Dear Citizen Radio (and the rest of those grandstanding on my back)…
I’m disappointed that you chose to misrepresent my background, my article, my work, my arguments, and my statements, to be sure, but I’m more disappointed that you misrepresented the entire conversation and the issues at hand.
I suppose it’s easier to build a strawman to tear down than to form a real critique, but what’s easy isn’t always what’s right.
My article was not about women of colour or about race. It did not reference any of the hashtags started by women of colour this year and was not even about hashtags, specifically. It was about toxic behaviour on Twitter — mostly behaviour I’ve witnessed from white people. It was about the ways in which folks are ready, willing, and eager to not only misrepresent but to outright lie and then spread around defamatory statements about others, without questioning the statements or source. In fact, since I wrote the piece, this behaviour increased ten-fold; I’ve watched people lie about me without shame, in order to push their message or to position themselves as “allies.” The world is all too willing to destroy radicals and feminists so these efforts will, in fact, take very little effort. I’m an easy target. Such bravery my enemies possess! Armed with snark, iPhones, and zero accountability, they can stand tall on my shoulders, knowing that their empty words and lack of integrity will be cheered on by the masses.
I include myself in my critique of “Twitter feminism” as I argued that the medium didn’t encourage nuance and that, because we are making public statements and because when there are disagreements they happen publicly and are limited to 140 characters, we tend to perform more than we try to understand or build alliances. Many of us behave badly, encourage nastiness and bullying, and forget about compassion when communicating on Twitter. I have behaved badly on Twitter, having felt attacked and having had to respond publicly. I regret many interactions on Twitter and am trying to do better.
I did not, as you claim, dismiss specific hashtags such as #solidarityisforwhitewomen, #notyourasiansidekick, or #notyournarrative. I don’t think it’s “cute or fun” when white people start hashtags, for the record, nor do I believe that, somehow, when people of colour start hashtags they are bullying. I’ve actually never heard that argument made by anyone (if I’ve missed something, please feel free to send it my way) and doubt anyone who’s paying attention would. I spoke with my sisters at Affi3rm this year about their #notyourfetish action because it was an important conversation/critique. The notion that any feminist would dismiss that action as “silly” or “bullying” is ridiculous — these women are powerful revolutionaries. My critique of “Twitter feminism” had very little to do with hashtags at all, and certainly my critiques were directed at white women AND white men. Like yourselves.
You claim I “got feedback” and “freaked out,” calling those providing “feedback” “an unruly mob.” You also say that I said this with specific reference to people of colour. This never happened. I did not refer to anyone, ever, as an “unruly mob.” I did not “freak out.” I responded to some critics (many of whom were white men, jumping on an opportunity to attack me using the excuse of “allyship”) but mostly tried to avoid a purposeless back and forth with those who were intent on misrepresenting or name-calling or with those who had no interest in developing an honest critique to the actual points I made, but were merely looking for a target or to join a pile-on. To frame defamatory comments, misrepresentation, bullying, and verbal abuse as “feedback” is problematic, to say the least, but to outright state that I said things which I did not, shows an incredible lack of integrity. You might claim you were speaking about someone else, but the implication was that it was me. If someone else said this, state it. Be clear. Speculation does not equal journalism. And if you can’t even be bothered to read the piece you are purporting to critique or to even learn the last name of the author you are trashing, you might consider leaving those statements out of your show.
I have never been on CNN or MSNBC. I don’t write for The Nation, for Mother Jones or, actually, any mainstream media outlets. As a socialist, a Canadian, and a writer whose work is based in socialist and radical feminist theory, there are very few media outlets I have access to. As a working class woman, I don’t have the privilege of moving to New York and making contacts in the industry, attending shmoozy happy hours, nor can I afford to do the unpaid internships one is expected (and practically required) to do in order to get jobs and make contacts in media and journalism. You, on the other hand, DO have access to these platforms and contacts and have taken full advantage of that access. And now you’ve used your platform to misrepresent an underemployed, struggling, feminist writer. “Critique” yourself.
I will never be “in the mainstream” despite my white privilege. And the accusation that critics of “Twitter feminism” are somehow “mainstream,” coming from someone who’s been on Conan, is pretty rich.
To be clear, I am Canadian, not American (as you assumed). Not everyone is American, despite what Americans seem to think. My work and voice is marginalized because it is radical, socialist, feminist, and Canadian. I am not wealthy. I’m not even middle class. It is a struggle to get published anywhere. It will always be a struggle to get published. I can’t afford to rely on freelancing, because I have to work to survive and eventually, I will need to pay off thousands of dollars in student loan debt.
I don’t think Twitter is meaningless. I think it’s very important for many women and I acknowledge this specifically in my piece:
I don’t want to completely decry ‘hashtag activism.’ It can be potentially worthwhile in terms of consciousness-raising as well as a way to raise awareness about particular issues and events. Many women value the space it provides for their voices and I support women speaking out in whatever ways they can and sharing their stories, opinions, and experiences in ways that suit them. If you need to or find value in doing that on Twitter, I completely respect and encourage that.
I understand that Twitter is a valuable medium for those who don’t have access to other platforms or who, for example, have disabilities, are otherwise stuck at home alone a lot, or feel isolated or voiceless without it. I know there are many marginalized voices on Twitter. I also know that there are many, many marginalized voices that are NOT on Twitter and who don’t have access to this platform and, for that reason, I argue that Twitter isn’t representative. There are thousands and thousands of voices, perspectives, and experiences that are not represented on Twitter for various reasons: access to computers, understanding the platform, those who are simply too busy to spend their days online, etc. People who are trafficked, incarcerated, homeless, who don’t speak English, who are busy working three jobs to feed their families — these people are not participating in your Twitter conversation. To claim that Twitter is somehow the great equalizer — Twitter — a company whose purpose is profit — seems deeply ignorant to me and, yes, reeks of privilege.
Who has ever said “your Twitter thing is just a game, I’m going on CNN?” Who are these people?? They certainly aren’t anyone I know, work, or ally with — radical feminists, socialists, those in the labour movement, working class women, Aboriginal women, prostitution survivors, those who are on the front lines working with victims of abuse, or those working with underfunded feminist groups and organizations to advocate for change. Are any of us writing for The Nation or going on MSNBC (apart from yourselves, of course)? Are we allied with people going on CNN? No. Of course not. The people I work and ally with are largely invisible, ignored, and erased by the New York/American liberals who DO have access to these platforms. They are largely ignored by Twitter activism. Canada and Canadian feminism and activism is generally invisible to Americans. You complained that you didn’t see any of us on the street during Occupy in NYC — well, that’s because we live in Canada.
For the record, critiques of Occupy, in Canada, were made by the far left and by those engaged with the labour movement — not by rich white people writing for The Nation. They were made by unpaid bloggers.
The Americentrism and ignorance of the conversation you had on your (relatively) huge platform is truly astounding.
Twitter is neither all bad or all good, yet you characterize the argument in this binary way as though that is representative of the conversation. Social media IS amazing, but there are also a lot of problems that exist within, and with the way we behave towards one another on social media. My point was that it wasn’t all one thing or the other but that people treat it in this way. Of COURSE social media is important. No one has argued otherwise.You’ve made so many assumptions about my life and work, stated them as fact, were condescending and insulting, and you completely mischaracterized my article beyond all recognition. Call yourselves allies, journalists, activists, radicals, or feminists all you like — but that’s a hard pill to swallow, based on this display.
The least you could have done would have been to read my piece before discussing it on your show. If you have questions about my life, ask. The irony of your complaints about “factually incorrect” journalism while refusing to include facts or research in your own work is glaring.
All the best,