It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in possession of an opinion and a computer will cop a heap of sh*t. Insults, personal attacks and threats of physical violence are par for the course.
This week Clementine Ford shared strategies on how to stand up to the haters online. And British writer Laurie Penny recently spoke out in New Statesmen about cyber abuse after she received the following ‘feedback’ from a male reader: “There’s nothing wrong with [her] a couple of hours of cunt kicking, garrotting and burying in a shallow grave wouldn’t sort out.”
But now Melissa McEwan at the feminist blog Shakesville has tried a new strategy. After witnessing yet more examples of women copping abuse for speaking out against violence and rape, McEwan came up with the twitter hashtag#tellafeministthankyou.
Within hours, the internet was buzzing with women — and men — publicly thanking well-know feminists along with their mothers, fathers and teachers for being feminists.
@history_infamy tweeted, ‘You explained how what I thought “normal” was socially constructed and showed me a less oppressive world is possible. #TellAFeministThankYou’
@rebeccacweibel tweeted ‘#TellAFeministThankYou because I’m almost always more comfortable in jeans & sneakers, without having to judge those who love skirts & heels’
@scATX said thank you to, ‘All ppl who speak up for equality and are met w/ intimidation and threats of violence but keep speaking out anyway.
@Dahlialithwick wrote, ‘#TellAFeministThankYou: To my dad, who probably doesn’t know he even is one’
It’s enough to warm the cockles on your heart. That is, until you read on a little further.
Then you discover that the anti-feminist trolls — whose behaviour provoked the hashtag in the first place — could not even be gracious enough to allow people to take a moment to show their appreciation to each other.
@stoolpresidente unshared the love with, ‘Thank you to all you ugly dykes giving me endless blogging material #tellafeministthankyou’
@TooMessedUp, whose Twitter handle, evidently isn’t ironic, offered: ‘#tellafeministthankyou No. Feminists are like clowns: some find them funny, some scary, but no one takes them seriously’
And @Males_Thoughts whose Twitter handle is ironic, tried his hand at comedy with ‘#TellAFeministThankYou for the sandwich. And thank her again after she finishes doing the dishes.’
It’s telling that when women start talking about, and thanking, feminists for their wisdom, sacrifice and service, the trolling and hatefulness goes into overdrive.
As McEwan observes, ‘Naturally, the hashtag has also been co-opted by misogynist assholes who are using the tag to harass feminists, totally underscoring why feminism is still necessary and proving the fu*k out of my point.’
It seems that the only thing more threatening than a chick speaking out, is a chick speaking out about other women. Don’t you know we’re supposed to be talking about the blokes?
Or if we do waste our breath talking about women we are supposed to taking them down. Didn’t you get the memo? Feminists are bitches and feminism will never prevail because we’re all too busy fighting amongst ourselves.
The hashtag is a tangible way of saying that feminism is more than a single woman who just ‘has issues’. It’s a movement and a culture. Sure, we may not always get along or share the same views. But then again, no serious social or political movement that has survived beyond a single generation has ever agreed on everything.
But even the misogyny storm that the hashtag provoked is encouraging in its own way. If nothing else, it shows that feminism has passed the Squeal Test: if feminism wasn’t succeeding, then our political opponents wouldn’t squeal so loudly.
It’s a tough gig as a woman speaking out on the internet and it’s hard not to become despondent at times. But the catalogue of feminist achievements and gratitude flowing through twitter at the moment — and the anti-feminists who are having a hissy fit over it — is enough to restore anyone’s faith.