I feel like this week in particular there have been a number of problematic posts and comments flying around that present a lot of backwards, harmful and upsetting views. Everytime this gets pointed out there is an inevitable backlash from the author, normally along the lines of “Why are you getting so crazy at me?”, “I meant it as a joke, everyone knows that” or “lol you need to chill out”. This is wrong, damaging and irresponsible. Failing to acknowledge the problem is avoiding accountability for your words.
If you’ve started a blog, or a Twitter account, or any other kind of PUBLIC social media account, you need to accept that anybody can see your posts, thoughts and views. You are what you write. You need to accept responsibility for your own words. If somebody takes issue with them, they are allowed to disagree and discuss it with you. In fact, I would hope for it.
If you’re going to make a joke to a personal friend that could normally be deemed offensive, don’t do it in a public space. Nearly all social media channels offer you a private message function. If you’re going to write a blog on literally any topic you need to be ready to stand behind your words if somebody comments to disagree. You Need To Be Accountable For Yourself. If you can’t do that, don’t publish your thoughts on a public forum.
Stop shaming people. If you want to have sex on the first date and get drunk every night, that’s fine. Go for it. If you want to stay at home and hold onto your virginity for 20 years, that’s fine too. Knock yourself out. If you want to change your name, grow a beard, move to Mexico and open a tearoom for unicorns, that’s fine too. What’s not fine is making somebody else feel bad about their choice – you’re entitled to do whatever you want to do and so is everybody else. See also: this.
This brings me to my next point: if you don’t like what somebody is doing then quite simply don’t engage with it. If somebody has written a blog about something you don’t want to hear about and you don’t want to read it, then don’t read it. Switch it off. Unfollow them. You don’t need to attack or shame them for sharing their views. If they’ve actively shamed or used hateful language towards somebody else in their post and you find it problematic and unsettling then start a discussion, don’t attack them. More on that later.
It’s fine to write a blog post about why you should or should not do something, but let’s try and retain some balance in there. As a BASIC MINIMUM you should not shame anybody else. That’s base-level human existence. Shame is not a tool to garner views. Shame is not a channel at your disposal to seem powerful. Shame is not an argument that strengthens your case. You can write a post celebrating one thing without shaming all other options.
Being a feminist does not mean stomping all over everybody else to get where you want. Being a feminist does not mean supporting all other women blindly. Being a feminist does not mean blindly blanketing all men as “the enemy”. Being a feminist also does not mean you are going to “make” supposedly moronic and useless men do your bidding through cunning and feminine guile. And being a feminist really does not mean you are a stroppy cow who wants to cause “drama” on Twitter. Being a feminist means you want to define, support and achieve equality, and equal rights, for women. End of.
Don’t Attempt To Stir “Controversy” For Views
Here is a direct screenshot from a blog I really don’t want you to visit, from a post about how to get more views.
This deeply angers me. It is wrong and irresponsible to knowingly post problematic material in order to get views. How desperate are you? Do you want to look at your stats and know the majority of people are only there because they find you deeply questionable? Because they are dumbfounded by your views? Because think your words are grossly misguided and uninformed? No. Of course you don’t. You’re better than that. You want to inspire and inform people, not infuriate them. And if you’re spreading harmful views to others who might read and accept and take on these views as gospel, that’s downright wrong.
Secondly, “pissing people off” is not the same as causing controversy. Controversy may be based in misunderstanding, but often has a root in an underlying problem, debate or offense. This means the source and need for controversy is quite often validated; controversy can often lead to related debate, discussion, resolution and strength. Spewing backwards views or shaming others is not controversy, it’s thoughtless. The author is correct in that you should write about things you are passionate about, but you should be able to do this without bringing down anyone who feels differently. The author is also correct in that it can open up conversation BUT THIS IS A GOOD THING. Conversation is a multitude of differing opinions, not a one-way street of right or wrong. People with differing opinions are not automatically trolls, and a discussion is not “drama” to be written off.
Call It Out
The last time I talked about #callitout was here in reference to people making racist comments. Calling it out is not limited to race. You should call out anything that is offensive or harmful. Don’t let it stand. Calling it out does not mean you are being unnecessarily antagonistic. Calling it out does not mean you hate everyone. Calling it out does not mean you are some crazy angry person whose views are moot because you take issue with everything. Calling it out means not letting harmful, toxic, bullsh*t stand when you see it. Too many people stay quiet on the issues that matter; don’t be one of them. Disagreeing with somebody is NOT bullying or trolling. It is disagreeing and it is allowed. It’s not ok to immediately make yourself a victim, plead ignorance or outrightly dismiss others if somebody challenges you.
Tl;dr? BE ACCOUNTABLE. If you make an absurd or offensive statement you need to accept that people are going to challenge that: not because they are bored bullies or random trolls, but because they don’t want hateful or harmful views to exist and potentially reach others. There’s a distinction. You are what you write.
These are just a few thoughts from my buzzing, alert, and yet increasingly weary brain. I feel almost annoyed that I’ve needed to write all of the above because I feel strongly like this is all incredibly basic level stuff and should be deeply ingrained in us as human beings. Perhaps we just need a reminder sometimes. As always, let me know your thoughts. Happy Saturday.
This is part of my “LEIA: Laila Explains It All” series on dating, life, advice and relationships which quite a lot of you have asked about! I hope you’re enjoying it so far. x