So. I wrote a guest blog post about feminism earlier this week, you can read it here if you want to. It was something that I had to think about a lot, partly because I don’t feel qualified to talk about so big a topic. But then if an actual woman with an actual vagina can’t talk about feminism then who can; which was kind of the point of my post, the fact that you don’t need to have special qualifications to care about it. But I was also worried about putting myself out there with an opinion about something so controversial. Most of my blog posts are pretty harmless really, a bit of ranting, some thinly veiled pops at people on Twitter who annoy me, but this one was different and it took me over two weeks to write, when normally I whip up a blog post in an evening.
It seems that anyone who fesses up as a feminist, or in fact anyone who is just a woman with a voice, lays themselves open to some pretty horrible abuse and this week they’ve been in the news a lot. Caroline Criado Perez has been campaigning for more pictures of women to be used on banknotes (which, by the way, kind of annoys me, it reminds me of when I was only picked for a team in PE at school because they felt sorry for me, not because of my athletic prowess. I don’t want them to put a woman on a bank note just so we can have a woman on a bank note, I want them to put somebody on a bank note because they are worthy of being there, whatever their gender). Anyway, this woman received rape threats and a group was set up to campaign for a twitter boycott, as well as a button for reporting abuse. While we’re talking about this, I was also annoyed by how she was described in all the newspapers as ‘Feminist, Caroline Criado Perez…’. She is a feminist, but it had to be highlighted, almost to remind us that she was more or less asking for it, that it happened because of the feminism, ignoring the fact that women are subject to this abuse every single day, regardless of whether or not they proclaim to be a feminist, or any other kind of campaigner.
Twitter is a reflection of society, whatever you might think about it personally, and that reflection is magnifying too. I find that the people who are great to talk to and funny in real life, are even more entertaining on twitter. The self obsessed are even more so, without social etiquette as a buffer; and the dull people are the ones constantly tweeting pictures of their dinner. So it’s no surprise that there are nasty people on there too, as real life is full of them. There are plenty of people around who will hate you for no reason and people, or rather men, who hate you because you’re a woman, especially if you’re a woman in the spotlight, or an intelligent woman with a point of view, or in fact just any woman who makes them feel threatened in some way, who threatens to disrupt their carefully ordered vision of the world, in which men are superior.
There are lots of types of trolls, trolls who just want to cause trouble, trolls who want the attention as well as the ones who, at some point, will compare you to Hitler. But the trolls that have been in the news this week are the most sinister kind, the kind who can’t argue back intelligently so resort to the one way they can feel dominant over women, in a violent, threatening way. Like the men who feel threatened by their clever wives who can outsmart them with words in an argument, so resort to punching them in the face. Those kind.
We need to do something about a society that makes this ok and only to be expected, because this isn’t a very pretty reflection at all. And while the rape threats on twitter are horrible, the actual rapes that are regularly taking place in real life are much worse and as we’re struggling to deal with the twitter threats, we also seem tobe floundering when it comes to dealing with rape in real life.
Today people are taking part in a twitter silence, and while I admire these people because that is how they feel they need to deal with it and in doing so they are drawing attention to it, for me it’s not the answer. These trolls want us to be quiet, they want us to feel silenced, they don’t want to hear what we have to say so today, in my eyes, they have partly won. In my opinion we need to make as much noise as possible and drown these people out. We need to challenge them and put the spotlight on them, shout out to everybody when they threaten us. Turning our backs isn’t the answer, facing it full on is. Social media is here to stay so we need to learn how to deal with this part of it.
And for the record, I don’t think a report button will work either. How do we ensure it wont get abused? Only this week I saw someone take offence at a parody account and complain about it openly. This is someone with a huge following, with lots of fans. Anybody who disagreed with him was ‘outed’, quoted out of context and in turn, subject to horrible abuse themselves. Just for disagreeing. Often the people who complain about bullying online end up being bullies themselves about it, and this makes me feel uncomfortable. How do we define the bad stuff? Because a lot of the bad stuff being said about the bad stuff is as bad as, if not worse than, the original bad stuff.
And with those wise thoughts I will leave to you deal with this as you will, as long as you deal with it in some way and not just use the twitter silence to post more pictures of your dinner.