Finola Meredith has a piece in The Irish Times today bemoaning the #yesallwomen hashtag on twitter. When I saw the headline “The Twitter surge #YesAllWomen is a useless weapon against endemic misogyny” I laughed. What’s a better weapon? An Irish Times feature with a Breda O’Brien riposte the following day?
May the liberal force of Fintan O’Toole be strong in you, Irish Times Columnists.
Meredith’s issue with the hashtag is that she believes that tweeting that is about as useful as going outside in the street and shouting “sexist men are bastards” and it will make no difference. Tempted as I am to go and stand outside Coppers this Saturday night to disprove her point (Just imagine the real life “NOT ALL MEN!!” screams you’d hear afterwards), there is an important point hidden in here concerning major media outlets that dominate, such as The Irish Times, who have a role in shaping political discourse; as John Waters has said before, he does not write for an online audience, which he has referred to as the “lurking mob.” The reason people like John Waters don’t like social media, and other writers perpetually undermine it, is because twitter and social media platforms are a bit too democratic for their liking. They don’t get to dictate the content, or delete the straight-up unpalatable, or too-critical-of-government/themelves comments afterwards.
Dismissing and undermining those who take to twitter, positions those who are lucky enough to get an opinion piece in a broadsheet as being the only ones capable of articulating the voice of those who are oppressed. Opening up the prospect of an individual having the ability to coherently narrate their own oppression would compromise the legitimacy of the mainstream media approved writer’s position as The Harbinger of Official Truth, which opens up questions about the mainstream media’s role in the replication of oppressions.
Meredith states that “…it’s true that there’s barely a woman alive who couldn’t come up with an example of sexist behaviour she has encountered…we could all add something to this list…” but then later goes on to say that there is an issue with the hashtag’s “authenticity” asking “how do we know they are telling the truth?”
Right. So we can really all add something to the #yesallwomen list, but writers in turn will take to the national press to question whether in fact, we are actually just making it all up in the first place.
For the benefit of the (paper of) record – we are not.
This action is exactly the type of “ancient urge to shut women up” or “to silence them completely” that Meredith bemoans in her opinion piece – which will have a readership of thousands. If a woman cannot publicly tweet her experience of being groped without her truthfulness being questioned, then what makes people think she could report if she was raped or beaten.
It’s a silencing wolf dressed in feminist’s clothing.
Meredith believes that unless these campaigns are sustained and developed, they are useless. For a start, #YesAllWomen started last week. Give us a chance. It had 250,000 tweets in the first 24 hours – that’s far more people than will ever read a single Irish Times column. Women who may never have considered the connection between the microagressions we suffer, misogyny, and patriarchal society read and participated in those tweets.
They are seeing the connections between the unwanted hand on your arse in a nightclub that other men condone, and the man who murders a woman because she says she’s pregnant, dumps her body in a barrel and flies to New York to try and get busy with his ex-girlfriend. And between the man who calls a woman a slut for rejecting him on OK Cupid, and the man who decides to shoot women because they rejected him in a forum outside of the internet. There is a broad spectrum of violence against women, and if others make those connections, while happening to “blow off steam” at the same time, that is a very useful thing in terms of naming the problem of misogyny in order to address it. Online misogyny is the same as offline misogyny, it’s just the medium we combat it in is different. The internet, despite what the Irish Times would like us to believe, is still real life.
And to be fair to feminists and activists and ordinary women who have participated in the #yesallwomen dialogue, there’s more chance of the world remaining “blithely indifferent” after an Irish Times piece that undermines women and questions the veracity of their experiences than after a hashtag conversation starter that has had over a million tweets since Friday night.