(The Root) — Aug. 4 was to be a day of protest spearheaded by British journalist Caitlin Moran. White feminists urged everyone upset about Twitter’s lack of action against trolls who make violent threats against women via the website to log off for an entire day, standing in solidarity with those who are attacked online. The protest confused some and downright angered others — especially women of color who felt the protest was shortsighted and steeped in privilege.
On the surface, the protest (tagged with #TwitterSilence in discussions) just flat out didn’t make sense, because removing women from public spaces, online and off, is exactly what misogynists want. Speaking up and speaking out against violence against women seems a much more proactive course of action. There was a large outcry among those who argued that urging women to be quiet in the face of suppression is a step backward. As Zora Neale Hurston said, “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”
But that wasn’t the only hiccup in this plan. Aside from the protest not making sense, it alienated and excluded marginalized women — poor women, transgender women, women of color, etc. — who don’t have the luxury of choosing to fall silent because they don’t have much of a voice to begin with. That requesting the silence and invisibility of women who are historically and ritualistically ignored, discarded and dismissed was ever a good idea to anyone is a testament to the fact that this protest was not designed with them in mind. It illustrates the ignorance of intersectionality in mainstream feminism, which leaves out women whose experiences don’t mirror those of the white folk running the show. It is the great folly of feminism that only certain kinds of women are seen as worth the trouble of fighting for or listening to.
Women who already find themselves silenced weren’t so keen to relinquish their voices for yesterday’s protest. Not only did they not stop tweeting, but many tweeted extensively about the problematic nature of what was essentially good intent gift-wrapped in privilege and self-centeredness.
Only those with the privilege of regularly having their voices heard could want something like #twittersilence
— Native Bell (@SandiaElectrica) August 3, 2013
Just to be clear. i get what folks are trying to accomplish with #twittersilence, but as a WOC and a Professor, I don’t have that luxury.
— ProfB (@AntheaButler) August 4, 2013
About #twittersilence: it’s a privileged thing to assume that others will notice your absence. Many don’t have that luxury.
— Jane Doe, MD (@DrJaneChi) August 4, 2013
Just be real and say “I only want y’all to stop being mean to women who look like me.” Cuts down on confusion. #twittersilence
— Cabbage Patch Ninja. (@thewayoftheid) August 4, 2013