Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Quitting my feminist Facebook group addiction

It's International Women's Day, and so it might seem contradictory that my resolution is (on the surface at least) to become less of a feminist.

My favourite feminist Facebook groups have been an amazing source of support and inspiration over the past few years. Just a few weeks ago I posted after a debate with a male friend of a friend during which I'd felt like the proverbial 'hysterical feminist' and received an outpouring of support and encouragement. Being able to be part of a community of women of all backgrounds who think just like me has been quite honestly an endless source of joy.

Until recently. Whilst the Emma Watson/Beyoncé debate rages on feminist groups throughout the country I realised that it's not healthy for me anymore. When the video of Emma Watson defending her Vanity Fair shoot went viral, it was posted several times by different people. Each time, someone would politely comment that they thought Emma Watson was being hypocritical due to comments she had made about Beyoncé three years ago. This is a very valid point, and Emma Watson - just like any other feminist - should be held to account if her feminist values are failing to be intersectional.

But the debate went on, and on with no real progress in the discussion, the same points were made over and over again with both sides getting increasingly agitated, 'Emma Watson should be given the benefit of the doubt' 'Emma Watson is a hypocrite' 'Emma Watson does not stand for all women' etc etc etc. The debate was thankfully not always divided along racial lines but it was completely circular, it was clear that as both Beyoncé and Emma Watson are inspirational figures to a lot of women that neither was going to stop defending their side.

I began wondering at what point do feminist Facebook groups go from being a tool for all women to learn about each other and progress in their feminist journey, to an echo chamber.

Tearing other women down is something that neither Beyoncé or Emma Watson represent. Supporting the same agenda is not the same thing as agreeing with each other's politics on every point.

To be clear, this wasn't the only reason I decided to leave the groups.

For a few weeks, my timeline had been bombarded with negative posts regarding rape, sexual assault, white privilege and general sexism. I'd compulsively clicked on every one, and without knowing what I was doing I was acting in a way that wasn't serving any purpose except making me angry at the world. I'd argued with my boyfriend, my friends and my family - all of whom are on the same side as me in the first place - tooth and nail about gender and race because I'd just felt a need to give an outlet to all the pent up emotion.

I accept that me being able to choose not to engage with this stuff is a privilege that many women don't have. But it goes without saying that not reading this stuff all the time doesn't mean I'm not going to carry on fighting for gender and racial equality.

So for this International Women's Day, I'm going to stop engaging with the negativity of feminist Facebook groups, so that when it's time to really fight I'll actually have the energy to get up and do it.

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