Feminism Personal Growth Technology

Caitlin Moran on why the internet is an ideal space for women

September 1, 2016

I came across this interview by accident yesterday. In it, Moran makes some excellent points about the internet being a place where women are powerful.

She says,

“Men and women need different mediums. We communicate in different ways. One of the reasons Twitter has gotten overheated is it’s built in a very male way, it’s very penetrative. One of the reasons people get very angry on Twitter, is that you’re following someone and those messages are so small that you don’t have a chance to reject it. It gets shot straight into your head […] the whole sentence, straight into your head. And so you’re constantly being adrenalized and shocked by these bullets of thought and that’s why it’s quite fight or flight on Twitter. And I think if a woman had designed a communication platform, it would be very different.”

(She’s being gender essentialist in a way that I feel uncomfortable about, but she does have a point. If I could rephrase this in a way I agree with, masculine people are tougher emotionally and more combative, and have designed a communication platform that does not protect people’s feelings, and does not value that whatsoever. And men are the sex who have, thus far, been raised to be masculine. This could switch. In two hundred years, women could be more of what we now call masculine, while men could be more sensitive and feminine. If a feminine communication platform was designed by either feminine men or feminine women, it would be different.)

I agree with her when she says later in the interview that Twitter is less playful than when I spent a lot of time there in 2008-2010. I don’t enjoy it much anymore. But this is also because I am more integrated into the outside world now than I was then. She discusses the merits of women being online when they are stay-at-home mothers, as I was then.

“Undoubtedly, online has fuelled this massive wave of feminism we’ve got now. Some of the most notable advances of human rights have been, in this country, using Twitter. The Daughters of Eve anti-FGM campaign […] it was all over the front pages of newspapers, they’ve changed legislation, they’ve mounted the first prosecution against it. And similarly, Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism—there’s so many men going, ‘Sexism doesn’t exist anymore.’—and she just started retweeting things women had said to them that day…. Massive campaigns that have changed things. So, it’s been useful in that way. But at the same time, we’ve seen some of the most appalling examples of women being driven out of public spaces. Someone like Mary Beard appears on Question Time and having the most virulent abuse poured out about her physical appearance and then […] rape threats, death threats, I’ve had rape threats, I’ve had bomb threats, and people will despair about that […] but we have to understand that we are in the very early stages of social media. This is the first time the world has been able to talk to the world unmediated and I think we’re in our toddler phase.”

Social media, as Caitlin points out later in the interview, has allowed women to stay in the loop. We can be on top of the news, on top of rapid changes in language and developments in culture, so that when we want to enter the work force again, we aren’t so much fish out of water as we would have been and as our matriarchs before us have been.

Yet, my church chastised moms for not being totally in the zone with their kids all the time. People shame women for being on their phones in the park with their kids. I was shamed for being online so much when I was a stay-at-home mom, exhausted all the time, needing empathy and connection. And yet, I was friends online with several men, who tweeted and updated Facebook from morning until night, while at work. They were being paid by employers to work, yet they were so regularly in touch online that I sometimes forgot they even had jobs. I knew that if I had a question about some tech thing or something about my Mac, that they would jump in to help me within minutes. And they were shameless about their online activity. I never came across blog posts about the phenomenon of men being online too much when they’re supposed to be working at their jobs or doing dishes or cleaning the bathroom or making supper. I never heard criticism of men for taking up so much space, wanting to be the expert all the time, wanting to make all the jokes and have all the opinions. Anything men do en masse is seen as normal, while women are analyzed and nitpicked for every single thing we do that isn’t in the service of other people’s goals and needs.

I wouldn’t know half of what I know if it wasn’t for the internet, wouldn’t be nearly as inspired to build things and achieve, wouldn’t have found so many kindred friends, wouldn’t have made as much money from home, and would less likely have met my partner if it wasn’t for internet technology.

The internet has been the great equalizer for women. With very little investment, we can build our own things. We can create businesses where no one even has to know it’s a woman-owned business. The internet is where substantive support groups can be formed quickly, with people from all over the world. We can anonymously talk about domestic abuse and get help, or talk about post-partum depression and learn that we’re normal and receive support. The internet is undoing generations of shame, through open communication, and is supplying women with tools for empowerment.

It’s where a woman doesn’t have to be interrupted by a man when she talks. It’s where she can respond to him, taking up as much time and space as she wants, knowing that this medium allows him to read it while pretending that he’s not, so he’s more likely to read it than listen to her in person, and she will have her say, even if he pretends he didn’t read it. Or she can block him or embarrass or shame him and be more unlikely to face any consequence than if she had done so in person. She has choices she didn’t have before, and that is power.

The lashing out we are seeing on Twitter, of death and rape threats, is evidence that this empowerment is working, and it’s making men feel threatened, insecure, drowned out, and irrelevant. Yes, in a lot of ways, the internet is male-owned, because so much of it has been founded by men. But so much of the air is increasingly being taken up by women who have been learning since childhood how to get along, how to nurture each other, how to be emotionally intelligent. Where men are raised to be competitive, women are raised to fall back, not even necessarily wanting to be the best (because they’ll be attacked by both men and women). This social upbringing, combined with our clear mandate to move our entire gender forward into full equality, is producing squads of women supporting each other, working together, and making waves. We are making noise, changing the rules, and bending things to our will.

And when more women get into coding, the future will be, undoubtedly female.


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