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How Twitter Has Made Me A Half Decent Feminist

30/11/2016 17:16 | Updated 6 days ago
Kacper Pempel / Reuters

I don't think I was ever not basically a feminist. The femands (that was a genuine typo but I'm keeping it in) have never seemed unreasonable to me. I do think the extent to which I felt involved and the degree to which I appreciated the problem have both changed for the better this year, and these changes have much to do with twitter.

One reason I might have shied away from calling myself a feminist was that I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be involved. I imagined myself arriving in the meeting hall, everyone turning to look at me before somebody politely but firmly explained that I was in the wrong room. Surely women can fix this for themselves can't they? Assuming they need my help is a bit patronising and flies somewhat in the face of the whole ethos. Then Emma Watson's Speech to the UN fell in to my timeline and I watched it and realised that feminism is for all the genders. Men are affected by gender stereotypes as well, and even if they aren't hit as hard or as often, we are all responsible for making the world good enough for everyone. Emma Watson got flack from neanderthals like your creepy lecherous racist uncle Rod Liddel for saying what she said when she is 'only' an actress. But if something is worth saying it doesn't matter who says it, as long as it is loud enough for everyone to hear.

I also had Caitlin Moran's excellent Esquire article '12 Things About Being A Woman That Women Won't Tell You' electrically fired at my optic nerve. It's a thoroughly worth while, well written and funny piece, which makes the important distinction between 'the patriarchy is bad' and 'all men are bad' among its numerous (well, twelve) points.

If you aren't on Twitter (or perhaps even if you are) the significance of 'all men' might have passed you by. At a point unclear to me personally, men started replying to accounts of inappropriate male behaviour pointing out that not all men are like that. This response to this was first the hashtag and then the Twitter feed 'yes all women', which gave women a platform to share their bad treatment by men. Some of the specific incidents were shocking but the sheer volume of stories really took me by surprise. I just checked. The last post on this tag was just 21hrs ago. Even if you assume some of these stories are exaggerated or made up there would still be a lot. Women suffer at the hands of men This is a gender issue.

Comedy is a great way to access serious information. I follow the Danish comedian Sofie Hagen, who tweeted that she was starting a new podcast called The Guilty Feminist with fellow stand-up Deborah Francis-White. It is hands down my favourite podcast, the only one I download and listen to as soon as it becomes available. But it's also a great way to hear the voices of women en mass, and to get to grips with their lived experiences. I listen to my wife, obviously, but one woman's misfortune is unlucky. When it's clear that most women are cat-called in the street, or patronised at work or forced to tolerate unapologetic sexism then you have an emerging pattern. Because I didn't hear female voices enough, I thought feminist battles were for other countries. I was looking at women without the vote, without access to birth control, women who could be criminalised for being raped. I didn't realise the gender gap was so significant in the UK. I wasn't listening.

People can be very down on social media, especially people who don't use it. It is understandable, Facebook has been widely criticised for its dissemination of 'fake news' (see also: lies) and Twitter remains painfully slow to catch on to the targeted harassment from which continues on its site. But they are also platforms to connect people. There is still a lack of female and BAME and LGBT voices in the mainstream but I can find them for myself on the internet. As a straight white in the 21st century I have a responsibility to help level the playing field for people not born with my privileges. Talking and sharing listening are big parts of that process. This is what social media does best.

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