the time and correct them most of the time. I know you intend it to be hurtful, but I find it helpful. I care about being truthful.

      I also find your suggestion that Kiley is a marginalized person because she grew up on a farm to be insensitive and blatantly sexist. Maybe even macro aggressive. I hope you think about how knee-jerk and insensitive you are, to her and to me. I’m not holding my breath.

  10. You can’t fix stupid angry people that’s why we have a delete button. Their goal is just to drag you down into an endless useless argument. I wish Kiley all the best from a former country girl turned into a country lady. Nice piece about her business.

  11. Bravo Jon, bravo! And amen.

    This passage was my favorite–especially the “pimples on the ass of life” image– and sums it all up rather succinctly:

    “None of the women who called themselves feminists praised Kiley or talked about her impressive achievement, especially when small businesses fought for their lives. None even mentioned her. She was the whole point of the piece.

    Their only interest was in assaulting a man as one more cretinous result of white privilege.

    I think it makes them feel good.

    These cruel people are pimples on the ass of life to me, and so are the testosterone-stuffed lug-heads on the other end of the spectrum. There are people who think it’s a sign of weakness and elitism to take proper care of your dog.

    Sometimes I think my life comes right out of a Monty Python skit. There is no left or right, only broken and hallow people who increasingly mirror one another and shout and whine.

    I am proud to be calling them out. That’s the side I want to be on. But more and more, I just delete them, and, like Kiley, get on with my business. They really are not worth it.”

  12. So heartbreaking to read this. I was in tears. So what if you are bringing your dog to the groomer….it is your blog to tell your story. To be hated for it, is horrible. Today sign me- Girl from the North Country.

  13. Jon, I am so impressed by this essay. Thank you for writing it. In you photo, Zinnia looks really fine! Give Kiley my compliment for having done such a great job.

  14. Jon,
    Here is the dichotomy I see in this situation and the weird reaction by incompetent humans. Yesterday, you quoted Mary Oliver’s famous line from one of her poems… “What will you do with this wild and precious life?”(paraphrased).
    I see Kiley taking advantage of this precious life and going out in the world and starting a business and maybe following her passion. She should be applauded from Sea to Sea as this is what made this country great.
    On the other hand, I see people who exist only to cause grief to other people. To shame them, directly and indirectly. To put down and ridicule for the sake of doing it. That is simply moronic behavior.

    My best wishes for the Kiley’s of the country who wish to live life with the passion and determination that make this county great.

    1. I think these discussions are essential, Flower, as unpleasant as they can be. These people are killing off open thought and free speech. This is the world we live in. I am deleting almost all of these messages; they all say the same thing, but different points of view ought to be heard, just not argued endlessly.

      1. Folks, putting aside the snottiness, two of these complaints are valid. I got the terms micro-aggressions and macro-aggression mixed up and backward. I am assured of microaggression when writing about Kiley when the best examples of macro-aggression – racism towards a race, gender or group – were the messages sent to me.

        I find them to be awkward and confusing, and I don’t use or plan to use them. This is what academics do for a living.

        This is getting to be fun. I’m home sick with the Covid rebound, and I have some time to talk about this honestly and thoroughly.

        The mistakes had absolutely nothing to do with the portrait of Kiley and her business and were seized upon mostly be people who claimed I was insensitive but who have yet to mention Kiley or utter a word about what she has done. They have plenty of time to investigate me and write creepy messages.

        Feel free to re-read the piece to make sure you understand if this almost insane discussion is important to you.

        I posted definitions of each in the piece to be clear. These people think they are hurting me by making corrections, but I believe they are helping me.I’d rather be right, truly. I guess they can’t help but be obnoxious in their messages; I just try to look beyond that to be truthful. When I stop listening, I’ll be dead.

        A microaggression is a comment or action that negatively targets a marginalized person or group. A microaggression can be intentional or accidental. It is a form of discrimination.

        A macroaggression is an act of racism towards every one of a race, gender or group. An example of a macroaggression would be individuals spreading misinformation about COVID-19 and placing blame on Asia. This has contributed to an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

        Here is an example of microaggressions. How on earth this applies to Kiley and her dog salon is yet to be clear to me. This is the world we live in, and I’m glad to be in it.

  15. Holy smoke!! I started reading your blog about Zinnia and her groomer thinking, aww, lovely story on this beautiful Saturday morning (I live in New Jersey) and could not believe how it devolved into all this back-biting and name-calling. Seems like a microcosm (hope it isn’t a macrocosm) of life in this country right now. I’m a 74-year old female who has seen a lot in her life and experienced even more and I just do NOT understand what this country has become except that, personally, I blame a lot of it on the anonymity of social media. Folks seem to think that words don’t count and as someone on the targeted end of the conversation (like Kiley and yourself) in as innocuous a subject matter as needlework (which I’ve been practicing most of my life), I know it hurts even tho’ I don’t “know these people from Adam”. Yuck! Makes me want to pull the plug on social media at times but it has helped me keep connected with family and friends during these trying times. Congrats to Kiley for developing her own business and making a huge success out of it!

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