I have been an online feminist activist for a few years now. My journey started when I was around 14 years old observing my mother who, at the time, was involved in a Women’s Rights organization in Syria. I remember arguing with a few teachers and professors when the classroom discussion would turn slightly misogynistic but that was about it.
However, I came to fully realize the unfairness of sexism and patriarchy as a structure, after I watched a Netflix documentary called “Miss Representation”. Miss Representation focuses on the constant objectification of the female body in mainstream media and the role that media plays in the construction of the female sex as a gender in our society.
Watching it awoken something in me, a need to learn more about my rights as a woman, my place in modern society and how I got here. Researching state laws, gendered marketing, and the suffragettes gave me a well-grounded comprehension. Reading the works of Judith Butler, Raewyn Connell, Emma Goldman and Noami Kline gave me references and idols to look up to.
Getting in touch with feminism made me appreciate other women and recognize the deep bond we could have, one that is not rooted in competition. It also opened my eyes to the ubiquitous nature of other forms of hegemonic oppression, namely heterosexism, racism, and classism among other constructs.
I, then, began creating online content and sharing articles I knew embodied the plight of the contemporary women. Some examples include the prevalence of rape culture and apologisim, the frequency of men interrupting women in political and social spheres or the severe disparity between male and female performers in artistic and occupational fields.
What you can expect from engaging in online discussions is support, some disagreements and more worryingly on a few occasions, major retaliation and name calling. After a few years of posting, I began to notice a repetitive theme.
The following are comments aimed to discredit, devalue and trivialize feminist content:
- “Stop barking.”
- “Sick of these women nagging. All they do is nag.”
- “Complaining just to complain.”
- “You don’t have anything to say.”
- “You don’t know how to have a decent conversation.”
- “Go pick up a book.”
- “Let me explain something to you.”
- “You are too emotional or You are too sensitive.”
- “FEMINAZI!” or “Pussy hat wearer!”
In the case of most of the comments, the woman is reduced to a generic stereotype. The “nagging” woman who is not competent enough to discuss important issues. The woman who when she speaks only seeks to complain. The women whose discourse is so irrelevant, that she must be emotional, sensitive, angry or frustrated. In all of these cases, the power dynamics tilt in favor of the ‘rational male’ over the ‘irrational female’.
My initial method of dealing with online misogyny was to remain calm, composed and understanding. I knew responding in any other way would play into the stereotype they had already laid out for me. But I’m not sure I want to do that anymore. I’m confident in my thoughts and ideas, and if that confidence disorients you maybe you should ask yourself why?
I believe I have become unapologetically feminist.
In our world a man is confident but a woman is arrogant, a man is assertive but a woman is aggressive – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie addresses the Chatham House London Conference 2018
Posted by Chatham House on Monday, June 25, 2018
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