social media, social change

the essential kit

My fandom is a mess. Not just my fandom. The halls of my chosen career, too. SFF is a mess, in a political sense, with regards to sexism and racism. There’s the very recent problem with the SFWA Bulletin (type SFWA into Google and that link is the first thing that comes up), there’s the nobody-is-surprised news that Tor editor Jim Frenkel has had a formal report filed against him for sexual harrassment, there’s there genuinely bizarre fake geek girl hubub…it all goes on and on, and it’s being discussed hugely in the community.

On a larger scale, the same is being discussed world-wide. Womens’ rights in general, the pervasive “rape culture” (which I enquote not because I’m dismissing the phrase but because it’s a relatively new one to me and I’ve seen it used a great deal in the past six months), abortion rights. Beyond that is the rapidly changing tide regarding marriage equality* and gay rights, and beyond that, the world-wide revolutions where we’ve seen governments shut down internet access to the best of their ability in order to prevent real news coming out.

While all of these things are certainly worth talking about, what I’m actually noticing and wondering is how much social media is forcing a critical mass on topics which have previously risen, been debated, and fallen away again. There is now always someone willing to pick up the baton; someone who is easily accessed in a way that just a few years ago wouldn’t have been possible. For a long time I thought it might just be my particular circle of friends hitting some (or all) of these topics, but when major traditional news sources are picking up the stories, carrying the debates, and using the terminology, it’s becoming clear that it’s not just my left-leaning liberal feminist friends who are on this particular boat.

A friend of mine said a couple of years ago, when we were discussing a particularly offensive ad, that he wasn’t surprised misogyny was on the rise; it was a recession, men were out of work, out of work men felt threatened, threatened men make haste to belittle women. I suspect he was on to something. But I’m also seeing this crest rising, and I’m wondering if it’s approaching an unbreakable speed, thanks in large part to the power of social media offering outlets and support.

Not that I imagine things are going to become sunny and non-sexist overnight–it will indubidably be a continuing work of decades–but if people are beginning to have the confidence to speak out en masse, with strangers shoring up those who are brave enough or who have need to speak, it’s possible the the tide could turn. And I really do wonder how much or if social media is affecting that sea change. (Okay, have I worked enough water metaphors in there? I think so.) If it is, then for all the irritating aspects of Twitter, Facebook, even Livejournal at times, they’re worth it for the chance to become the change we want to see in the world.

*Report on twitter the other day, after a 5 year old had the DOMA strike-down explained to him, he went on to explain it to his 2 year old brother: “It’s GREAT news! It means we don’t have to marry GIRLS!” *laughs and laughs*