A Few Thoughts on Twitter Silence
So I’ve been away for a couple of weeks, in a place where wifi was in short supply. An enforced period of online abstinence was both necessary and fulfilling. I returned to home to East London this week to hear all sorts of stories of women being trolled hard on Twitter with rape threats. Barely back in the country for 24 hours and my blood was already boiling. Then I was online last night and kept seeing the #TwitterSilence hashtag and decided to investigate. So basically Caitlin Moran created it as a response to all the trolling and online misogyny women experience. The best response, in her eyes, is for us all to shut up, silence ourselves, ’cause that’ll show ‘em – show ‘em what exactly, I’m not sure. Having thought about it for about 10 minutes, I decided I would not be participating in #TwitterSilence.
Here’s the thing, I’m not knocking those who choose to do it – there seem to be a long line of female celebrities lining up behind Moran to be quiet – I understand the sentiment behind it and I’m all for women coming together to show our force en masse. I just don’t happen to think our force will be felt by us being all meek and mild in a corner. I also think that given the fact that these misogynistic trolls seem to loathe the fact that women have a voice, choosing not to use it seems to utterly defeat the purpose.
When I was in high school there was a girl who was a total Bitchy Von Bitcherfest and seemed to take particular joy in wielding her bullying powers to belittle others. One day, I decided to not take it anymore and I told her about herself. You know when she eased her foot off the gas of the douchy train? When I got all up in her face and told her I will not tolerate her unrelenting bitch fest anymore.
I’ve been trolled online. When men troll, it’s usually to do with my physical attractiveness (or lack thereof, in their view), the fact that I’m pro-woman, a feminist and I should just stop having all my silly little views, they don’t matter. I once wrote a post about Madonna and was inundated by angry Madonna fans, more than one of whom told me to kill myself. But women troll too and can be incredibly bitchy, vindictive and go straight for the jugular.
There’s this crazy notion that if you’re a blogger or someone who communicates online, you are, by nature, opening yourself up to this abuse. It’s part of the job, you have to roll with the punches – this abuse should be expected. It’s ridiculous for us to think we can have an opinion and for people to debate us on it without threatening to have us gang raped and murdered, because that’s normal, right? That’s just what we should expect as women.
Countless people will tell you ‘don’t feed the trolls’. The common response is ‘just ignore them. If you acknowledge it, they’re getting what they want.’ I have two thoughts on that; firstly, raise your hand if you’ve ignored trolls and they’ve kept going, abusing you and other women online. Right. So, the ignoring them thing isn’t making them go away. Secondly, while I quite frankly can’t be arsed to get into it with everyone who chooses to abuse me online, I am also sick of being told to not respond. The type of people who troll online, I imagine, are pretty used to being ignored in real life. And sure, we can psychoanalyse their reasons for trolling til the cows come home, but sometimes you need to just get in someone’s face and let them know you’re not to be f**ked with (like I did with that chick in high school).
So kudos to those participating in Twitter Silence but I don’t feel the revolution will come with a silent sit in. I’m right here, I’m not going anywhere. Women of my grandmother’s generation fought for us to have a voice – I’m damn sure not going to shut up now.