In August 2013 the feminist twitter-sphere lit up with thousands of tweets bearing the hashtag “solidarity is for white women.” NPR article “Twitter Sparks A Serious Discussion About Race and Feminism” outlines the emergence and trajectory of the hashtag.
According to the article, after #solidarityisforwhitewomen was first tweeted by blogger Mikki Kendall on August 12, it rapidly gained traction. During the twitter debates, feminists of color described their absence from “big name feminism” and their lack of inclusion in online feminist dialogue. White women chimed in. Some defended themselves, others acknowledged the importance of the conversation and encouraged their white feminist peers to just listen.
As writer/blogger Roxane Gay wrote: “The #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag reveals fractures in American feminism. Those fractures run so…deep it’s hard to believe they can be healed.”
These fractures are also part of the history of U.S. feminism. A movement as large and long lasting as feminism has never been monolithic. Debates persist about inclusion and exclusion, ideology and identity. This is not to argue that the discussion resulting from the hashtag is unimportant, nor to gloss over racism in the movement. Rather, I point this out to acknowledge the continuity and change in feminism.
This twitter debate illustrates that the medium for feminist debate has changed. The NPR article argued that a notable feminist discussion occurred through tweets, which are 140 characters or under.
In “This Protest Will Be Tweeted” (Information, Communication and Society 2013, 16:4), Professor Jennifer Earl, Heather McKee Hurwitz, Analicia Mejia, Margaret Tolan, and Ashley Arlotti argue that twitter is invaluable to protesters. Others too, have demonstrated the power of twitter in protest. Perhaps an examination of cultural dimensions of movements on twitter would also be fruitful. Although twitter requires brevity, its scholarly analyses need not.