Collective protest is one of our most powerful tools against systemic oppression. When we choose to amplify each other's voices and actions, to stand in solidarity against hate, violence and malevolence we force a line in the sand of what we will and won't accept as a society. But that sand is ever shifting and the voices we choose to broadcast and to support are not created equal. That's why today's #WomenBoycottTwitter action feels off to me and why I choose not to participate in something that is designed to rally "us" but appears like it was designed in a very specific echo chamber that represents a narrow and privileged subset.
Now to be very clear, I think Twitter is a solipsistic trash heap where having a lukewarm take on an adult cartoon can lead to weeks of death threats. Where leaders of the free world can incite nuclear war and jerk-offs of all political stripes can call women cunts for disliking their rape "jokes." So I'm absolutely not sitting here like, "let this website speak, we need to hear both sides." But what Twitter has done specifically for women of colour is offer us a platform to broadcast our too often marginalized voices to an audience of like-minded people that we would otherwise not reach. It has let us bypass the traditional gates of power in the worlds of media, literature and entertainment to create very real opportunities for ourselves to thrive. It's served as a meeting place and it has helped us amplify each other and to say publicly, I hear you and I see you.
But using Twitter at all as a woman already comes at a cost. For women of colour and especially black women, that cost is steep as fuck. It means DMs full of the most vitriolic garbage, mentions littered with the kind of racist language you were sure people were too ashamed to broadcast and the ever-looming threat of job loss with each of your potential responses. Just like in real life, we constantly have to check ourselves, "am I going too far?" "Am I going to offend this white person?" "Can I afford to offend this white person?" This tool that has enabled many of us to advance our careers and our brands has also paralyzed us with fear, chased us off our safe spaces and threatened our livelihoods, while literal white supremacists feel comfortable delivering their hatred unimpeded. So a boycott that says, silence yourselves in solidarity, when we've only just started to make ourselves heard, has many of us sitting here like, huh? Especially when there have been ample opportunities for this solidarity to show itself.
When Twitter put the onus on SNL star Leslie Jones to "block" or "mute" the thousands of angry, racist, vile voices destroying her peace of mind on the site, I ask, where was your boycott? When ESPN reporter Jemele Hill was not only publically taken to task by the president of the United States for having an opinion on an opinion site but was suspended from her job, we kept on tweeting. When on a daily basis outspoken women of colour like Scaachi Koul, Linda Sarsour, Roxane Gay and Ijeoma Oluo are harassed and abused on the site, the silence is deafening.
Yes it's bullshit that Rose McGowan was temporarily and arbitrarily suspended yesterday for publishing a private phone number in one of her tweets. Not because doxxing isn't wrong but because Twitter's "rules" seem very specifically and conveniently applied. And I am happy to stand in support of her. But while #WhiteWomenBoycottTwitter, I ask, when will you stand in support of us?
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