I feel like there's a lot of things going against feminism in the digital age. The Internet harbors anonymity which encourages people to speak their mind with less filtering than they would in person. Social filtering of news feeds of social networks keeps people inside their own comfort bubbles, not interacting with those outside. This leads to a lot of polarization as people shout chamber themselves into increasingly extreme positions on issues. There are also plenty of conservative media outlets eager to take quotes/tweets/the like from extreme liberals and put them out of context to satirize them; and it works.
The Feminist Goal
This is the age where convincing someone that they are wrong are you are right is pretty difficult. Unfortunately, that's precisely what has to happen to a large number of people in order to accomplish the feminist agenda. Feminism is about gaining equality among genders, and the easiest way to do this is through legislation. Equal pay acts, acts supporting institutions like Planned Parenthood, the like.
Passing legislation requires convincing people to vote in favor of it. That's the area where I think a lot of feminists, including myself need to work on.
There's a lot of memes, jokes, new hashtags, etc. that spread through the feminist communities online that I think alienate other people from becoming feminists.
Gender Words in Negative Behaviors
I remember when manspreading and mansplaining started. If I'm not mistaken, manspreading is when a man takes multiple seats on a bus/train by spreading his legs. And mansplaining is when a man explains something at length in a patronizing or diminutive way that's offensive to the listener, usually a woman.
Why It's a Problem
We've got to realize that the majority of people we must convince of the merits of feminism are men. Men are in power, right? Until more women can enter legislative seats, men are the majority of people that need to be on our side for us to pass legislation.
But when men see "man" being attached to negative/offensive behaviors by feminists, they might feel attacked. Personally, I think attaching any demographic to a negative behavior in that fashion is pretty base.
Thusly, when you watch the conversation online about those hashtags, there are people who report those behaviors and hashtag them, and there are a lot of men complaining that this is another thing by feminists to keep themselves busy and angry or something like that. Interestingly, only the former ended up on my news feed.
Phrases Attacking Demographics
There's other stuff too. I see "down with the cis" or "cis must die" or casual gendered phrases like that sprinkled around LGBT+ communities (closely linked with feminists). "Cis" in this case stands for cisgendered, or someone whose identity and gender didn't change since birth (I believe).
This stuff just creeps me out. How could anyone say "death to" any demographic? Would you like to hear "down with the trans" in retaliation? Nobody deserves to die, regardless of identity. It's not really that funny to joke about.
Not to mention that the majority of people we need to convince, whether to pass a state bathroom bill, or any legislation upholding the rights of genderqueer people, are cisgender. So let's stop using that language please.
People Want to Catharse
The last thing I would like to note, is that I understand that it's cathartic. I've been frustrated myself at society at large for being so close-minded and insolent at times with their inability to do the right thing in regards to gender politics.
Is It All Their Fault?
But I understand that a lot of the people I'm angry at were just brought up that way. Large swaths of our country grew up idolizing the gender hierarchy of working man protecting stay-at-home woman protecting baby. They grew up in towns suspicious of liberals and intellectuals and "city-slickers". They use Facebook and Twitter and are repeatedly fed ideas that confirm their world view in order to get them coming back to the app for those positive feelings. There is little basis for them to change their minds about what they've known for so long.
Tolerance is a Solution
So our job as feminists is to be tolerant and non-accusatory. We can't enter the dialog with a pointing finger. Of course cisgender white men are responsible for many of the laws we are fighting against. That doesn't mean that they are evil. And that doesn't mean that their demographic thinks entirely the same way. And that doesn't mean that they all must take responsibility for the actions of a few. (That's precisely what angers so many black people about our police force)
Buzzwords is not a Solution
We also have to be more accurate with our language. Just because one demographic repeatly does something, doesn't mean it is characteristic to them. Mansplaining would be best described as "patronizing", "condescending", "disdainful". Manspreading with "inconsiderate", "self-centered", "thoughtless". Perhaps it requires more brainpower to describe something with an adjective rather than using a catchy compound word, but so be it; it's our job.
Media Aggregators are Watching
And we have to be cognizant of conservative media. Their depiction of feminists is often unfair, but I do think we give them a fair amount of firewood. When we are on TV, or in some public forum, or even on the Internet, and we are faced with someone criticising feminists, we've got to remember that whatever we say to that person will be remembered (or saved, as is the online case). And if we say something too extreme, it might end up isolated in a post by conservative media and gain a fair amount of disdain by conservative social media users.
It's Hard to Admit!
I hate to place so much importance on maintaining a good image with conservatives, but those are the people we've got to convince in order to get feminist legislation passed. As the USA moves increasingly right (perhaps in the wake of 9/11 and subsequent terrorist attacks), this is only going to get harder and harder.
What Can You Do?
So just think to yourself, how can I promote a healthier dialog? Perhaps using less demographically charged language. Perhaps taking a breath before attacking someone for thinking differently. Perhaps understanding the lack/different education someone might have received. Or perhaps catharsing to friends in private messages or group chats rather than in public forum where it could be counterproductive.
As feminists, our goal isn't just to gain equality, it is also to get tolerance. Tolerance is a two-way street. <3
I'd like to hear your thoughts on this issue; maybe I missed something!