When I’m on a con panel, I look for an opportunity to mention that I don’t agree with the conclusions of She-who-shall-not-be-named in her Game-Trope series and that her voice is not the best to put forward for feminism.* When I say this, there are audible groans of disapproval in the audience. That’s fine. I want the community to be open to differing opinions and keep an open mind. But it seems people aren’t comfortable doing that.
After one panel at DragonCon a handful of people came up to me and secretly confessed they agreed with me about She-who-shall-not-be-named. “But if she’s not our feminist delegate, who else is there? Don’t I have to fall in line?”
Putting forth only one representative for a complex idea will, in fact, have the opposite effect. The fallout we’ve been seeing lately is a clear example of that. The proliferation of hearsay may even cause the altogether loss of the term ‘feminism’ as anything socially positive. A valid cause and idea has become lost in a screaming match. There are lots of reasons for the screaming (lies, misinformation, piety, etc.), but one is the desperate need of the feminist community to defend the narrow representation we’ve put forth.
The feminist model that speaks for you should be chosen by you, not a community, hashtag, meme, or prolific headliner. Social media is defining who and what you are. Drive social media; don’t ride its helter-skelter, chameleon party bus. Choose for yourself a feminist that speaks for you and raise them up via your tweets, friend clicks, likes, posts, tumbles, etc. We talk to people on the show all the time that may voice your feminism — look back at those as a starting point.
The first thing you need to do is understand is what feminism means to you. Feminism is not a cause, it’s a conviction. Feminism is not a negative, it’s a positive. “I’m against hate speech,” is a cause. “I’m for inclusion and diversity,” is a conviction. Spell out your principles on paper about what it means to you to be a feminist. Then, you can choose a mentor and a cause.
One feminist cause seems to be railing against hate speech but it’s a very small and futile one. As any psychologist will tell you about relationships (or anyone who’s been in a relationship), you can’t change another person — not with reasoning, screaming, badgering, shaming… anything. You’ll make bigger strides for feminism if you become a better feminist than you will in trying to stop one person’s hate speech. As a group cause, we can encourage individuals to stand up, one-on-one, against online hate speech.
What about death threats? This is different. It is a form of hate speech, but it crosses a line. This is not a cause, it is a crime, and our tax-paid enforcement agencies should be dealing with it. If they are not, you have a cause with law and enforcement leaders and your social media rants may actually work against you in this. If you are a victim of threats, you should be going to the police and not online. There is no benefit to you or the community to make threats public.
“But people need to know this is happening.”
In regards to death threats specifically, why? If law enforcement is handling it, then what does it benefit feminism or the online community to know about it? If it is being dealt with, it is, by definition, not a cause. And you’re not going to stop it by putting it on the new celebrity stage of social media. Retweeting gives it importance and I don’t think it’s the importance you intend. Believe me; the hater is thrilled you retweeted. The online affirmation is the retweet/like/❤/△/@.
To Regina’s optimism, I am the pessimist. I see no end to hate or threatening speech. And if we can’t change the other person then let’s not waste our efforts. Exert all of this energy to raise the positive message, live an example of our feminism, be a feminist mentor, and put forth more and more representatives. If we’re going on a raid, we need more than a single crafting sorceress.
I’ll Give You A Topic
Are there any other feminist models out there? Who are they?
* I think I used all the hot-button words in that sentence. That should get a bunch of unnecessary hits. Bleh.