As a feminist, I find myself constantly advocating and working to educate myself and others about the importance of promoting equality. And an easy, accessible way for me to do this is through Twitter.
But writer Katie Roiphe disapproves of social media activism. Her essay, “The Other Whisper Network,” for the March 2018 issue of Harper’s Magazine, criticized people who use social media to advocate for their beliefs, arguing that it harms feminism and women.
In her essay, Roiphe writes that feminists tweeting their views hinders the ability of men and women to have constructive conversations about issues and energizes the “angry extremes of feminism.”
But the “Twitter feminism” that Roiphe criticizes invites the “conflicting points of view” she says our society needs. Promoting feminist discussions in any capacity is important because it allows people to express their opinions, learn more about feminism and understand the importance of it.
While it’s important to be critical of the campaigns and movements you care about, it’s unfair for Roiphe and others to remove some women from the feminist movement simply because they tweet about it. In fact, I think activism on social media is a necessary part of awareness.
“It gets to people quicker, it sends the message quicker, it makes people more accountable and it makes feminists more available to a larger market,” said Thomas Berendt, a women’s studies adjunct instructor.
And more specifically, the loudness and anger she’s shaming are addressed toward the #MeToo campaign, which promoted thousands of women across the world to offer a visual representation of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
Twitter helped this campaign grow and invited an audience of men and women to listen and further educate themselves. To attack feminist Twitter users for the success of #MeToo is to deny the important conversations that followed, including women from across the world joining in solidarity to share their experiences.
These discussions may not have happened outside the realm of social media. It is important to bring attention to them in any capacity and an effective way to do so is via Twitter.
Twitter includes so many more people in feminist discussions than would otherwise be included. It offers different opinions and insights to feminism and how to move forward in advocating for it.
Our generation has learned to adapt to the social media platform and use it to promote topics we care about, including #MeToo, #TIMESUP and #BringBackOurGirls. These hashtags sparked immediate discussion and political activism.
“The problem with feminism for a long time is that it stood in academia or it stood in activism,” Berendt said. “It stood in a marginalized part of society where people couldn’t interact with it, and now people can.”
Fourth-wave feminism is lucky to have access to instant communication, unlike previous generations. The feminists of past decades relied on word of mouth and news coverage to gain attraction to their movement. Taking advantage of our technology to promote our causes should not be shamed.
“Each generation needs to pick up the baton and take feminism forward, and it does need to pass down and social media is the way the new generation [will do that],” said Nadine Rosechild Sullivan, a women’s studies adjunct instructor.
Trying to discredit Twitter and its users from participating in feminism moves us further back in the battle toward equality and detracts from debates about more serious issues than social media use.
“People have different ways of showing activism,” said Kayla Boone, the public relations chair for the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance. “Some people show activism by reposting links. Some people protest, some people educate others in person. I don’t think anyone should limit themselves to one type of feminism.”
In any capacity, feminist discussions are important and need space to thrive. If people tend to have these discussions on Twitter, their dedication to the movement should not be attacked with a demeaning term. It takes the focus away from the real causes: equality and inclusivity.
If someone chooses to advance these noble causes with a tweet, I see no harm in that.