by Tara Beckett
I love twitter. It’s just the right combination of serious news and semi-anonymous snark rolled up to make a pleasantly humourous cocoon of witty and bizarre entertainment. It’s also free, which is always a plus, because I hate having to pay for my daily dose social commentary (stop the threats, gullible Facebook users).
Having sung its praises, I fear that I must now highlight twitter’s downfall: there’s a lot of stupid out there and it’s having its voice heard. I weep for the future.
Sure, there’s funny, sometimes meme-creating stupid like 18-year-old American, Kristen Neel’s tweet that went viral, claiming that if Obama was re-elected she’d move to Australia because “their president is a Christian and actually supports what he says”. Of course, Australia’s Prime Minister is both female and a professed atheist so obviously the rest of the world laughed at the stupid American being all misinformed and stupid like a big stupid head.
But while Ms Neel was comically mistaken, she wasn’t really hurting anyone. She wasn’t spreading hate speech against President Obama, she didn’t say anything racist and in fact defended herself by clarifying that she was talking about the former Australian leader, Kevin Rudd who is indeed male and a staunch Christian. Perhaps she hadn’t heard about the leadership change; she does live on the other side of the world, it’s not totally out of the question. But why pick up on that factoid? It’s almost logical, just point and laugh at the foolish American girl, oh how fun!
The real problem I have with Twitter is the hash tags. Not the ones that lead you to helpful news or entertainment, but the ones that are sort of games. You know, finish-the-sentence type things like #endoftheworldconfessions that are usually harmless and then others like #LiesToldByGirls, which are bound to become sexist. I hate these tags; they’re pointless and boring and crop up every few months under a different guise but still spouting the same offensive and sexist rhetoric.
As I sorted through the #LiesToldByGirls tag, (because I’m a masochist), I wasn’t really surprised by what I saw: clichés and wildly stereotypical portraits of women as needy, insecure, man-obsessed, possessive bitches who pile on makeup and lie about it. Apparently, we are never fine, we always care and we are not okay with “our men” talking to other girls. But what was really disturbing were the more sexually explicit tweets that came from men, like these:
Classy, right? But it’s also actually quite dangerous.
There were several tweets about “cuddling” being synonymous with “fingering” made by men as their interpretation of a woman’s “lie”. I guess we’re wasting our time on advertising campaigns that remind us that ‘no’, really does mean ‘NO’. If saying we want to cuddle basically means we’re begging to get penetrated by a few digits, then what constitutes conceding to penile rape? Sure, women just say they want a kiss goodnight at the door but actually it means they’re up for anal.
Oh wait; actually no, that’s not it at all.
Giving consent for one act is not tantamount for giving the okay for the whole smorgasbord. You’re wandering into rape territory, and you need to leave.
Equally as concerning is the notion that if a woman or girl prefers to spend her time with men or boys rather than other females, she’s just a whore and probably up for a gang bang.
Throughout my high school years, I hung out with the boys a lot more than I did girls. They were easier to deal with. I’m hardly the first person to say this but I’ll reiterate: teenage girls can be mean, especially if you don’t particularly fit in generally, which I did not. I was comfortable around boys, there were no guessing games, and they were to the point. Apparently, I was just a whore after all. I really hope that’s not what they thought of me and that I was just allowed to hang out with them as some sort of attainable, coquettish cock tease.
These tweets are disturbing and degrading, but those from other women are almost worse. Where has girl power and sisterhood gone? Why are we not only allowing and condoning men to spurt such awful and dangerous statements, but also confirming and promoting damaging clichés and stereotypes ourselves? The amount of women, or rather girls, on twitter that have participated in this demeaning hash tag and others like it, is really upsetting. These girls are young, still in their teens and they are our future. We owe feminists of the past for our freedoms today, but are we not doing a disservice to the Suffragettes of the early 20th century who fought for our right to vote, by indulging this behaviour rather than condemning it.
Why is our generation becoming complacent when it comes to feminism and rejecting these harmful stereotypes? Well, it’s just not very cool.
Feminism strikes up images of bra-burning, man-hating, hairy-legged hippies in younger women. During the recent US election, former American Idol winner and Republican Kelly Clarkson made news (somehow), by putting her support behind President Obama’s re-election, even though he is of course a Democrat. As well as supporting marriage equality, Clarkson supported the president on his pro-women efforts, which put her at odds with pro-life Republican nominee, Mitt Romney and was quoted as saying:
“I’m not a hardcore feminist but we can’t be going back to the 50s.”
Right. See the problem here?
Clarkson is 30 and has been in the public eye for the last decade after her Idol success. She’s been a positive role model to teenage girls, boasting a miriade of female-positive pop songs and not giving a damn about coping flack by the media for her fuller figure. But here she demonstrates what many women of generation Y and younger are buying into; standing up for women’s rights and rejecting a stereotype is equated to being a “hardcore” feminist, an extremist.
I’m guilty of buying into this too. When a male friend called me a feminist, because I was vocally annoyed over something I saw as sexist, I was quick to deny it and take offense. It wasn’t because I’m not a feminist; I am a feminist and I believe obtaining equality between the sexes, but it was because I didn’t want to labelled and lumped in with the image of the smelly, hairy, saggy man-hater, the ugly brush that the women we owe our freedoms to have been painted with. Younger women are afraid of coming across this way, so we don’t stand up and say, “Stop sanctioning rape on twitter, you moron” and “This hash tag is offensive and I’ll have no part of it”.
We stay silent, or we join in. And that is not okay.
Believe it or not, you can wear high heels and make up and dresses and still be a feminist and support women’s rights.
Even as I proof read this essay, there’s a niggling doubt left in my mind. Am I being too preachy? Am I sounding like some awful harpy, banging on about feminism? Am I somehow going to sound less credible by admitting that I’m happy to be a feminist?
All of these doubts are ridiculous, but they still exist because of the completely unfair and negative image of feminists that I’ve been fed over the years. This needs to stop.
I’m proud to be a feminist and I still love Twitter, I’m just a bit disappointed right now.