Toxic Tweets Not So Sweet

Re Michelle Goldberg’s “Feminism’s Toxic Twitter Wars” [Feb. 17]: sometimes the feminist “scene” is too much to handle. As feminists, we have to strike a balance between coping with the damage heteropatriarchy has caused every one of us (of any gender) and being activists. When the vitriol of supposedly inclusive feminist spaces precedes the commitment to intersectional identity politics, I get exhausted.

As an avid tweeter and feminist, I find it difficult to escape the brusqueness of short-form discourse. It seems almost “on trend” to get caught up in call-out politics. There is a fine line between critical engagement and petty discontent. We have to learn to be gentle with one another: bell hooks urges activists to love, for “love can uproot fear or anger or guilt.” This care for others plays an integral role in healing ourselves and our allies as we work to dismantle heteropatriarchy.

Jesse Rice-Evans

I am 69 and have been a feminist at least since college. As long as we are sniping at each other and finding fault with lapses in purity of thought or inclusiveness, we’ll never overcome rampant misogyny and the attempt to put us back in our place. Which is the more important battle? All women must be invested in the ability of every one of us to live productive lives howsoever each sees fit. Get it together, or we all go down whimpering.
Lynne Ingersoll
blue island, ill.

I’m practically weeping because this article is so desperately needed. Online feminist spaces are downright vicious, even cruel.
Sigh and sigh

It’s not just feminism that has this infighting going on. This seems to be a problem with all activism in social media: react first and ask questions later, assume the worst intention, never forgive, pile on mercilessly, leave no room to respectfully disagree. On Twitter it’s just cruel because 140 characters is great for the perfect cutting retort, but not at all for explaining context or your intentions.
Corey Pierce

I was born in 1912, and I remember the fight for women’s suffrage well. An older cousin, Birdie Cohen, went to jail for that fight. Now that was a fight worth waging!
Leona Adler
san diego

In light of the consequences of not calling out the people who are screwing up, and not making aggressive attempts to get their voices heard, I don’t think it’s particularly troubling that people are sometimes mean. It certainly is much better for the movement than allowing the privileged behavior of people in power to go unchecked.

I couldn’t be more disappointed that The Nation, a publication I admire, agreed to publish such a hateful piece. Just because some feminists are unwilling to hear critiques of their work (articulated for decades but easy to ignore before the advent of social media), this does not mean that Twitter (or the Internet broadly) is to blame.

Oh good. Another privileged white woman telling black women how to be feminists. Awesome. (Seriously, Nation?)

This is why I, a white woman, have excised nearly all white feminists from my diet. A sense of entitlement occupies the space that a willingness to learn should occupy.

This is a fascinating and disturbing piece. One contributor to the toxicity is tweeting itself. Seeing, hearing, touching— “up close and personal” contact—is a powerful antidote to a virtual dialogue of words and more words about a subject filled, as feminism is, with so much complexity and personal pain. Tweeting has its place, but its limitations should not be forgotten.
Myrna Wyse
avon, conn.

One thing I wish the article had included is that the discussion about less harmful ways of calling each other out is happening in the blogosphere and twittersphere, led by feminist women of color. I do think we need to be gentler and more constructive about how we engage with each other online (though as someone who has been through a lot of feminist processing in the last thirty-plus years, I can absolutely attest that it’s not just an online problem). But it’s not all about women of color being mean to white women—there are a lot of abusive white women (feminists and non-) and also issues between and among women of color.
Kate Jessica Raphael

“Be nice” is the clarion call of people who get to decide what nice is and who clutch their pearls when people who have been nice over and over again and been ignored or dismissed dare raise their voices. It’s a Catch-22. If you don’t ask nicely, I can dismiss you for being mean or angry. If you do ask nicely, I can dismiss you because it’s obviously not important enough to you to raise your voice.

I liked Michelle Goldberg’s article and found it an important critique. I’ve been in “the movement” since the late 1960s, and I’ve seen how internal sororicide can defuse and disable us. The left has a history of “eating its children” through political correctness. In the 1970s, an organization I belonged to crashed and burned as the Maoists insisted on the political correctness of positions no one understood.

Gender is a very difficult subject to teach, especially with students ranging from football players and their fans to LGBTIQ people all in the same classroom. One learns that discussion, listening, patience and starting where people are makes all the difference. In one class, the middle-class white lesbians were as intolerant of the black working-class athletes as the athletes were of the lesbians. The task can never be completed in a fifteen-week course. So how much harder is it in a 140-character comment? You end up with potshots and snide remarks rather than reasoned discussion. When we condemn, we get nowhere.

Yes, those with privilege have an obligation to try to understand the nature of their privilege and to work to learn to give it up and fight for the rights of the oppressed. But they can’t do it without other people who are willing to teach them.

Celia Winkler
missoula, mont.