You guys, it’s happening again. A silence. Scarier than the thinning of the divide between the world of the living and the dead from which comes this season of otherwise delightful spookiness, there is this silencing of feminists whose voices I want to hear.
There’s a lawsuit (actually more than one — but a recent one hits closer to home since it is sort of in my field) out there naming a lot of women and accusing them of talking too much. I don’t know them. I can’t claim to know anything about the claims being made. But I know that, when this suit dropped, my social media fell silent. I got notes from friends telling me that they have been advised to lay low for a while, to choose to be quiet, to not draw attention to themselves. They haven’t been named. But they might be.
I am heartbroken about this. I don’t have anything smart to say. I just wanted to register that this is happening. That there is a silencing effect at work and it ripples out far beyond those who are specifically targeted.
Last spring, I was asked to speak on a panel about social media and my profession. I found myself going back to those remarks because I feel all over again some of what I felt then.
Some time last year, someone I admire was badly trolled and she shut down her social media and stopped writing publicly about a lot of things like feminism and the academy. She asked her friends and allies to stand down and disengage and that really did seem like the best course of action. Trolls don’t deserve our time and they thrive on our attention.
At the time, I thought that losing this voice was a huge loss but I didn’t think it was about me at all.
I was wrong. I stopped blogging.
It wasn’t direct. I didn’t think to myself, a friend has been targeted and I don’t want that so I won’t write anything.
Instead, whenever it was my turn to post, and when the posting deadline came and went, I told myself that I just didn’t have anything to say that week. Or that there were already so many other important things about feminism, and especially about #metoo, being written on other blogs that I just wanted to pause and listen and really hear the things that other women were saying. Or that I was tired. Or that I had to focus on my real work and just couldn’t spare the time to blog just at that moment.
All of this was true.
But I also never said to myself, and could not admit until many months later, that losing that voice, also meant losing something of my own.
It is one of those many situations where we “won” but winning that battle meant a very specific kind of silencing that bled into larger silences.
Not saying publicly, Hey! Back off. That is my friend and warrior and co-conspirator and you suck and all the other things I wanted to say, not saying those things, affected my ability to say anything.
These blog posts demand a kind of honesty and it felt increasingly disingenuous and dishonest to write about anything without also writing about why losing one voice made my own feel more and more fake.
What happened chilled me. It wasn’t immediate but I can see now that it did.
I feel it happening again.
The weather is turning. I am cold again.
I will buck up and find a sweater. Of course, there’s a lot for us to talk about that has nothing to do with lawsuits and the weather. For now, I just want to say, I am feeling a little quiet but I am here, full of raging solidarity for all the good feminist fights.