Boys Keep Swinging

My Twitter profile defines me as a feminist, social media expert, new mother and food blogger/lavender jam peddler.

Before going on "baby holiday", my salaried day job was in marketing communications; I was responsible for email marketing and social media, the voice of the company if you will.
Truthfully, it took me 4 years, yes that's 4 years, to get my company to even warm up to social media, much less accept and embrace it as part of the sales and customer service process and now that I'm on maternity leave it's certainly no longer being championed. And why indeed should it be given the current climate?

I support 19 other businesses with their social media strategy. In some cases with set up, training and consultancy, in other cases getting my hands dirty and actually managing pages or working on campaigns. In every case, where they followed my advice they have seen great returns. In those who did it to "tick a box" stopped truly engaging and even cross-platforming (using Facebook to update Twitter and vice versa *massive facepalm*) out of laziness I'm sure it comes as no surprise that they were less successful.  I have been part of some amazing campaigns, some charitable, all fun and it's a method of communication that I was very very passionate about.

Twitter for example represented the great equaliser. A place where absolutely anyone with an internet connection has a voice. For free. A place where celebrities and scientists can correct the heinous lies and mistakes of the media and engage directly with their fans. A place where nerds can connect with other nerds sharing a completely obscure passion. A place where people can unite and fight for a cause or promote a product. A place where brands can take the temperature of the success of their campaigns and products.

The early days of Twitter, the rise of this bold new frontier was glorious. Fabulous. Incredible. I was early enough in the game for Stephen Fry - patron saint of Twitter - to follow me. I was there before hashtags began appearing on television shows. I was there when it was wonderful.

These days, as I inferred earlier, not so much.

These days I find myself cursing Facebook for selling out to The Man and using EdgeRank to exclude small business owners from reaching the audience that has chosen to follow them. For treating pictures of women breastfeeding as pornography yet turning a blind eye to pictures representing violence against women. I find myself cursing Twitter for being completely swamped by superfans like Beliebers whose sheer strength in numbers do not use their power for good but merely to get "Justin Forever" or some other such meaningless rubbish trending. Trends used to represent genuine news, causes and controversy. Now it represents a generation of teenagers worshipping the follicles of their idol.

Another reason I am rapidly falling out of love with Twitter is the trolling. The media and the bloggisphere have recently been churning out post after post about rape culture and sexism and the terrifying vitriol that is aimed at men and women alike (though admittedly more often women) for expressing an opinion, for having a voice. Free speech gives us the absolute right to air criticism, but when people cross the line from criticism to crime... why isn't anyone doing anything about it?

Politicians such as David Cameron get responses to every tweet - no matter what the subject - with cries of "cunt" and ever more elaborate death threats. I can't claim to like the man, or his colleagues but he's a person like any other and should not have a buggery wished upon him in the name of "humour".

Yes, with wanky marks and everything. Because rape jokes are not funny.

Speaking of, Caroline Criado-Perez has been hitting the headlines recently after speaking out about the rape-threats she received merely for campaigning for an equal representation of women and men on our banknotes. When MP Stella Creasy supported her publicly, she became just as much of a focus.

I have seen countless examples of abuse against women on Twitter and it leaves my heart heavy in my chest. The fantastic work of #EverydaySexism is a drop in the ocean compared to the dedication demonstrated by some of the mysogynists out there. These are people who, when blocked, doggedly set up account after account and continue to relentlessly pursue their target whilst onlookers sympathetically suggest that the victim should just "take a break" from twitter or block them. Is it any wonder that so many instances of rape, stalking and harassment are unreported if this is the kind of response that we offer? It is NOT the victim's responsibility to brazen it out or hide away from it, it's society's responsibility to empower her to report it and to report it to someone who will give the complaint the respect it deserves and act upon it.

Whilst a "report abuse" button is a welcome step, I want more. I want to go to the perpetrators and simply ask "why?"  Why do you feel it necessary to object to women for expressing their opinion? Why do you feel it acceptable to wish rape and death upon them? What could have possibly led to your attitude, much less your actions?

I have written many times about the way women are portrayed by the media as nothing more than body parts and rape culture on Twitter is fostered as a result of this.

Twitter is now facing requests to police its platform. Plans for a Twitter Strike were floated by Caitlin Moran. People are deleting their accounts in droves.

The solution is not to drive these people from Twitter with a pitchfork, the solution is surely to confront them about and change their behaviour because otherwise only the platform will change.

Earlier in the year I applauded the suggestion that rather than women be told to change their clothes, behaviour and habits in order to be safe from rape that men be told to simply stop raping them.

If only it was that simple - but it should be.

Ziggy played guitarrrrrraaaaarrrrraaaarrrrrr.
Title: Boys Keep Swinging by David Bowie