Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Dark Side of Twitter

(Warning: some explicit language ahead. Any foul language in the following post is taken directly from real tweets. There are also multiple references to sexual organs.)

Twitter, there are times when I just hate you.

I wake up, thinking that today is going to be a wonderful day because Gloria Steinem gave me such hope with her interview with Katie Couric (video) and segment on The Colbert Report (video). But no, twitter, you had to mess that up for me.

What do I find among the trending topics worldwide as I start checking our various twitter accounts? Hidden amongst #worldcup, vuvuzela, and a bunch of names I've never heard of I find the hashtag #ifihadapenis.

I think my head may have just exploded.

We live in such a penis-worshiping culture that there's a global trend on twitter about what women would do or be like if they had a penis. And most of it comes down to women saying that they'd screw everyone they'd see or how big their penis would be, how they would whip it out every chance they got. There are tweets using the tag with a question on why is such a topic trending, but none of the hundreds of tweets I've seen since I started this post have looked as how this reflects the type of culture we live in.

This trend is just an example of how our culture today still derides women for being women. Women in today's society are something else, something less because we don't have a penis and we are made to know it. And then when we dare to think outside the box, and imagine ourselves in a different body, we end up reaffirming male stereotypes and the behaviors of masculine hegemony, intentionally or not. The vast majority of the tweets also serve to further belittle and dehumanize women (e.g. "#IfIhadapenis I would be fucking alllll yall bitches #wreckless," "Ima beat that p*ssy out of walls #IfIHadAPenis"). Women, as a whole, have been forced to participate in our own humiliation and degradation.

And those daring attempts to imagine a different sex for ourselves are then taken as entertainment for those who are of the privileged sex. Many tweets from men with the hashtag are about how they do all of these things or how funny all the tweets are. There are a few who don't approve, mostly because they just don't want to know that stuff.

One of the most retweeted tweets of the thread, a top tweet on twitter, is "I see females goin in on #IfIHadAPenis ...pretty funny stuff. But I BET NOT see a single dude tweet #IfIHadAVagina ('_')." My hopes weren't high, but curious to see what was posted on #ifihadavagina I searched it. I wish I hadn't. I have not read so many derogatory, sexist, woman-bashing, homophobic, gay-bashing statements all at once since high school study hall. For those of you who are remotely sensitive to insults TRIGGER WARNING. Here are some tweets from #ifihadavagina: "ANY DUDE THAT TWEETS ABOUT #ifihadapuss or #ifihadavagina is getting publicly banned, unfollowed, and ostracized! Some shit u don't say," "#ifIhadaVagina I'd try to make the vuvuzela sound with it," and "who else would go in on it though? women can't. lol RT @_______: If You're a man going in on #IfIHadAVagina you're gay as fuck."

If anyone out there needed any more proof of why we need feminism today, well here you have it. Abortion rights, equal pay, and female genital mutilation are some of the many topics that have the need for change. But while we are on our soapboxes, at the polls, and at capitol hill, we need to remember that not only is this a political revolution, but a cultural revolution as well. Our struggle will never be truly won if we sit by and watch ourselves be insulted and attacked by hegemonic masculinity. But how do we challenge this?

Twitter can be a horrible, horrible thing. But all the things that can make twitter a dismal place to be, also have the power to make twitter a wonderful tool of social awareness and change. Just imagine if instead of #ifihadapenis trending on twitter, we had #ilovemyvagina or #ilovemybody trending? So I say we reclaim trending topics! Let's turn them away from hateful speech and towards a more understanding, accepting, and feminist attitude! To help in your journey, here are some pro-woman hashtag suggestions for your tweets: #feminist, #feminism, #fem2, #prowoman, #ilovemybody, #ilovemyvagina, #ILMB (short for I love my body), #ILMV (short for I love my vagina), #iamwoman, #iamwomanhearmeroar. All the bolded hashtags have at least one tweet with the hashtag in it. The ones that aren't bolded do not have any tweets, but should. Tweet away, fellow feminist tweeters!
Photo-credit: respres on
Cross-posted at Ode to Patriarchy


Christian Prochoicer said...

I've tried to start a trend under the hashtag #genfem (generation feminist). It hasn't caught on much (honestly, I'm the only one listed when you search #genfem) but some people have used it in the past. Hopefully more people will.

Danielle said...

Good post Kari. I wish I understood how and why stupid hashtags become trending topics.

Other good hashtags to use include #prochoice #abortion and my favorite, #patriarcy. Though of course a lot of antis use #abortion in their angry tweets

Biie! said...

I pretty much hate twitter myself!
thank you for this :)

Kari said...

Thanks for all the wonderful hashtag suggestions! You do always have to be aware that sometimes the people who are against you will get your tweets (they will use #abortion, #prochoice and have even started using #reprojustice). But other hashtags that are good are #woman, #women, #sexist, #sexism, #gender, #choice, and #reprojustice. On the Majority Speaks blog we're also trying to get one started #pro-ct (pro-choice on twitter).

Keep adding all of your feminist hashtags! Sharing is caring, and a great way to overthrow the patriarchy!

Kari said...

More cool hashtags to use and start: #youngfems and #thirdwave