Yesterday’s Twitter buzz about the Steubenville teenagers’ rape conviction and the tone of wider media’s coverage of the verdict led me to the depressing and enraging entertainment source of publicshaming.tumblr.com. It seems to carry a higher purpose than other sites that engage in, well, public shaming – FailBlog and many offshoots in its Cheezburger network (god, I can’t believe we live in a world where this sentence actually means something), for example. Public social media, the kind that’s drawn in all types to interact on the internet )and not just geeks, nerds, and losers as was the case when I got into it before it was cool) has made mainstream opinions more accessible straight from the horse’s mouth. The voices of the people must be HEARD, then recorded in some format that allows the voices of other people to deconstruct public sentiment and why inequalities are being perpetuated despite continuous struggles for equality.
Good on the person, the people, who collect samples of these reactions to bring them to light. It’s not a job for the weak of heart. It takes having to tolerate knowing just how many people are in the dark on their own reality. The means by which I come across these representative samples is through people who are like-minded or under the same umbrella of perspective and thought. The things I read from regular people – regular strangers – are selected to be enlightening to me, to continuously grow my understanding starting from a common ground.
One of these people whom I wrote about last week, Stefanie Zipnick aka @donglord69, got a lot of attention this morning by explaining what’s wrong with the knee-jerk solution – that prevention comes from women being less legs and more arms, so to speak. The “don’t be a slut” and “don’t get drunk, stupid” pieces of advice are on the lowest level of human intellectual capacity and I just don’t have time to explain what’s wrong with them even more. The “carry a gun” and “learn to defend yourself” solutions still put the burden on women having to stop rape rather than men having to not rape. She, and other regular everyday feminists I follow because they’re usually hilarious and, when not, encouragingly insightful, has spoken on this issue countless times in…however long a period of time I’ve been following this stranger I feel I now know and admire.
And there are more. I only recently, despite knowing of her through similar circles to people like DongLord above, started following Ayesha A. Siddiqi, aka @pushinghoops. Similarly, she often gets pulled into teaching lessons on where commonly held prejudices hide. Having the advantage of being a Muslim woman of Pakistani origin, she has compounded experiences of sexism and racism of a variety people still think is justified – because we, “The West”, which includes whoever counts as “white” plus African- and Hispanic-Americans as long as they’re Christian, have achieved freedom, and other parts of the world have not. This is why, as Ms. Siddiqi put it, “American media would care a lot more about the victim + analyzing the surrounding culture had Steubenville gang rape taken place in India”. As I’ve said somewhere before – probably many places before, to all too many of you poor listening ears – as I’m learning from the perspectives of a diversity of people, it confirms and refines my intellectual suspicions that the West’s concern with women elsewhere is actually looking for reasons to justify racism against these other cultures as a whole.
The people I follow who express these opinions are limited, in part because including everyone who often has a good thing or two to say would be a lot to keep up with. Instead I’ve chosen a few voices to listen to, and to trust what they retweet. That’s a phenomenal thing about Twitter culture. I can read the thoughts expressed by strangers to a point of being interested in reading them regularly. I can share the thoughts of theirs I find most insightful and relevant to the people who read what I have to say, and conversely I get exposed to what they share from the voices they want to keep reading. It’s the power of networking, the exponential audience, the exposure to more perspectives both good and bad – that’s what makes the internet democratically empowering. “Public shaming” isn’t forcing people into stockades like its former incarnations as formal punishment for what should be free speech – it’s a populist, self-governing enforcement of accountability from citizen to citizen. Some might see it as flaming people who are entitled to their own opinions, but I see it as a public service. I don’t have to actively search for other people to spark some ire and get my ideological passions going. Through people like me, I find people that are not like me, and from that I can get inspired and feel more closely connected to strangers who are just trying to enlighten, who help enlighten me.