In the wake of the ever-increasing number of allegations of sexual harassment and assault against producer Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men in Hollywood, it has been reassuring to see the overwhelming support for Rose McGowan and other survivors sharing their stories. Men and women from all backgrounds are listening to survivors who have come forward, and are holding perpetrators and their enablers to account. We should continue to amplify these voices. However, as the firestorm over Rose McGowan’s suspension from Twitter grows, some are asking why the same level of support has not been shown to women of color in similar situations.
Many women have chosen to boycott Twitter today using the hashtag #WomenBoycottTwitter in protest against the discriminatory practises of the social media platform, which seems to apply its rules to some groups, like women, more than others. Celebrities Alyssa Milano, Chrissy Teigen, John Cusack, Debra Messing, Anna Paquin, Mark Ruffalo and Cheryl Strayed have all joined the protest, along with many other Twitter users. Earlier this morning, director Ava DuVernay tweeted, “Calling white women allies to recognize conflict of #WomenBoycottTwitter for women of color who haven't received support on similar issues.”
The women of color she is referring to are too numerous to count, with Jemele Hill and Leslie Jones just two of the latest prominent examples. Earlier this week, ESPN presenter Jemele Hill was suspended from her role at the network for a second round of tweets in which she discussed the controversy surrounding Donald Trump and the NFL players who continue to protest against police brutality by taking a knee during the national anthem. “If you strongly reject what Jerry Jones said, the key is his advertisers. Don't place the burden squarely on the players,” she wrote as part of a series of tweets, after Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones having said that any player who "disrespects the flag" will not play. She had previously apologised after tweeting, "Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists." While Hill's treatment received coverage by major media outlets, her suspension did not trigger the firestorm of support we are currently witnessing.
Similarly, comedian and actor Leslie Jones was the victim of an unprecedented level of harassment on social media, originally triggered by her role in the all-female remake of Ghostbusters, to a relatively muted level of support from the general public. The abuse was unrelenting, including the hacking of her personal website in July 2016, sharing of her personal details and obscene and racist Photoshopped images. “I feel like I’m in a personal hell. I didn’t do anything to deserve this. It’s just too much. So hurt right now,” she tweeted in July 2016. She was forced off the platform, unable to deal with the deluge of abuse. Eventually, Twitter banned her most virulent troll, after #LoveForLeslieJ trended and some prominent users, like Chrissy Teigen, came out in support. But many believe it was too little, too late.
Alongside #WomenBoycottTwitter, the hashtag #WOCAffirmation has been trending. This movement is not in opposition to those who choose to boycott, but is advocating that we tackle the problem of gendered harassment in a different way. Rather than being silent, people are promoting the work of women of color and using the increased attention from the Weinstein scandal to spotlight the voices that too often go unnoticed. The fact that Rose McGowan has managed to create a media firestorm about sexual harassment and assault is heartening and she continues to be a fearless feminist advocate. But within the context of true intersectional feminism, it is worth considering how we can do more to make sure all women are heard, not just white women.
Header image from Ghostbusters
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Molly McLaughlin is a travel and culture writer currently based in Mexico City. Her work has appeared in publications including Lonely Planet, Refinery29 and Ms. Magazine. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @mollysgmcl.