Have you ever attended a dinner party where a group of women were dragging another woman’s name through the mud for no other reason but that she wasn’t there to hear what they were saying, then the next day you log onto Facebook and see a few of those same women have shared a pro-feminism article? Well, I have. Facebook is full of self-proclaimed feminists passionately stating their opinions. I can’t can count the number of times I’ve sat there with a blank stare on my face reading their posts. It’s happened so many times that I have given the phenomenon a name: Facebook Feminism.
Facebook feminism misrepresents what intersectional feminism really is and increases the obstacles the movement already faces. Feminism is not just about posting ally-centered articles on Facebook, Twitter, or just declaring your solidarity. But in today’s technology-driven society, social media users can just log on, share an #IStandWith article and declare themselves a feminist. I’m sorry; feminism doesn’t work that way. Feminism also isn’t just about standing in a protest with a "This is what a feminist looks like" T-shirt on. This is not to diminish social media activism or attending protests; challenging the anti-feminist paradigm on social media and attending protests are quite important to the movement, but there’s so much more to our movement. What are you doing in your everyday life when you’re not sharing articles? Are you smashing the patriarchy and privilege at work? At the bars? At dinner parties? Or are you belittling women at gatherings, then easing your guilt by posting finger-pointing, pretentiously-written articles?
Recently, I confronted my partner’s white, self-proclaimed feminist friends, who are big on the social media activism, on their lack of intersectional feminism. Being a freelance writer has its challenges sometimes. The inconsistent income that comes with freelancing definitely makes you question your career choice, especially for people of color who haven’t had the privilege of partaking in internships. Her friends always seem to question my financial status. Now, nevermind the fact that how much money I make is none of their damn business, but they failed to see how my race and my economical upbringing plays a factor in my employment. The very definition of intersectional feminism takes into account that all people, not just women, suffer under patriarchy and privilege. Ignoring that they coming from upper-class economic backgrounds and have graduate degrees, they found endless ways to justify their privilege and cast me as a jobless freeloader. Of course, they made sure to post an article on Facebook that following week to point fingers at other white people about white privilege. Sigh!
The refusal to acknowledge the fact that my lack of writing assignments might be connected to my race is the very definition of racial oppression that we unknowingly perpetuate every day. There are so many parallels with racial and gender inequality, which is why practicing intersectional feminism is so important. The oppression of male privilege operates in the same destructive way. Racism is the one of the most undermining factors in intersectional feminism.
In a television segment discussing white privilege, DeRay Mckesson tells Stephen Colbert, “The goal is to use that privilege to help make the equal opportunities available for marginalized groups. What you can do is extend that privilege so you can dismantle it; you can create opportunity for people."
Dismantling patriarchal ideals and privilege are not solely about being aware that it exists. It’s about extending it to marginalized groups, using your privilege to influence change. Challenging inequality on social media starts the conversation about intersectional feminism. But we can’t negate what a person must do in their everyday lives to create those opportunities.
You know what my partner’s friends could have done instead of trying to justify their behaviors? They could have listened with an open mind. When we don't listen to the people who are trying to tell us how to improve our movement, we reinforce the problems that undermine the movement. Yes, looking in the mirror and taking responsibility for our actions are some of the hardest things we do. But it is necessary.
Social media is a vertical where we can talk to allies, rally support, increase exposure and raise awareness. But social media is also a place to solicit diverse opinions. Feminism is an evolving movement and it works best when everyone has a voice. When we practice intersectional feminism in our everyday lives, it increases the effectiveness of our social media activism.
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Jacy Topps is a New York-based writer and PR executive. She writes primarily about fashion, NYC, music, LGBT culture and wine. Her love for Lifetime movies is bordering on an obsession. When she’s not attending fashion events in NYC, you can find her sipping wine and binge watching Gossip Girl on Netflix. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @jacytopps.