There’s a lot of bullshit spoken about lots of things, and never is the quantity of bullshit larger than when it comes swiftly behind a statement that ‘all’ people of a certain type are a certain way, or have certain problems. Sure, catch-all statements are often a handy shortcut, but the more you try to crowbar into that statement the greater the chance of it stinking like a dungheap.
So, in light of Some Things I Have Seen On The Internet Recently, I feel compelled to highlight a few things about feminists. Specifically, things that – while true of some of us – are categorically not true of all of us. Here are some things that ‘all feminists’ are not:
Subject to unrelenting abuse
Some people are showered with quite horrific and appalling abuse on the internet. One of the many things that ignites the ire of a miserable and hate-filled human is a woman who not only has some opinions but has the temerity to actually say them out loud. Why, it’s enough to make them want to commit a criminal offence on Twitter. This behaviour is, naturally, disgusting.
However, I’m worried that the total shitstorm of the last few days, while fantastic at highlighting what is a genuine problem for many people, has been painted by the media as a problem for ‘feminists’ (as evidenced by the fact that articles on the topic nearly all seem to refer to a ‘feminist journalist’ or ‘feminist MP’, as if a feminist is a surprising and unusual thing to be). People behaving appallingly to each other is not just a problem for feminists – it’s a problem for our entire society. Moreover, although many of the most prominent victims of Twitter threats are loudly and proudly feminist, there are many people who receive this kind of abuse who are not.
Additionally, I want to point out that although being a loud, stampy feminist might mean you’re more likely to be targeted by a subset of antisocial cockwipes, you aren’t guaranteed to get this treatment just because you are a feminist. Why is it important to say this? Two reasons:
– I don’t like the implication that you could make the abuse stop by just calming your feminist views down a bit, or shutting the hell up.
– I don’t want to think that there are people who’ll be too scared to talk about their opinions because a few unconscionable cunts fire all-caps hate-tweets at prominent women.
You might get shit: you might not. I just want you to know that it’s not guaranteed, and it’s not something you can prevent just by not having an opinion. On to the next thing ‘all feminists’ are not:
Some of my best feminist friends are men, and all that. More importantly, these feminist men fall into the same camps as the people in the previous category: some of them get awful abuse and threats on the internet, others don’t. There is no way of predicting or preventing this stuff on an individual basis. Whatever your views on how we, either technologically or as a society (or both) deal with the problem of online harassment, there’s never a way that you, as an individual, can prevent this.
Fighting all of the time
Another thing ‘all feminists’ aren’t doing. There’s a big discussion going on about how we deal with internet harassment. I’m undecided on the best solution because – as with most complex issues – there is nothing that leaps to the front of my mind and screams “BUT THIS IS SO OBVIOUS AND HAS LITERALLY NO DRAWBACKS.” Naturally, there’s debate – sometimes heated. However, it depresses me that the nuanced, carefully thought through arguments from a number of intelligent people have been boiled down into either ‘feminists are fighting with each other over a Twitter button’ or, even more worryingly ‘feminists are fighting everyone else over a Twitter button.’
It’s a fucking debate – we’re all supposed to be fighting. And I think, when this many people are involved, you can reliably say that this isn’t a ‘feminist’ issue – it’s a ‘people’ issue.
As evidenced by the fact that a feminist can be male or female, pro- or anti-Twitter button, troll, trolled or indifferent, it’s fairly safe to say we’re not all the same. I appreciate that ‘feminist’ is a handy catch-all for some issues, but this definitely isn’t one of them.
It’s a people issue. It’s not a niche interest or campaign that we can cheer on from the sidelines but ultimately will never affect us: it’s about how we as a society behave towards each other, and we all – feminist or not – need to get stuck in.