Twitter is a useful platform for activism for a variety of reasons, but does it really prove effective when it comes to real change?
You know what I am tired of? Awareness. I have awareness fatigue. Don’t get me wrong, I think highlighting important injustices is a significant part of societal change, but I do feel as though the hashtag bandwagon, like all things trendy, has become a bit of a “chew on it and spit it out” effort.
The latest tag to cause an international stir and go 50 shades of viral is the #YesAllWomen tag – born from the justified revolt against Elliot Rodger’s shooting rampage.
Rodger, a misogynist who wrote a manifesto claiming he was entitled to women, their affections and attentions, because he was so damn male with a very high opinion of himself, went on a premeditated killing spree in California where he killed seven people, including himself.
Why? Because he just could not grasp the fact that women perhaps were just not that into him, and they, on occasion, felt the need to reject him.
How dare they! He clearly sounds awesome. In a video he posted on YouTube, Roger says: “You girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it. It’s an injustice … I don’t know what you don’t see in me. I’m the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman.”
(Sure Rodger, what were they thinking? Had they just given in to you inflated sense of entitlement, perhaps you would not have found the need to slaughter a group of people. Right?)
All of this for a trend? No.
Here’s the issue with trends: everyone jumps on the bandwagon. Yes, in this specific case it gives many women a platform to rally together and voice their opinions and experiences in a place that is safe from castigation and abuse (other than verbal, of course). In this instance, it insinuates that women, just as much as men, have a right to exist, and a right to say no, or anything really, without “asking for it”. For this reason, Twitter and the viral tag trend is necessary.
The #YesAllWomen trend has already seen more than a million tweets sent, not all of them sternly against the thinking and behaviour of Rodger, not all of them from women. Many were, in fact, from men (as well as women – who in threads such as these are highlighted and not blameless), who echo the thinking of Rodger and condone the behavioural patterns of misogynistic men.
Trends travel; tweets get shared and those opinions get heard all around the world. And while they filter slowly, or in this case constantly through your feed, you should gasp, be shocked and outraged. But eventually, you’re not anymore. Everything becomes a blur, another story you read or heard, another tag you participated in by typing a tweet. Because in many ways, while Twitter is a useful and often safe tool for language, expression and activism in instances such as these – especially where women are the more threatened sex in society due to men like Rodger ... or Dave at the bar who decided to degrade you and your mother’s mother because you would not accept the pass he made at you and immediately succumb to his every sexual desire – it is also a passive tool. A necessary one, but a passive one.
And yes, it is liberating to offer counter testimony, obligatory for any motion, I’m just not always sure that noise, at 140 characters at a time, always translates into change.
In a perfect world, the next time a woman met Dave at the bar, he’d be a changed person and tell you how he had his misogyny completely destroyed by that one trend on Twitter that one time. Imagine a paper headline the next day that read: “Dave at the bar, thriving philogynist after Twitter trend”.
In reality, I can almost guarantee that it’s not going to happen. He is probably at the local Dros right now; perhaps not planning a vengeful killing spree, but almost definitely telling some new prey that she has penis envy because she rejected him.