Why feminists should abandon social networks ideology

 

The hive mind is for the most part stupid and boring. Why pay attention to it?  Jaron Lanier [5.29.06]

This activist blog has been abandoned by my former self for years now. I’ve written here for couple of years in my native language and rarely there was any content in English. I live in Serbia and I am now a former feminist social-media h/activist. I’ve abandoned this practice and opted out of Serbia’s social network activist circles three years ago. I left it all behind because I was a constant target of online abuse (shit term, isn’t it) that leads to nothing. The abuse peaked in 2015 when I was physically attacked. First, by a man that pissed on me in public, and minutes later I got my nose broken by a young woman. Then I was harassed about it online, and not just by anti-feminists I must say.

Everything changed for the better in my life after that. I’ve sorted out my long overdue IT career status, I’ve gained more personal independence in my life. I’ve stopped engaging with all sorts of troubled people IRL (being an activist I had a lot of them in my life), and made my own life goals a priority. Last 3 years were very tough, the feeling of isolation was pretty hard, but, as I said, that disillusion was long overdue. I’m a single 40 years old woman living under the political and cultural system that doesn’t really care about women like me.

I want to write what I’ve learned about social networks activism since I stopped practising it like everybody else. Since I no longer really engage in it, I’ve started exploring theoretical works about the system itself. The main insight was: online feminist activist circles in Serbia are not better or worse than those in English speaking ones. We all live under the same “first you distract people, hook them on and then you extract their value” social networks system.
It’s 3 years now since I’ve “emigrated” to foreign feminist circles by following growing self-described community of radical feminists and gender-critical women on Twitter. I’ve created a Twitter account that follows feminist blogs/vlogs and sites published in English. I learned a lot about the current assault on women’s rights through media, culture and state regulations. I wanted to gain insight into the whole gender ideology trouble. The gender trouble is currently very visible as a sort of culture war in western nations and it’s already present in Serbia in activist circles. Serbia, with the long standing misogynistic and homophobic culture (a society fucked up by neo-liberal economy and recent Balkan wars) is also being influenced by the gender ideology from academia to NGO activist circles. In Serbia too one can see young neo-Marxists claiming that gender is not a binary hierarchy but a multiplicity of intersectional self-definitions.

I found that the broad gender-critical feminist “movement” on Twitter and Facebook brings all sorts of women (and very few men) under the same goal: to give visibility to the real life impact of the transgender ideology on women’s rights protected in law.
This means that in these circles one will encounter mainly women from English speaking western countries from USA to UK to AU. Many of the women are not even close to what I’ve come to know as feminists in my own culture. I don’t consider this fluctuating community a feminist movement at all. First, because the feminist activism on social networks largely fails to address the question of it’s own media production of feminist reality under social network’s regulations. The question of ownership over the things being produced is never tackled. Rarely anything produced for feminist social networks goes further from the boundaries of the producer’s material place of living.  That is the case in our own community in Serbia and so many others in the Balkan region. Living in a globalized social media world I wonder how’s that possible? To be connected in the fastest ways never before seen and to be so divided by the material reality: the state, the language, the culture… Well, here’s an example from Serbia how social networks don’t even help the regional “feminist movement”.

Five years ago a feminist group “Women from the Internet” that I founded with friends in Belgrade had a page on Facebook. We had a decent following, but still less than 5,000 people. We were the new voices among activists. It was a grass roots group, we didn’t have funding and we could write freely without the pressure of the NGO liberal feminism ideology which is predominant. We were pretty engaged in criticizing how media represents women and women’s issues. At one point in 2013 there was a real push from the government to change the health insurance laws and impose neo-liberal measures that will cut off anybody who’s considered a parasite to the free state health system. Of course, they had to kill as many flies as they could, so first they planned the common distraction in the media. The newspapers and TV stations under control by the neo-liberal political regime started spreading the news that stated: The government will have lists of women that had an abortion. It was a pretty classic scare and conquer strategy.  Abortion is legal is Serbia, and the law was inherited from the state we were once a part of (Yugoslavia legalized abortion in 1978).  The push to ban the abortion on demand is commonly done by religious representatives of the state power, despised among feminists, but rarely seriously considered a threat to women’s rights.

The thing is we don’t have a civil society really. In Serbia women use abortion as a contraceptive a lot. The numbers are staggering. The abortion business was privatized in the end of 90’s and the service now costs up to two minimal wages in Serbia.

So, how did this scare strategy summed up as We’re all gonna be shamed in public by letting the government know we had abortions work? Every woman I knew in activist circles was shocked by the presumption her private choice is going to be known by the government. Of course this was a kind of well thought scare media hoax. Of course the government has the data on registered abortions already and for decades, and of course to record abortion/s a woman had is significant for one women’s health history. But that’s not the reality feminists on social media perceived.

There were numerous feminist posts stating they don’t have the right to have those records on women, they cannot possibly own a list of women that had abortions etc.
The feminists were protesting on social media very loudly. The feminists were signalling to each other: spread our protest online!

My feminist group wrote our explanation that this is media scare tactic we should not engage with, and that the impact of the new law has nothing to do with data gathering but everything to do with assault on ALL women’s health protections. The mainstream feminism didn’t listen to us at all, even though we reached out to many, even though we had a significant Facebook following. The ones that had the power to organize a real feminist protest did nothing.
The law that was introduced after that media shitstorm, now denies unemployed women (that have their free health insurance from the state), to keep their health insurance IF THEY HAD A REGISTERED ABORTION at one point. You had an abortion in a state hospital? You’re out! Of course, the poorest women in our country lost their right and became second class citizens once more. I don’t remember a feminist NGO, or even feminist activists speaking about it after it was done to us. Feminists were easily distracted by media sensationalism and The Abortion List social media frenzy and we failed to see what the law is going to do. There were no real life protests. Only virtue signalling on social networks.

