Yet even as online feminism has proved itself a real force for change, many of the most avid digital feminists will tell you that it’s become toxic. Indeed, there’s a nascent genre of essays by people who feel emotionally savaged by their involvement in it—not because of sexist trolls, but because of the slashing righteousness of other feminists. On January 3, for example, Katherine Cross, a Puerto Rican trans woman working on a PhD at the CUNY Graduate Center, wrote about how often she hesitates to publish articles or blog posts out of fear of inadvertently stepping on an ideological land mine and bringing down the wrath of the online enforcers. “I fear being cast suddenly as one of the ‘bad guys’ for being insufficiently radical, too nuanced or too forgiving, or for simply writing something whose offensive dimensions would be unknown to me at the time of publication,” she wrote.
I don’t blame you if you don’t spend significant time every week keeping up with this phenomenon. It’s probably a sign of mental health, in fact, if you don’t. But I’d recommend this article, at least, as a good capsule summary of the kind of lunacy you can easily encounter all over the twitosphere. I have a few female friends who always insisted that they didn’t identify as feminists. To my embarrassment, I always tut-tutted to myself when they’d say that, arrogantly thinking that they’d just taken in too much right-wing propaganda. Thank goodness I never tried to “mansplain” to them what their proper attitudes should be, at least. Now, I can easily understand why someone who encountered this sort of thing in college (to say nothing of its ubiquitous presence online nowadays) would want to distance herself as much as possible.
I did laugh at this part:
Martin was floored. She’s long believed that it’s incumbent on feminists to be open to critique—but the response was so vitriolic, so full of bad faith and stubborn misinformation, that it felt like some sort of Maoist hazing…After all, this is hardly the first time that feminism—to say nothing of other left-wing movements—has been racked by furious contentions over ideological purity.
This sketch really is timeless, isn’t it?