In my last post, I gave a brief portrait of what trolling looks like when it comes my way, and how the rules of civility tend to punish activists in favor of trolls. I want to revisit last night’s Facebook incident because it’s still going on. This Facebook page is a well-known radical feminist forum, supposedly, and guess what? I have had dozens of comments dogpiling me, insulting me, putting words in my mouth and basically telling me to shut up.
My offense? Being too aggressive with people of privilege and not being sufficiently inclusive of men. That’s right. Our radfem hub has been infiltrated by libfems. As I mentioned in my last post, my comment is the most liked. Even now, I keep getting likes. So the message is being heard. Unfortunately, only one of my supporters defended me in the comments. The rest were intimidated into silence and watched as I was pilloried.
This was the man -hating, exclusionary, aggressive, jealous, woman shaming comment that started all this:
“With all respect to Emma Watson, I’m not interested in being lectured on feminism by a woman of tremendous economic privilege who makes a large chunk of her fortune catering to the male gaze. If she has found a cause she cares about and manages to do good, that’s commendable. But playing a somewhat feminist fantasy character as a teenager does not make you an expert on feminism and I don’t need feminism explained to me. Thank you.”
Shame on me, obviously. Why, it just might be worse than the SCUM Manifesto.
After this comment, I was told I was trashing Emma’s success, that I was jealous of Emma, that I was a lesbian with hip dysplasia (still can’t figure that one out), was told I was woman-hating, asked for my lady card, and had words put in my mouth and straw men erected against me. One example is that I was being bizarre and illogical for accusing the Harry Potter franchise for catering to the male gaze, which is not what I said at all. I was even told that I was holding women’s rights back, that I need to get a grip and realize that men can be feminists too. My attackers then proceed to read off a list of their personal Nigels that prove how awesome men are. I was even told to stop with the aggression.
That’s right. Feminist was told by other feminists to stop being so angry! Of course! Never heard that before! So original! So effective! Why, that’s how all social justice movements get ahead, by being nice all the time! Tell that to the suffragettes, I think they might have appreciated knowing that if they had just been nicer, they might have avoided all that force feeding and jail and stuff.
Now that I have tried, and failed, to have an intelligent discussion on Facebook, I want to add a few words I didn’t dare say in that Facebook post.
I resent celebrity activism, especially celebrity feminism. I resent the cult of the celebrity in our culture. I feel that rather than ooh and ahh over a handful of rich and famous people with spare time and a Twitter account, ordinary people took action on their own behalf. I resent the fact that women like Hillary Clinton with her character, her qualifications, her record of public service are ignored, insulted, slandered, and threatened, and so irrationally hated that millions of people voted for the next Hitler to avoid having her as a leader. Meanwhile women like Emma Watson, with no such qualifications, are given the limelight and are well received in large part because they are young, conventionally attractive and happen to be famous. I doubt Emma Watson would have received her current distinction otherwise. Even if she had the qualifications, which she doesn’t, it’s unlikely she would have been noticed if she were,say, a middle age butch lesbian.
Of course there is nothing wrong with Emma genuinely caring, wanting to educate herself, and use her clout to do good. But real, lasting change doesn’t happen as a result of a few high-profile figures. Name one movement that won their battles by employing a handful of movie stars. It doesn’t happen that way. It happens when groups of committed, ordinary people stand up to power or, if they have it, give up their power by, for example, going to jail, taking real risks.
Also, if you are going to employ a figurehead for a cause, putting someone like Emma Watson is an insult, however well intentioned she may be. The message being sent is that women’s issues aren’t serious enough to warrant a qualified candidate to represent them. A popular 20-something actress will do, especially if she’s cute. I happen to believe that women deserve an advocate that actually a) bears some resemblance to them and how they live, which EW doesn’t and B) has real qualifications for a UN position or any high profile position that affects public policy and people’s lives.
By the way, that was another attack I was subjected to, that I had no right to criticize Emma’s economic privilege because she worked hard for her success. (Oh, yes, how tired, abused, and downtrodden a life it must be to be paid millions of dollars to play dress up. Yeah, no.) But I digress.
Lastly, I expect people advocating for me, or for the common good, in public to be accountable, take criticism, and make a reasonable effort to live by their principles. It’s dandy for EW to criticize the sexualization of young girls and to tell her own story of being objectified in this way. But it rings hollow from someone who makes big bucks posing for fashion magazines and who, generally, goes out of her way to perform constructed femininity in her everyday life. Her choice? Yes. A choice that I am obligated to take seriously? Nope.
I have decided not to read any more comments on that Facebook post, not to reply to anything, or spend any more time on that page. With that, I give you my closing thoughts, my last comment on that page:
“She works as a model. She fits conventional ideas of what feminine is. That’s catering to the male gaze. Also, I commended Emma Watson in my comment for trying. And that seems to get ignored. As for aggression…sorry, social movements don’t make progress by, again, going out of our way to not alienate or not be aggressive. What people don’t realize is that to those who are truly opposed to us, the only stance that’s non-alienating and non-aggressive enough to be considered is acquiescence. If not acquiescing in my totally level-headed comments constitutes “aggression,” then so be it. Don’t like it? Don’t read my comments. I’m not in the business of watering down feminist discussion to meaninglessness to make people feel good. Furthermore, I feel that women spend too much time defending their proverbial Nigels than actually serving women. As for my comments about Harry Potter, I didn’t say the Harry Potter franchise catered to the male gaze, nor did I trash her success. I was making the point that being a strong female character in a youth series doesn’t make you an expert on feminism. Tell me what substantive experience Emma Watson has in work or in life that helps women at large? None that I can see other than fame and a profession that places style over substance. I think it would behoove you all to learn to read and to have the integrity to respond to what I actually said instead of putting words in my mouth.”
Waiting to be banned in three…two…one…