 

Printscreen_2531 Apr. 06 19.55.jpg

 

Recollecting this experience caught me in the day when social networks exploded because of a terrible event in USA branded as “The YouTube shooting”. That day I realized I must get out of personal social networks engagement in any community.
Social networks don’t really have a single day without a trending topic on a smaller or a bigger scale. These trends are often produced within the social network itself about the network itself. Somebody said something, somebody liked the wrong tweet, someone expressed unpopular opinion. The multiplication of reactions that follows are the constant on platforms like Twitter. It’s actually the heart of the platform’s intention: everybody gets hooked to something. Also, everybody gets to be famous for 15 people(MOMUS), and instantly.
But this time, the social media event was based in yet another real tragic event. The motivation of one’s social network participation is to produce meaning for everything that happens – either for online events or real life events. Both types of events have consequences in material reality. It’s presumed that the two realities are inseparable.
I’ve witnessed hundreds of social network outbursts of “making meaning” in all sorts of communities online. But when this happened the other day I’ve focused my attention just to this feminist community on Twitter because their main topic every day is the transgender agenda and trans-activists “greatest shits” of all sorts.

It is important to say that really, really quickly I saw a transgender conspiracy story concerning the YouTube shooting popping out in feminist circles. I wanted to follow one of the tweets as they “gained traction” in this circles. It was this one:

The tweet was re/posted to my own account by an automatic service which triggers the script: every time I like something on Twitter it’s posted on my own account as it is my own tweet.
I used that tool strategically for years on Twitter for lots of different reasons.
First reason is that I don’t believe in authorship on social networks. All the content we put only on Twitter is actually owned by the company that gave us free access to the network. If my account was shut down by Twitter I would only have a poorly done backup that I downloaded before I was shut down. The backing up of our Twitter data to a desired place is not automatic, and the backup is only really usable if the backed up account is still live on Twitter. The Twitter backup is pretty meaningless to people that are not tech-savvy and it doesn’t include all the images, gifs and videos we post there. Therefore, I’m not an author of my own tweets either way. I don’t own it.
The second reason is that by reposting this without sourcing the tweet I get to see the reactions to the same content on my own account and on the account where it’s posted originally. This gives me insight in the dynamics of Twitter followers hierarchies.
The third reason is that this tool gathers data about the trending topic much faster then I could do it by fetching it manually. The fourth reason I use the tool is to change the way I interact with content on Twitter. Being aware that if I like a tweet it’s gonna be reposted on my account – I just don’t give likes lightly. I’d rather reply to your tweets than feed your own addiction of Twitter notification gratification. Liking tweets is like feeding social media addiction of others to me. Personally, I don’t value people on Twitter that only RT and like my tweets. I consider them as automatic as done by bots that somebody programmed. They’re really depersonalised bot moves in my world of interactions on Twitter.

So, yes, I did watch how  “the shooter is male/transwoman/transman” conspiracy worked among feminists. Majority of them automatically liked or RT this tweet or similar tweets to this. That move was just adding to the frenzy. All the similar tweets were then being supported by a “fictional news” article published on V3 website that produced this shit “news” by watching Twitter and Facebook streams. The article was the only one for several hours to claim that the “Authorities in USA” have confirmed that the shooter is a transgender women. I went on the website and saw the publication is not a news source at all. The link to the article was hastily shared by many feminists that wanted to explain the fact that a disturbed person that shot people and then herself  must indeed be a trans person. The need to incorporate this event in the feminist narratives “this is the impact of transactivism on the news” or “transwomen are men and have the same pattern of violence as men” is the same kind of need everybody on social networks have: the need to fuel their own perception of reality.

Printscreen_2532 Apr. 06 19.57
I have that need. Everybody has one, because we’re human. Even the feminists who know that they’re in the perception management war on social media have one and it’s pretty hard to control it in that environment. And this is where I don’t agree with the mainstream feminist social networks media warfare.

Yes, I’ve seen other feminists trying to voice out concern over spreading the fictional news, or trying to ask people where did they found their facts about it, and it was a really unpleasant thing to see. There were comments on the weird looks of the shooter, the perception of adam’s apple, the perception of “a bulge” in her pants, and the concern of the use of silicone breasts as props for the videos and pictures the shooter produced for YouTube. There were comments from feminists that warned others that by engaging in this conspiracy they’re damaging “our movement” ( I found these pretty hypocritical because feminists are accepting to be on social networks even though the networks are a prison to us all).

In short, a lot of virtue signalling was going on among gender-critical feminists. The same feminists that are expected to see that the online collectivism in their circles is toxic to their individual perception of reality, as online collectivism is toxic to trans activists in their own bubble.  But if I go further from my own bias (that feminists should collectively be more aware by now that the social network activism is a trap), I find myself disillusioned really quickly. Yes, feminists are also under the inherent influence of social network’s essence: micro-reality production by micro-media management. It’s just a trap and we’re all in it.

Years later feminists will realize that their online presence is owned by the corporations too. It isn’t enough that we already know that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are shutting down feminist accounts, it has to go further. There’s no alternative to the illusion of participation through social networks activism?

Why not forming our own media companies? News sites? Is it possible the only viable constructive investigative work is done by a few feminist sites that are all alone up against this bullshit? Why not telling women that power relies on material reality, not likes and social media visibility, or likeability or presumed virtue? What are we going to do with “knowing” people in reality not only their web presence?

If you have read this blog-post my hopes are you’re at least fed up as I am. Off.

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