In light of recent journalistic failures, I deemed it necessary to have “the talk” with twitter about the safety and privacy of survivors. Below is a slightly modified version of the talk I had with twitter earlier today. [TW: Mention of rape]
Hey internet? How ya doing? I figure it’s time we sit down and have “the talk”. No, not that one. The one about right and wrong. I know this has been said so many times before but it needs to be said again. Just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean that you should. Journalists have the ability to do lots of things. Legally, they are allowed to do many things. Does that mean they should in all cases? No. That is the problem we’re having lately. Many “journalists” as of late seem to believe that just because they can do certain things that they should do them and they are doing them. This is putting a lot of people in serious danger.
There’s a story going around with White Feminist “journalists” like a game a telephone and every time it reaches a new person the story gets more and more warped and the person at the center of it is left to ward off attacks. All of this is happening because one horrible “journalist” decided to do something legal that they technically could do but shouldn’t have. The original story, of survivors sharing what they were wearing when they were attacked, has now been all but washed away. Had the original bad “journalist” waited, they could have had a very meaningful & powerful account of the thorough debunking of the “don’t dress like a slut & you won’t get raped” fallacy. Instead, in their rush to create a simple, clickbait, context free listicle, they violated the privacy of so very many people and funneled abuse toward the survivors who shared their stories.
Some of you may say “but they blurred out some names and faces”. That’s true, but they also linked to the timeline of the person who originally retweeted their stores. Their names and faces aren’t blurred out there. Some of you may say “but they put it on twitter so what’s the difference”. I say to you, it’s pretty damn obvious. There’s a massive difference in exposure between a few twitter accounts that have, at most, 10,000 followers between them and a major website that gets millions of views daily. Add in that said article was on the front page and the fact it was shared outside of twitter (e.g., Facebook, Reddit, tumblr), it’s easy to see how the people who thought their stories would be shared to a relatively safe group of people now feel totally and utterly betrayed.
Many of the survivors who did share their stories have said they regret doing so. Think about that for a minute. The survivors who shared their stories REGRET doing so. On top of that, many who didn’t share their stories have said that they’re GLAD they didn’t because what happened confirmed their fears. To compound the pure mess, many “feminists” have come out not to defend the survivor’s right to privacy but to defend the “journalists”. There are people who have the audacity to call themselves “feminists” defending journalists who violated the privacy & trust of survivors.
This whole mess has shown me that, in addition to having so many other issues, feminism and journalism are littered with rape culture. Yes, I said it. Rape culture is present and thriving in both journalism and feminism. Every “feminist” that argues what that “journalist” did was legal and therefore right is participating in rape culture. Every person that “jokes” about getting permission to use tweets or retweet a person is participating in rape culture. Every “journalist” that writes a piece defending that website & it’s journalist, and claims that everyone criticizing them is overreacting is participating in rape culture. You may think you aren’t and they aren’t, but you are.
You’re sending the message to survivors that if they should just keep quiet if they want any respect and/or privacy. You’re sending the message to survivors that if they do speak out, their story and words are no longer their own and they have no privacy. You’re sending out the message that feminism condones rape culture in certain circumstances because the story is more important than people. You’re sending out the message that you only care about survivors who act in a way you approve of.
You may argue that this isn’t you intention, that you didn’t mean to do this. That doesn’t matter right now. Your intentions, no matter how pure, do not wash away the real and tangible damage you have done. You’ve hurt a lot of people. You’ve violated the trust and the privacy of so many more. Intentions and defensiveness won’t wash that away. You’ve participated in a culture of fear and silence that does more damage that you can possibly imagine. You are part of the reason why so many people have come to reject the “feminist” title. You are part of the reason why survivors stay silent and why no one trusts “journalists”.
It is up to you to apologize and rectify your mistakes as best you can. If no one ever forgives you for this, that’s completely fine. No one has to forgive you. No one has to accept your apology. You have to do better.
This was a good talk internet. Let’s hope you remember what was said today and we never have to do this again. (I’m not holding my breath.)