In the latest issue of The Nation, Michelle Goldberg attempts to tackle the “toxic” nature of online conversations about feminism. While social media and blogs have been an outlet for many women in the movements, giving marginalized groups a platform to speak out, others have used the Internet to shut down discussion and strong-arm dissenters into silence for fear they will get dragged through the mud.
Goldberg points to the backlash surrounding the #Femfuture report, which called on greater funding for feminists working in the digital sphere, as proof of the rising toxicity level. After it was released, many criticized the group behind #FemFuture for not being more inclusive of nearly every group of women. The response to #Femfuture shocked its creators who felt like the criticism were unwarranted, and also incredibly stifling.
Samhita Mukhopadhyay, former editor of Feministing, said she felt “backed into a corner” and lately many women are “so scared to speak right now” for fear they will piss off certain groups and be accused of being a bad ally in the movement.
While many feminists have lamented the current seemingly divisive environment, citing unnecessary and unfair critiques, others welcome the discourse. Mikki Kendall, creator of the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen hashtag, told Goldberg the alleged bullying and “silencing” that some argue is happening to some White feminists is a result of women of color and other marginalized groups finally having their say.
“If you look at the mentions for me, for @BlackAmazon, for @FeministaJones, for a lot of other black feminists, it’s hard for us to see this other stuff as bullying,” she explained. “Because we are getting so much more than ‘I don’t like your article.’ And we’re getting it all day. I had someone who spent four hours last week dumping porn images into my mentions. I’ve had people send me pictures of lynchings. So then when somebody says, ‘Oh, this article is terrible,’ and a bunch of people talk about how terrible an article was, and you say that’s bullying—I’m going to side-eye your definition of bullying.”
According to Kendall, the real problem is that mainstream feminists are not used to women of color forcing them to listen.
“Feminism has a mammy problem, and mammy doesn’t live here anymore. I know The Help told you you was smart, you was important, you was special. The Help lied. You’re going to have to deal with anger, you’re going to have to deal with hurt.”
Like most of society, feminism is going through definite growing pains. Through the advent of blogs and social media, traditionally marginalized groups now have the ability to broadcast their opinions and needs, and White feminists (along with the rest of us) are just going to have to deal with the changes.