In have learned more about from the internet than I did at university. While I am grateful to my university education for providing me with a framework, a theoretical perspective that changed the way I think and has added depth and nuance to my analysis of the world, the real meat of my feminist education has been primarily from blogs and twitter. The internet allowed me to understand intersectionality, not just as a theoretical construct, but as a practical tool with which to navigate my activist life. I learned about the disability rights movement, the sex workers rights movement, and many other movements and issues that I was never exposed to in an academic setting. I don’t want to disparage my academic education, it was excellent, I was blessed to come of age in a school that had such a strong critical theory subset within the political studies department. However, I do think that the most exciting and interesting feminist thought is no longer happening in institutions.
This is at least in part because institutions are privileged places where people with privilege dictate the agenda. Conversations like #Solidarityisforwhitewomen and #notyourasiansidekick, are impossible in an academic setting but they are incredibly necessary for the future of the movement. The discourse that is being created on the internet is vibrant, reactive and nuanced. While it may not be happening within the constrains of academic rigor it is no less important and no less legitimate. Academia does not own feminism, it is not the gate keeper, it is but one facet of a movement that has many facets and many faces. The internet exposed me to feminists like me. Feminists of colour and other axes of identity who wanted to make feminism be about more than rich white ladies. The internet helped me put words to how I was thinking and feeling about abstract concepts like privilege. It allowed me to critically analyse how my different privileges and oppressions intersect with each other. The internet, has without a doubt made me a better feminist than I ever could have been otherwise.
People like to talk about internet feminism as if it is fractured and disjointed with many groups just existing to ‘hate’ on other groups, that is not what is happening. What is happening is that we now expect more. We expect feminism to be better, more inclusive, more rigorous and more nuanced. The internet has taught me that solidarity is not something that just happens, it is something we must strive for, it is an action not a state and it takes work. It has taught me the value of a true apology when you fuck, and that even more valuable is learning from your mistakes and not fucking up in the same way again. The internet means that it is becoming less and less easy to get away with being an asshole. Being on the receiving end of critique is hard, but it is a necessary component to ensure that our movement is one for all people. Dissent and disagreement is a part of the process. The internet has complicated feminism, well feminism was always complicated, but the internet has made the complication visible and in your face. This is not a bad thing.
The rise of twitter and tumblr feminism is a response. It is a response to the systematic exclusion of marginalised people and bodies from the organising spaces of the mainstream movement. It is a response to the fact feminism has not always had the interests of all people at heart. It is a response for constantly being told that you aren’t asking for things nicely enough. It is a response to constantly being erased, ignored and marignalised within a movement that claims to be working for us, when many times it works directly against us.