“If you think I didn’t like feminists before, now they’re lower than Nazis to me.”
“Please just shut the fuck up, you stoopid cow.” [x]
“Your mutilated corpse will be on the front page of Jezebel tomorrow and there isn’t jack shit you can do about it.” [x]
Those of you who are women who fight for social justice online won’t need to read this. You experience this every day. Everyone else, pull up a chair.
It all starts with the eyeopening moment where, whether suddenly or gradually, you realize society does not treat everyone equally. Suddenly the word “feminist” doesn’t seem like it means “man-hater,” the words “politically correct” go from meaning “oversensitive” to meaning “taking responsibility for your words, and making jokes about stereotypes black people face doesn’t make you laugh anymore.
And then…you decide to do something about it. You want to do your best to make the world a better place.
You head on over to Twitter where #YesAllWomen is trending. Great, you think, here’s a space for people to explain to men what it’s like to be a woman. Maybe this will help those in privilege see that equality has not been achieved. You tweet “All women have been harassed by a man at some point in their life.”
You get a notification. “no they’re not. You’re generalizing men. Therefore you’re sexist” [x]
Oh…ok. Maybe you’ll try another tweet — you tweet about how kids’ toys have become gendered more and more over the years.
“fuck feminists they think anything that says the phrase “for boys/men” is fucking sexist” [x]
FINE. Can I at least talk about how video games use women as props — they wear super revealing clothing then get killed off gruesomely — to make the male lead seem more heroic?
“Every group is objectified in video games. It’s not a gender-driven issue.” [x]
Can I at least mention that patriarchy is a thing that hurts people?
“Patriarchy has to be an actual thing that exists first but nice try.” [x]
Welcome to being a female social justice activist on the Internet.
Amanda, a 16-year-old feminist, mainly uses Twitter to fight for social justice. She decided she was a feminist somewhere around 10th grade, around when #YesAllWomen was trending on Twitter. She and some friends started tweeting under the hashtag about what it’s like to be a girl. [Tweets and hashtags are altered slightly to protect Amanda.]
A boy she knew tweeted, “So at a party you got drunk and got taken advantage of – that’s not rape, you’re just a loose drunk slut.”
Then another boy began tweeting at her, “Fuck feminism. I don’t see gays complaining about their rights or immigrants complaining about their rights. Shut the fuck up.”
Then, “OK, if you’re actually afraid of boys because of ass slapping and winking then you should just stop coming to school.”
He started tweeting under hashtags such as #YesToAllWomenInTheKitchen and #BackInTheKitchen.
Once the tweets became overwhelming, Amanda and a friend decided finally to go to the principal together. The boy was suspended. But the tweets didn’t stop. The boy got other classmates to tweet in “solidarity” with him during his suspension, and he began tweeting, “If you think I didn’t like feminists before, now they’re lower than Nazis to me.” And, “I know who snitched. You’re scum.” Then, “S/o to the girls who told the principal I made a joke about me raping people and might be getting me expelled/arrested.”
He began using her full name to “out” her as the person who reported him to school administration. When she asked him to stop harassing her, he replied, “Sorry you can’t deal with people talking about you on Twitter, based things you ADMITTED to doing in the past.”
School administration eventually talked to the boy and told him he could no longer talk about Amanda on social media anymore. However, Amanda says, “Although he can’t tweet about me anymore, he still attacks feminism and harasses women on a daily basis. Now, I get much more harassment from [another boy], which I believe I will have to go to administration for AGAIN. I hear countless stories from people telling me that when they mention my name, the other person says, ‘You’re friends with her? But she’s a feminist.’”
Amanda says that despite the harassment she gets, she knows what she does is right.
“Many people hate me, but I know there are so many more that I have helped and who are also educated on feminism now — and that’s what makes it worth it.”
Hana, 17, fights for social justice online despite many obstacles.
“I live in the ‘Bible Belt’ of Texas – everyone is very religious and close-minded, and this carries over to my friends on Facebook. After a while, you learn it is better to keep your mouth shut and not cause any waves,” Hana says. “The local Scholarship Committee requires access to your Facebook account. While I am still a minor, as much I hate doing so, I must keep my silence. If I were to speak my mind, I would be threatening my family’s reputation, and practically destroying any chances to receive scholarships.”
Hana believes those who attack social justice activists online all have a common trait — they have no idea what social justice does.
“When I declare myself as a feminist, for example, I am hounded with questions about why I hate men,” she says. “I have also had a man tell me that I don’t belong with ‘those witches,’ but that I just need a man ‘to tame’ me. This man was at least three times my age, but that didn’t faze him. Even after I told him that I was underage, he wouldn’t back down.”
When it comes to online harassment, “If I wasn’t afraid of the harassment I receive on a daily basis, I would be incredibly stupid. Although I never reveal my personal information, I know the risk that I face when I stand up for what I believe in.”
But when it all boils down to the choice of whether to live in fear as a social justice activist or whether to stop, Hana says what I’ve heard in different forms again and again from feminists: “Of course, I am scared. But honestly, I am more afraid of not standing up for what I believe in; I fear becoming voiceless. If the worst were to happen — if I were killed for my beliefs — I would have no regrets.”