This is also a key part of my thesis. I’m going to be arguing that social media is serving the same function as feminist ‘consciousness raising’ groups did in the 60’s. In The Feminist Mystique, Betty Friedan described “the problem with no name” that plagued so many housewives—that being, the expectation that women have no ambitions beyond devotion to family and servitude in the home. Once women began meeting with one another and talking about social inequities, they realized that they were not alone in their feelings that there was something deeply wrong in society—that powerful, unspoken forces were working against their happiness and autonomy.
Similarly, young women connecting online today on sites like Jezebel, The Frisky, The Hairpin, Feministing and Feminista are gleefully sharing experiences of everyday sexism and misogyny and discovering the power of calling it out. Not just calling it out, but, in many cases, laughing at it. The idea that feminists are by definition humourless is being repudiated online over and over again, and young women are seeing this and starting to recognize that this and other anti-feminist myths are just that, designed to scare them away. What makes the internet ‘safe’ for misogynist trolls also, to a certain extent, makes it a safe place for women (try as those trolls might, via threats and harassment, to make it otherwise). That is, women can share ideas and express themselves online in a way that the real world often doesn’t allow for. In essence, young women talking to one another online are raising their consciousnesses in the same kid of giddy, communal way their foremothers did in their living rooms throughout the 60s.
“Make me a sandwich!”
Examples of this to come, but meanwhile a quick list:
- The Predditors Tumblr: A blog devoted to systematically unmasking the worst of Reddit’s misogynist creep squad.
- Violentacrez’s ‘doxxing’ (outing) by Gawker. The biggest troll at Reddit, hoisted on his own petard. Live by the internet, die by the internet. The most interesting thing about his outing are the cries of ‘free speech’ from his defenders—many of whom seem to believe that internet anonymity and the freedom to harass, intimidate and threaten people online are somehow sacrosanct.
- The Susan G. Komen Foundation reversing its decision to defund Planned Parenthood as a result of immediate and outraged online pushback. This story, from way back in January, is what got me thinking along these lines, and feels to me like the moment the War on Women went from cold to hot. That is, when women spontaneously mobilized, via Facebook and Twitter, and started fighting back.