Ernesto Aguilar, a former DGR member, interviewed Meghan Murphy of Feminist Current for Women’s History Month in March 2013. Murphy presents a clear and articulate analysis of the current state of online feminism – strengths and weaknesses, successes and works in progress, allies and backlash. She spoke extensively on the destructive tendency of online discussions to turn into horizontal hostility, and the ongoing pattern of silencing women:
I don’t think that attacking and harassing feminists online counts as activism, or as supporting women, even if you kind of pretend you’re doing it on behalf of women. Regardless of how you frame it, it’s still about woman-hating, and it’s about anti-feminism, and that’s not progressive. If you’re a man and you’re harassing or silencing women, you can’t pretend to be a progressive person or a person who cares about liberty or human rights or women’s lives or the well being of women. That’s not what allies do.
Later in the interview, she gets specific about a prominent silencing mechanism:
There’s this thing that’s become popular in the feminist blogosphere, and that’s this overuse of the phobia language. I think that’s a big problem. It’s become common practice to label any [feminist] critique as a phobia. You hear things like “kink phobia”, or “whore phobia”, “transphobia”, on and on and on. And I’ve personally been accused of all of these things, and I don’t hate or fear prostituted women or trans people or kinky people.
What I want to have is conversations, and this is just another way to shut down conversation, and it’s a part of the bullying that goes on in some parts of online feminism. It’s about keeping people in line, and it’s about keeping conversations restricted within narrow boundaries. If you don’t like what someone says, you can call them some version of “phobic” and you can call someone a bigot and everyone shuts up. These are kind of the magic words that put fear in every feminist’s heart, because they know that if they’re called one of these things – some kind of “phobic” – that no one will stick up for them, because everyone else is afraid of being labeled by association. Everyone’s afraid to have real conversations, because they see what happens, and they see what happens to other feminists, and they don’t want that to happen to them.
Listen to the entire interview embedded below (originally posted at Feminist Current). And for elaboration on the tactic of shutting down feminist discourse by threatening to apply vague but powerful labels, see the latest article at Feminist Current: “How ‘TERF’ works”, by Sarah Ditum.