The Dark Knight of “Feminism”

Femimism 2

Oh no, not another blog about anti-woman Twitter trolling? Well, no, not really – at least not intentionally. The recent debate about anti-woman threats and trolling on Twitter has brought to light another, different, argument about the very nature of feminism and women’s rights.

I have historically counted myself a feminist – my gran always said I’d “burned my bra long before I had one”. A feminist that is, up until recently when the very word (not to mind the rights and freedoms it espouses) has come to be something quite negative and exclusionary, “cliquey” even, rather than truly representative of women’s views, rights or “voice” in society.

Increasingly, many of those who claim to speak as “feminists” online (on Twitter in particular) have taken a nasty, snide and troll-esque turn. As a fellow follower put it “…the loudest voices strongly impose their view of ‘feminism’, based on their own social mores” (thank you @am_flynn for the eloquent summary).

These “super feminists” (those with wider reach and visibility in terms of their own public profile) have become more intolerant and judgemental of those who share feminist leanings but who do not 100% support their chosen view of the world yet they continue to represent themselves as “speaking for women’s rights”. Ironic, yes. Feminist, no.

To clearly illustrate the nature of some of this woman-on-woman bashing, in her closing tweets before #twittersilence yesterday, columnist India Knight demonstrated a perspective which was, in my view, anti-woman and anti-feminist – see the tweets below. It appears I am not alone in this view – Mic Wright’s Telegraph blog also calls out the problematic posturing inherent in Knight’s tweets.

IK Tweet 03 Aug India Knight Tweet 2

In a blistering demonstration of old-school snobbery, almost Etonian in its tone (regarding “old” versus “new” media), and dismissiveness towards a woman expressing her views online, Knight jumped the shark and for me at least, lost any credibility she may have had as a female commentator. This is quite apart from the fact that the woman she targeted is a recognised journalist in her own right – not that that mattered much to Knight as she picked on (nigh even, trolled) a fellow tweeter.

There are many different models of feminism – any short blog is too limited to explore them in detail and frankly, more learned, eloquent scholars on the topic have outlined the different models far better than I ever could. Suffice to say that like any large movement, there is no one “way” to be a feminist.

[As an aside, having read much of Sandra Bem’s body of work and that of others in gender studies, women’s studies and feminist theory, through college I generally fall into the category of “Libertarian Feminism”. Although even that is imperfect as it, often, presupposes a conservative perspective on the political spectrum (which doesn’t fit with the majority of my views) so I’m still searching.]

The model of feminism is beside the point, the key issue for me is that new media, Twitter in particular, has been a great leveller. Many more of us now have access to a platform to express our thoughts, views and perspectives than ever before. This doesn’t mean that all blogs are good or that all views are equally informed or credible (but that’s up to the reader – not all traditional media outlets are equal in quality either!).

Twitter is giving voice and profile to groups which have historically struggled to be heard. Women are one such group but we are not alone. The Arab Spring showed the geopolitical potential of Twitter. The fact that all you need is an internet connection and you can become a “citizen journalist” relaying your reality and leveraging “posse power” is one of the key things that brought me to Twitter and keeps me here day after day. One no longer needs to be part of the traditional “media elite” to have a “voice”.

By snidely dismissing female bloggers, Knight “pulled rank” and imposed a hierarchical view out of step with much of what she claims to represent.

I’d be naïve to say Knight is alone – sadly, she’s not.

The lesson? Women-haters come in all shapes, sizes, and yes, genders. And sometimes, women are women’s worst enemy. Calling yourself a feminist supporter of women while simultaneously seeking to silence women (even those who disagree with you) well that’s just ironic and more than a little inane. Whatever it is, it doesn’t speak for me and yes, I’m a feminist.

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About frimframworld

Total coffee fan, dedicated foodie & news hound. Strategic PR & political comms as a day job. All comments my own - blogging in a personal capacity only.

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