Society and Culture
Social Media and Feminists: You Can’t Stop All of Us
I have spent quite a bit of time on this blog focusing on women who have gone viral with their feminist actions. There have been speeches, performances, videos, and even hashtags that, within the past year, have pushed the feminist movement forward into the digital age and shed light on the huge difference between being a man and being a woman in our society. Supporters of such women should be proud of their positive influence, but of course for every feminist who dares to speak out, there are those who want to silence her.
We live in an age when news is reported instantly, where an unemployed singer can become a YouTube sensation overnight, and where we can all comment on every aspect of someone else’s life via social media. Some of those comments are positive, many more are negative.
Celebrities get hit the hardest by trolls whose goal in life is to sit at their computers all day creating drama on internet forums. And if one of those celebrities dares to speak out against a social injustice? Well, death threats are not at all uncommon, and whether they are real or simply the bluff of an angry teenager locked in their bedroom, social media has a huge impact on the lives of people in the public eye.
Washington Post writer Michelle Goldberg recently published an article about feminist writers and social media entitled “Feminist Writers Are So Besieged By Online Abuse That Some Have Begun to Retire.”
Apparently, sitting behind a computer screen with access to a Twitter feed gives people the right to insult how somebody looks, and even threaten people they disagree with. According to the article, many of the writers featured receive death and rape threats on a regular basis. If these threats had been made in person or even by mail, legal action could be taken, but what happens when hundreds of angry sexists with screen names like “M3ninist69” all make the same threat? What happens when whole online groups are dedicated to shooting down women? How many of those threats are real, and how would someone go about prosecuting them?
These incredibly negative and sometimes dangerous online exchanges force women who make their livings online to either a) engage extremely volatile followers by defending themselves or b) ignore them, sometimes completely withdrawing from social media. Many in the Washington Post article explain the damaging effect bodily threats and insults to their appearance have on their psyches, forcing some into therapy and others into retirement.
When you enter into a role that has a lot of public exposure, it is generally accepted that you will have people who love you and people who hate you. The sad part is, that love and that hate gets translated differently based on your gender. Men do not face death or rape threats, at least not to the scale that women do, because for some reason that sort of violence is restricted to women who dare to challenge social norms. Says Goldberg: “Women, urged to tell their stories, are being ferociously punished when they do.”
Feminists are no strangers to naysayers, and since the first wave of the movement have had to fight against the norms set by a patriarchal society. Never before, though, has feminism moved on this scale, and therefore never before has it faced so much resistance.
So how do we move forward? We challenge the naysayers, and while it is never easy to put up with verbal abuse, there will always be feminist writers to do so.