Home > rayne > The Hashtag Activism…It Burns It!

The Hashtag Activism…It Burns It!

Ugh. Hashtag activism.

I would happily burn hashtags to the ground, these days, if I could. It started with #solidarityisforwhitewomen and has just escalated since then.

I think what’s getting to me most is watching people I respect get verbally beaten into submission in text on Twitter and various other social media sites, and it makes me want to cry. Or rear up with a mighty roar and tell the jackholes why their opinions and methods are stupid. (Yes, I called them a name, but not because they disagree with me. Because they are Bullies with a capital B. “Jackhole” fits.) But the people I respect are grown. They’ve gotta make their own decisions, and I’ve gotta respect that. So I keep my head down.

#YesAllWomen…I avoided the hashtag like the plague. I’ve avoided the conversation like the plague. I’ve tried, desperately, to bite my tongue. The morning it got big, Master told me that if I started talking to him about it, and it was obvious I disagreed with him, he was going to gag me. He’d seen a bunch of the more abusive tweets that were directed at specific men personally by women who didn’t know them, and was not going to sit and listen to his slave defend them.

And I don’t blame him. 

So I didn’t even bring it up, because I didn’t know what I was thinking. I wasn’t even sure what it was about. I didn’t even look at it more than noticing a few not-so-offensive tweets go through my timeline, until someone RTed bits of an argument between a woman participating in #YesAllWomen and a man who was not at all happy with being labeled a misogynistic rapist by perfect strangers.

And I don’t blame him.

Yes, over all, the hashtag had some very good moments. Some great things have come of it. Many, many men who didn’t get it walked away with a new understanding of what women go through on a daily basis.

But many others only saw the tweets that were blatant misandry and had absolutely nothing to do with the hashtag’s message. Many others were verbally attacked and berated for daring to speak out against those tweets. Many others decided to leave the issue for someone else to handle because they felt they weren’t welcome.

So yay! We’ve managed to alienate some of the very minds we need to change to achieve our goals. That’s fucking awesome!

There’s a quote circulating that says male “allies” of feminist causes should stop trying to join feminist spaces and start making the spaces they’re in feminist. And I’m just like what the fuck? Why do women get their own space, but men have to allow women into their spaces? Why can’t we all occupy the same spaces and just respect the fuck out of each other? Is that really so much to ask?

I have been on the receiving end of generalizations for most of my life.

Because I look like I am white, cisgender, sane, and heterosexual, and the scars of the non-consensual violence I’ve endured have long since healed, the only story I’m “allowed” to tell are those pertaining to my status as female.

I’m not allowed to talk about the fact that on one side, my people lived here long before the white or black man, and on the other, they came here long after slavery and built a business from the ground up without shortchanging anyone. In fact, I’m not allowed to bring up the fact that half my blood is Native American at all, because “you know people think you’re white.”

I’m not allowed to participate in conversations about what it’s like being gay in a society where at least half the population condemns my sexuality “on principle.”

I’m not allowed to talk about my complete lack of identification with any gender — what does it even mean to “feel like” a gender?

I’m not allowed to talk about being a prostitute, or the fact that I’ll probably never know my real story because I was adopted (though one could argue I was bought) by white people, or the fact that I went back to my abuser multiple times before finally getting out, or the fact that M literally saved my life.

What utter bullshit.

Every time I peek into one of these hashtags, there are multiple posts that are lauded and reposted all over the place that are wholly inappropriate. And I really don’t give a fuck what these people think — generalizations are dangerous, no matter who they’re about. It frustrates me so much that so many hyper-intelligent people think it’s okay to stereotype the groups they’re hoping will change while railing against the stereotypes these hyper-intelligent people are faced with every day of their lives. Like, why’s it okay for them to do it, but it’s not okay for it to happen to them?

As a member of many marginalized groups, I would argue that we should all stop doing that shit to each other.

