As James Brown sang “this is a man’s world”. It is a man’s world where we are constantly told that women have achieved equality, that feminists are all “ugly man hating witches” and that the “pendulum has swung too far the other way”. Whenever women suggest that we are far from equal we are told that we have all the power, of course women are favoured by the courts in custody cases so the job of feminism can be considered to be done. We’re told that once upon a time feminists did important things: they got women the vote; they got women access to contraception; the ownership of houses and telephones and the right to parity in marriage (other than generally taking the man’s name, taking on the brunt of the household chores and childcare even when working equal hours, and disproportionately being subjected to domestic violence), amongst many, many others. Now, they tell us, feminists are doing nothing important, all they do is whine. Of course feminists fighting for better support for rape victims; opposing rape culture, everyday misogyny, sexism and victim blaming; supporting survivors of domestic violence and fighting for the provision of refuges, financial security, equal pay, political representation, trans-inclusivity; and continued access to abortion, amongst many others, are all soft subjects. What are we moaning about ladies, we have equality, right? Only if you’re privileged and lucky enough not to have experienced the shitty end of the womanhood lollipop that is.
Now, this is why a Twitter silence is a wrongheaded idea. In our world these abusive men have freedom of speech and women are free to be censored. When a woman speaks up about (for instance) a political and/or feminist issue she is regularly bombarded with misogynistic comments. She is told to stop whining, that she deserves to be raped, that she should die. We’ve even seen several female reporters be targeted with bomb threats! Yet when we shout back and defend ourselves from abuse we are continuously told that the men sending this abuse are only utilising their right to “freedom of speech” and by defending ourselves we are offending their rights. But how can anything be more silencing and offensive to the very concept of freedom of speech than threatening someone with rape, violence and death if they speak up?
I’m not saying that men never receive violent messages but I am suggesting that men do not routinely receive abuse simply because they are a man having that opinion. Gendered abuse is almost always directed at women. A Twitter Silence in response to gendered abuse that silences women is the antithesis of defending ourselves. We need to speak out- LOUDLY.