Let me preface this by saying this is an exploration of my experience only! It differs for every one of my comrades.
Like many of us, I have been quietly tweeting for the past decade, relatively unknown and followed mostly by people I know or have worked with. I would tweet random things & get maybe 10 likes (aside from the time my friend Pier & I went viral when I taught him that the Simpsons began on the Tracy Ullman Show).
Then this summer, something wild happened. I spotted a little hashtag going around Twitter on Sundays, encouraging likeminded individuals to come together for a common cause – socialism. The hashtag #socialistsunday was something I began to follow, slowly at first, before I worked up the courage to take part. As a lifelong socialist, who had often hidden many of my opinions away for various reasons, especially since Corbyn was ousted from Labour & most people would comment if I ever stood up for him.
I have always fought for equality, fairness, universal healthcare and against racism, discrimination, oppression & the wealth divide. I am passionate about the world becoming more socialised in order to benefit everyone. Politics is becoming increasingly right wing and it’s scary, so we need socialists more than ever.
But I digress. Finding this large group of people who had the same beliefs as me was exciting. I followed a bunch of new people, started interacting, sharing my thoughts, memes etc. and eventually got to the point where I would share follow lists & get heavily involved in the discourse. It has been something that has truly got me through this year & all its difficulties. I have jumped from about 650 to nearly 6,000 followers (as of today) in a few months.
People actually want to know what I want to say now. Hundreds interact with my posts on a daily basis. I have made lots of new friends who I can’t wait to meet in the ‘real’ world, whenever this pandemic ends (if ever). I even met a wonderful guy, without even trying, & couldn’t be happier. In fact, a few of the comrades are coupling up and it’s wonderful. Twitter has become less of a cesspit with this initiative.
From love to hate
However, with that comes a lot of hate. In my case, it comes from men, both from within the socialist community or outside. I don’t know why this happens, but people have said it’s because I am blonde and seem innocent, which seems to be a very stereotypical & weird assumption to make. Funnily enough, my friend said the first time she saw me she thought I would be intimidating due to how I dress, then, as she said, “you opened your mouth”.
I have had the works – been called a slut, whore, fake, the village bicycle, stupid, you name it. I have been mansplained to even with evidence. I have been called trans for defending trans people (no problem obviously, who cares if I was or not, but to them, a huge insult). When I defend myself, they bring up my looks, my intelligence & make assumptions about my sexual history. I presume it comes from a place of hatred toward women & disliking when we stand up for ourselves, especially when we do it with intelligence & grace. I make a point of being polite, but they often push it too far & I am forced to condescend them.
Then, there’s all the men that slide into my DMs and constantly ask me for dates or say weird, creepy things. I usually ignore, but some of these men consistently message me even if I don’t reply. Just now, on Instagram, a man liked all of my selfies over the past 9 years and then asked if he could DM me. I replied “no”, because I don’t understand how they think this tactic works.
The best part is whenever I tweet something about men being awful, saying “why men” & the entire “NoT aLl MeN” brigade come out, thinking it’s a personal attack on them, accusing me of sexism & telling me I am rude, horrid etc., even when I point out I am tweeting this as a result of continued harassment. No, women, remember you must never criticise men & just accept whatever they do to you, even if it makes you uncomfortable, otherwise you’ll hurt their little feelings.
Think before you speak
There are many positives to being well known on Twitter now. As aforementioned, the sense of community & acceptance is huge. But there is a deep-rooted sexism that pops up, from within the left & from the right, especially if a woman who looks like me dares to say anything. Few men get this, but I get it on an almost daily basis.
Luckily, my strong network of wonderful friends are always on hand to back me up, fight my corner & show me love, for which I am eternally grateful. But this shouldn’t be the norm.
Women have fought for decades for equality, to be able to do and say whatever we want. The internet era has provided us with more of a voice than ever before. It has led to the MeToo movement, new forms of feminism, body acceptance, openness & confidence in our identities, an ability to be who we truly are and know there are others out there like us. We are moving past the stereotypes of old, that even our parents still hold. But there’s a long way to go and a lot of that work needs to be done within men.
I know some wonderful men who are thoughtful, kind, feminist and accepting. But there are countless others who need to think before they speak. Why are you reacting to me, or anyone, like this? What internalised issues are you fighting that makes you think you should attack young women for having opinions based on their experience? Why, when we explain our experience, do you not take it as a valid reason to criticise men? Do you not stop to think that you are part of the problem?
Divisive and bored
Funnily enough, a lot of the people that have a go at me are also the ones who will comment on my photos and tweets in support of me. They are constantly encouraging me until I say something that they perceive is about them. I go from “wow you’re stunning” to “wow you’re such a bitch” in less than 280 characters.
Now, I know this is part and parcel of being a woman online, but why SHOULD it be? Why should we just expect this to happen to us on a regular basis & then get called out if we complain about it? Misogyny is rife on Twitter and it’s not up to me to constantly call it out.
So, let’s get back to the reason why #socialistsunday was begun & come back together. Cracks are forming & fakes are being revealed, but it doesn’t mean it has to keep falling apart. We are all fighting for the same thing here and should pick the right battles. Telling me off for looking how I do achieves nothing.