For 24hrs on August 4 2013, a number of tweeters led by a high-profile contingent thought that not typing 140 character public text messages was somehow a form of social activism. While it was in response to an admirable thing, abuse of women online, #twittersilence was ridiculous and self-serving.
The first point that is shared by others is that being silent was akin to Rosa Parks getting off the bus (you must’ve learnt about her in history, if not, Google); misogynists want women to shut up, so why practice what they want? Furthermore, non-vocal (or textual) protest is not like non-violent protest, because a physical protest where you appear is still making your presence known. Making a void has no value.
Most of the people who hassle people online based on gender, race or whatever, 9/10 probably won’t have the guts to even say that to your face, never mind carry it out. If you’re a celebrity it’s understandable that you feel more uneasy as some details are known or can be known, but in most cases you just block, block, block. A person on to you will eventually get bored, and if not, then call the police. Don’t blame social media any more than you would your postal service or telephone company. Sure, they can help to assist you, but abuse is never really the carrier’s fault.
A lot of those who created and observed the silence are ultra-left (I align as left with centre leanings); people who ignore any past or present self-fallibilities and believe that every indignation needs protest. And what’s worse is that this bourgeois protest is lazy enough to only extend to declining to use their smartphone. A number of those feminists (I prefer just saying anti-sexist for reasons blogged some moons ago) also seem to not really care about other equality issues. Was there such a response when Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban? She was actually shot, not tweeted by someone whose only gun is really a keyboard. But, who cares, it’s just some brown girl from the East.
The abuse linked to this protest was when numerous threats were made to a woman who successfully got Jane Austen to replace Charles Darwin on the UK £10 banknote. Now, that abuse was abhorrent and no doubt made the woman feel anxious, no defence. However, one criticism I’d make is that I’d rather that instead of pushing in a female candidate, the doors should’ve just been pushed wider. For example, I rate Darwin higher than Austen, not because he’s a guy, but he’s, personally, of higher merit than Austen and probably deserves indefinite place on a note. But, we know that – Queen aside – placement of women has been quite token, but we haven’t seen placement of black or brown people whether male or female too, and there have been a number of valid modern candidates. Personally I don’t care too much, what I’d like is reward on merit: not just admirable white guys, not just admirable white women, I’d like all admirable people considered.
People exchange money all the time without really looking at it any more, and lots of things are paid by card now, but when you’re a child that looks at money, you wonder “who’s that?” You want the reply to be “yeah, he/she’s praised for x”, not “yeah, they pushed this woman in to add a token into the old white boy group”.
So, let’s get two things here. If you want equality for one thing you should go all the way, equality in everything. And if you’re going to protest, think about what you’re doing and why. Don’t let the protest have no impact and be self-serving.