So women who are harassed online are expected to either get over ourselves or feel flattered in response to the threats made against us. We have the choice to keep quiet or respond “gleefully.”
But no matter how hard we attempt to ignore it, this type of gendered harassment—and the sheer volume of it—has severe implications for women’s status on the Internet. Threats of rape, death, and stalking can overpower our emotional bandwidth, take up our time, and cost us money through legal fees, online protection services, and missed wages. I’ve spent countless hours over the past four years logging the online activity of one particularly committed cyberstalker, just in case. And as the Internet becomes increasingly central to the human experience, the ability of women to live and work freely online will be shaped, and too often limited, by the technology companies that host these threats, the constellation of local and federal law enforcement officers who investigate them, and the popular commentators who dismiss them—all arenas that remain dominated by men, many of whom have little personal understanding of what women face online every day.
The people who are most commonly on the receiving end of the admonishment about being ‘too angry’ are, usually, the people who bear a disproportionate burden when it comes to the issue under discussion. ‘Feminist issues’ often harm women of colour, poor women, queer women even more strongly than they affect white middle-class women. In a fair world, that would instantly translate into deferential treatment for those perspectives, with the charge being led by those who represent those most affected. In the world we live in, however, the charge is led by those with greatest access (which usually means white people with money and formal education).
It is a perversion of justice indeed to be told that your level of investment in an issue is ‘too high’ by the standards of someone who is less exposed the harms accompanying that issue.
It is a further perversion to be told that the issues that affect you aren’t ‘the real issues’ because they affect people who are not representative of the majority.
And when that perversion manifests itself again and again at the hands of the same group of people (a group that, in other circumstances, is the oppressive class), it ceases to be merely wrong in fact, and becomes linked to a larger series of injustices that the group seeking ‘solidarity’ never seems to get around to. A social justice movement should be concerned with the issues of those most vulnerable to injustice, and yet articles like this one in the Nation only serve to reinforce the fact that justice will be indefinitely delayed by those who are the least vulnerable.
And that hurts.
AMEN! On huffingtonpost:
I once asked my friend if she was a feminist. Her response: Of course not.
This aversion to the word “feminism” is not uncommon: The well-publicized portrayal of feminists as angry, man-hating women has preserved the notion that feminism is destructive, dangerous, and to be avoided at all costs. As a result, many celebrities like Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Madonna have all rejected the term, claiming that “I don’t really think of it as guys versus girls,” “I love men,” and “I’m not a feminist, I’m a humanist,” respectively. More recently, Pharrell stated that it wasn’t possible for him to be a feminist because “I’m a man,” and actress Shailene Woodley caused controversy when she rejected feminism because “the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance.”
To these celebrities — and to anyone else opposed to feminism — I have a request: Please learn what being a feminist actually means. Feminism doesn’t pit guys against girls. It doesn’t call for the downfall of men. It’s not mutually exclusive from humanism. And men can be feminists too.
The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not. Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything.
The fact is, like it or not, you still live a world where gender matters. Where gender controls not just the entire course of your life – but the lives of women all over the world. Every second, a child will be born female in a country where she will persecuted for this random biological occurrence for the rest of her life. So before you hold up your anti-Feminist placard proudly and smile at your own sense of empowerment, think not what Feminism can do for you, but what it can do for that one girl. She needs someone to stand up for her. That someone could be you.