Opinion: Why I stayed off Twitter on Sunday (despite Doctor Who)

Lots of discussion was had about “#twittersilence” this weekend.

The premise is clear. Following the diabolical harassment of feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, threats included the most heinous debasement, the threat of rape; feminists around the world pledged to go silent on Twitter for National Friendship Day.

As a feminist and social media user myself, as well as being an aspiring politician, I’ve experienced my fair share of offensive behaviour, comments and abuse. Indeed the downside of social media in society seems to be that it creates a form of mask through which people can hide in order to persecute and victimise others.

Discussions have been had whether silence, which could be construed a submissive response to violent threats, was a fitting form of protest. However, this is a distraction from the wider issue; that sexist abuse, and, in the main, verbal attacks on women, are not only systemic but also, shockingly, tolerated.

When I announced on my Facebook page I would be boycotting Twitter for the day, these were a sample of the responses I received;

Kelly-Marie you’re strong woman this is the reason I would not go on Twitter

and

What abuse and where am I with all this happening? Btw, you’re kind of asking for the misogyny if you’re on twitter. The people there, even the women, are idiots.

Just as the Everyday Sexism project demonstrates, women are exposed to what could be considered a culture of entrenched misogyny. Worse, women are encouraged to “laugh it off”, “have a sense of humour”, “stop making a fuss” and even told that this is the outcome of getting the vote!

Of course, there is a great deal of difference between being wolf whistled at and threatened with rape, but the problem is the same. Women in society are growing to tolerate the abuse, are persuaded to accept it and, if they don’t like it, told to avoid it.

This is not the sort of society I want to live in. It should not matter whether I am a blogger, a lawyer, a secretary, a nurse or the chair of the board of directors, if I am, as a woman, encouraged to tolerate offensive behaviour.

No one should be uncomfortable because of the way they might be treated due to their colour, gender, religion or otherwise. I truly believe that, and this is a small step, a percussion instrument, in the battle towards eradicating this sort of treatment, then so be it.

The Liberal Democrats champion equality, and champion the need for people to respect and equality. With the advent of social media, while we are seeing abuse, we are also seeing a rise in growing grassroots feminist movements. While we may not be at the point of requesting suffrage, there is still a battle to be had before women are treated equally in society and not subjected to harassment, abuse and victimisation, whether on Twitter or on the tube.

Our members of Parliament have made significant strides to putting gender equality on the political agenda. Jo Swinson and Vince Cable are working towards more women on boards. The huge success of championing “shared parental leave” would take how women are treated in the workplace a giant leap forward.

But there’s more we can do. We still have the lowest female representation of Members of Parliament out of the three main political parties. We still see all-male panels and speeches at events and Federal Conference. And we’re still seeing male dominated selection for Parliamentary seats.

Whether we look at all-women shortlists (something I personally do endorse), or whether we run a “get involved” campaign to get more women involved in politics at all levels, we need to make strides towards involving women in politics and pushing equality back on the agenda on a national level.

* Kelly-Marie Blundell is a member of Federal Policy Committee, Vice Chair of the Social Security Working Group and previous parliamentary candidate

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7 Comments

  • Allan Heron 5th Aug '13 - 1:13pm

    I’d be interested to hear more about why you felt the #twittersilence was the best way to make a point rather than using the day to communicate and share more positive messages in support of your objectives.

    I found Bonnie Greer’s tweet quite telling – “#twittersilence is a strong choice. I respect it. But I come from a people who were forced to stay silent.For a long, long time.#nosilence” – and helped retweet a number of posts from people sharing contact details for organisations that would help women with the issues that they’d faced..

    On a more frivolous note the following tweet from @el_crawford seemed to sum up neatly why the different approach seemed more constructive, to me at least- Misogynist: “Shut up, woman!” Woman: “I’m so angry I’m going to shut up.” Misogynist: “That was easy.” #twittersilence

  • Simon McGrath 5th Aug '13 - 2:20pm

    ” And we’re still seeing male dominated selection for Parliamentary seats.”
    Are you suggesting that’s because women are not being shortlisted – or not applying ?

  • Mostly the latter Simon. Women are selected, and for good seats, in exactly the proportions they appear on the Approved list. Trouble is, most sensible women look at the job and think: “Why would I want to do THAT?” A decision not uninfluenced by the awful behaviour of the (mostly) men already there.

  • Simon McGrath 5th Aug '13 - 4:07pm

    @SereanaH – thanks. can’t see then why we would need all woman shortlists ?

  • Stuart Mitchell 5th Aug '13 - 7:41pm

    @Allan
    Boycotting Twitter is not the same as staying silent. On the contrary, if the Twitter boycott helped make the issue more prominent (which I think it did) then the net result is less silence, not more.

  • I’m boggles by someone who has a Facebook account saying everyone on twitter is an idiot. Mind you I suppose it’s only like Apple versus Android

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