On May 5, 2015, feminists managed to learn something new from Conservative radio host Doc Thompson: We are quite easy to spot.
Thompson encouraged his listeners to share their methods of identifying The Feminist under the hashtag #HowToSpotAFeminist. Unsurprisingly, the space was initially occupied by vitriol, false equivalencies, and your basic misogyny.
While sweeping generalizations like these are hurtful, they’re not new. Distorting narratives is a common problem for the oppressed and stereotyping is simply inevitable. The goals of this particular tag, like any distorted narrative, were clear from the start: to express hatred for the movement, derail productive conversation, and distract from the validity of the cause. In presenting a group as a monolith, you are able to reduce a complex, multi-layered effort to an image that can be easily criticized and dismissed. Nearly anyone who has been pejoratively called a “Social Justice Warrior” of any kind can share an instance dealing with this phenomenon. The problem this time, however, was that the tag gained steamed quickly after Thompson’s request and trended with a vengeance with the help of listeners and non-listeners alike. Feminists were then left with two options: silently process their frustration with this attack or speak up and reclaim their narrative.
Many feminists chose the latter, and the result was astounding.
Some took the opportunity to proudly identify themselves:
Others chose to clarify what feminism meant to them, in case anyone was confused:
— Erica Bettencourt (@RickRockRickie) May 5, 2015
It was clear that abusive misinformation was not going to be accepted quietly.
— Young Gifted & Black (@OHTheMaryD) May 5, 2015
One of the highlights of yesterday’s incredible pushback was the resounding presence of men who made a point to firmly stand on the side of equality, which was especially notable against the barrage of hateful speech that was seemingly towards women only.
The rally of feminist support continued as the tag trended into the evening. While the initial misogyny could not be entirely suffocated, the concept of “spotting” a feminist became a touch more accurate. To see feminists in all forms actively take back their identity was utterly fortifying. The lesson here can be applied to any instance involving the degradation of your narrative, whichever narrative that may be.
It’s important to note that honest, constructive criticism of a movement is a different matter entirely. Some choose to receive it while others would rather soldier on without it. That is simply another choice that we have, and it should be wholly respected.
However, when that criticism becomes acidic and manifests in the form of hatred, we should see it as an opportunity to stand up and tell our stories a little louder.