My Problems With Hashtag Activism

  • Even though the conversation is in a public space, and is called a “conversation,” only the people who feel they have the most relevant reason to be involved are allowed to participate. Don’t belong to the group the “conversation” is meant to empower? GTFO! Never mind the fact that it’s your mind that group is trying to change. You don’t get to speak, oppressor! 
  • You’re not considered a person with a relevant reason to participate if your experience is different from the majority of those involved.
  • You’re not allowed to disagree, regardless of the reason. Even if you’ve been deemed worthy to participate because your life experience matches that of the people the group is empowering.
  • You’re not allowed to defend yourself, even if you, personally, are being attacked and the things you’re being accused of are wrong.
  • If, through no fault of your own, you belong to the group the hashtag is calling out, you are the devil, even if you do not share a single ideal with that group, or discriminate against anyone.
  • It’s segregating Internet society on all levels. Here I thought we were trying to make all spaces safe and comfortable for everyone.
  • It’s being used by people who absolutely are about empowering the groups they belong to and demonizing and bullying the groups they’ve deemed “oppressive.” And for some reason, the people who believe in equality for all are closing their eyes and ears to this fact. Maybe because they want so badly for their movement to be pure? I don’t know.

So here’s my thing…

When the #YesAllWomen hashtag started, I was avoiding Twitter. I was spending my days grinding on World of Warcraft.

I’ve been playing World of Warcraft since it came out, but I always played with a bunch of M’s coworkers (who are also our friends) who are all male. Healing is a “girl’s class,” so none of them were healers. Healing is right up there with the kind of person I am, most days, so I was okay with that. But I never had to do anything except stand around and heal everyone. I didn’t even have to walk for myself. I’d just follow M, and he’d drag me around.

This toon is just me. I’m doing it all by myself. And I’m killing it! And the elation of realizing that is hella better than sitting on Twitter watching so many groups of people rip society apart by demonizing everyone who isn’t like them.

And don’t tell me that’s not what’s happening. It is what’s happening. In the past week, just on Twitter, I’ve found at least one or more of the following:

  • an LGBT person who mostly talks about how much all straight people suck
  • a straight person who mostly talks about how much all LGBT people suck
  • a person of color who mostly talks about how much all white people suck
  • a non-black person of color who mostly talks about how much all black people suck
  • a white person who mostly talks about how much all people of color suck
  • a woman who mostly talks about how much all men suck
  • a man who mostly talks about how much all women suck
  • a transgender person who mostly talks about how much all cisgender people suck
  • a cisgender person who mostly talks about how much all transgender people suck
  • a Republican who mostly talks about how much all Democrats and Libertarians suck
  • a Democrat who mostly talks about how much all Republicans and Libertarians suck
  • a Libertarian who mostly talks about how much all Democrats and Republicans suck
  • a person battling mental health issues who mostly talks about how much all abled people suck
  • an abled person who mostly talks about how much all people with mental health issues suck

I could go on, but I think you get the point. And right now, some of you are formulating arguments defending half of these people. Some of you have already justified their actions to yourself, and are probably ready to fight.

I’m so confused by this. I don’t understand why we don’t see how wrong this is.

I get it. Everybody hates everybody, and everybody thinks they’re justified. That’s fucking awesome. At the risk of quoting someone I’ve recently been told I’m not allowed to quote because of the color of my skin, can we please just accept that there are issues, delineate the issues, fix them, and get the fuck along, already? Or is that not the goal? Do we enjoy tearing each other apart?

I read an article today that said something like, “Women aren’t stupid. They know that not all men are evil monsters lurking in dark alleys waiting to hurt them.” It delineates the problem with using sweeping generalizations perfectly. If you know that, then don’t fucking perpetuate the idea.

I hear you. I really hear you. I’ve been doing nothing but trying to shut my big mouth and listen for the past week. I know it’s not enough. But is there any such thing as “enough” listening when it comes to world problems?

I understand that not everyone can deal with their life experience the way I have. I understand that in order to maintain your mental and emotional health, you have to respond to your life experience the way you have. You have to protect yourself the best way you know how, and that’s by reminding yourself, when faced with the terrifying realization that you have to share a space with someone who reminds you of your attacker(s), that you must be cautious and wary around “those people.” And I am not, in any way, trying to minimize or invalidate that. You are the only one who knows what’s best for you. You are the only person who can decide how you should handle yourself.

I hope one day you can heal, and you no longer feel you have to wall yourself off from the majority of society to survive. I know from experience that it’s not a happy place to be.

I won’t claim I’ve healed completely. I’ve just chosen to respond to my life experience differently because I wouldn’t have survived it if I didn’t. And don’t I have that right?

I cannot say “all men” have the potential to be violent because it’s not just all men. It’s all women, too. I was abused by women, too.

I cannot say “only white people” hate people of other races because it’s not just or all white people. Some people of all races hate people of other races. My life experience has proven that.

I cannot say “all straight people” discriminate against gay people. I’m gay, and I’m discriminated against by straight and gay people all the time because I’m in a heterosexual relationship with a cisgender man.

I cannot generalize because someone from pretty much every group we’ve segregated ourselves into has harmed me in some way.

Yes, yes. I know. That’s easy for me to say because I’m privileged. Despite all these things, I am still, for all intents and purposes, white and cisgender, which makes my life experience at least marginally better than that of someone who is not those things. That’s supposed to somehow make me feel better, I guess.

It doesn’t. And it’s not easy for me to say. I would love to hate everyone who’s wronged me, and stay angry about all the ways the world has done me wrong, but man…all that negative energy is fucking exhausting. And if I laid blame of the wrong doings of a few people at the feet of all the groups they could be part of, I’d have to hate everyone in the world, including my husband. That’s real talk.

<3

P.S. All of these points do not, in any way, justify the actions of the people who have decided to make a mockery of the valid concerns women stated while participating in #YesAllWomen. Those people are fucking disgusting. Karma’s a bitch. They’ll get theirs. 

  1. Ima Godiva
    June 5th, 2014 at 15:14 | #1

    For you, Rayne: ALL the hugs. ALL the kisses. ALL the admiration, for having the ability and courage to write what you do. You are a little slice of literary awesome.

    Interestingly, you are the only person I’ve seen bring up the fact that women ARE abusers too. I have been harmed much more by women than by men in my life. Perhaps that has something to do with my hackles being raised so much by this ALL men thing. But it certainly doesn’t make me angry at or hate women, except for placing blame where blame is due: on those women who harmed me. Oh, not actively – I have a life to live, because I am a fighter and I will overcome what has happened to me in the past, or make trying my life’s work. The second is looking more likely at this point. 😉

    But these challenges are what determine my life’s paths and without them, perhaps I would just wander. Sharing my hurts with others who have similar ones, coming together in a joined human effort to solve the problems that lead to pain and suffering, is the way I choose to devote the time and energy that I have left after my day is done with kids and household and husband and friends. Spreading love as much as possible in my little corner of the world and trying to be a positive influence where I can. It’s so much more satisfying to me than dwelling on past evils. Sometimes I feel in the minority when so many voices are busy yelling other agendas, but then someone like you comes along and expresses so much of how I feel, it helps me put things back into perspective. Thank you for that.

    <3

  2. June 5th, 2014 at 16:29 | #2

    @ Ima Godiva Aww, thanks lady, for letting me know you agree with me, and stuff. I’m glad I was able to help. 🙂

  3. June 5th, 2014 at 21:05 | #3

    Amen.

  4. July 7th, 2014 at 21:30 | #4

    I like to avoid Twitter activism. It seems very shouty but little action, and so easy to escalate. It might take a few posts but before long “You’re not a [real] …” tweet will appear before “…and that’s exactly what Hitler would have said” will be close behind.

    Blood runs high and people say things they don’t necessarily mean as they get aggressive. It’s a toxic mix ;-(

    But yes, the way #YesAllWomen and some of the other hashtags were attacked smacked of aggression.

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