Last week, the news broke that Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein allegedly harassed and assaulted dozens of women.
Many members of the entertainment industry came out to distance themselves from Weinstein and send good thoughts to the victims. Actress Rose McGowan, who in 1997 reached a $100,000 settlement with Weinstein after a hotel room incident at the Sundance Film Festival, was particularly vocal — taking to task not just Weinstein, but also industry insiders who she claims turned a blind eye to behavior that was reportedly well known.
Late on Thursday evening, McGowan’s Twitter account — where she’d been reprimanding everyone from Jeff Bezos, who McGowan alleges knew about Weinstein’s alleged actions, to Ryan Gosling, who she felt was disrespectful toward Weinstein’s victims — was suspended. Twitter, which has often taken heat for poorly dealing with online harassment, issued a statement saying that the suspension occurred because McGowan tweeted a private phone number.
This did nothing to calm the fury of thousands of women (and men), who were outraged that the actress’s account had been shut down while she was advocating for victims.
In response to McGowan being silenced, software developer Kelly Ellis proposed a day of female silence on Twitter, branded with the hashtag #WomenBoycottTwitter. Within hours, women across the Internet were signing off their accounts in solidarity. On Friday, the hashtag trended across Twitter as both critics and supporters of the movement chimed in.
Some supporters argue that taking their voices off Twitter — and presumably using them on other platforms — hits the company where it hurts, in the digital metrics that translate into dollars. This is absurd—a 24-hour boycott by a fraction of Twitter users will not cause this multimillion-dollar company to lose measurable revenue.
But the sentiment behind #WomenBoycottTwitter is understandable.
This is a year where America inaugurated a president who jokes about grabbing women by their genitals. It’s a year where despite being accused of sexual assault, harassment, and misconduct by more than 50 women, Bill Cosby walks free. It’s a year where, overnight, access to birth control became more complicated for some women. McGowan’s temporary Twitter suspension is but a microaggression in the grand scheme of in-your-face, screw-you-over, ruin-your-life aggressions. But it can feel like just another ember on the garbage fire of 2017.
In times like these, it is easy to grasp at anything — even a small action like temporarily quitting a social media platform — that feels like you’re doing something to fight back against hits that won’t stop coming.
But here’s what #WomenBoycottTwitter gets wrong:
At its very core, the #WomenBoycottTwitter movement is misguided and flawed. The response to women being silenced should not be an action that encourages women to stay silent. The voices of women and the men who support women are the most important currency we have against aggression and hatred.
By shutting up and stepping back, women are giving the bad guys, the misogynists, the Harvey Weinsteins and Bill Cosbys and Donald Trumps, exactly what they want: a world where only their opinions matter, only their voices are heard and only their power is maintained. (This is also known as everyday in America — and it’s even harder for women of color than it is for white women.)
Instead of #WomenBoycottTwitter, women (and men) should find ways to empower and elevate women. Here are a few suggestions:
Spend your money at women-owned businesses. In Philadelphia, you can do this at many places. Try any of the restaurants owned by Marcie Turney and Val Safran that have revitalized 13th Street. Or visit the Girls Auto Clinic Repair Center, a salon and auto-repair shop owned by Patrice Banks. Or Kensington’s Amalgam Comics and Books, owned by Ariell Johnson.
Support women-focused organizations. Women in Transition provides counseling to Philly women who are endangered by domestic violence and substance abuse. The Greater Philadelphia Diaper Bank partners with nonprofits and other organizations to donate diapers to homeless shelters and other organizations where moms are in need. The Philadelphia chapter of #HappyPeriod collects and distributes menstrual hygiene products to homeless and low-income women.
Donate to organizations that help girls become strong leaders. TechGirlz empowers Philly girls by teaching them the technology skills that are so often targeted at boys. “Through the practice of fearless expression, artistic experimentation, and collaboration,” Girls Rock Philly teaches young women to play music and work together on performances.
Support politicians who support women’s rights. Election Day is just a few weeks away and there are female candidates running for office in Philly and in the suburbs. Your vote is your voice. Use it wisely.
People show support for one another — and rage against injustices — in varying ways. For thousands of women, that meant pulling on a pink hat and marching with signs on Jan. 21 at the Women’s March. For others, it can mean quietly resisting in smaller ways like speaking up in male-dominated meetings or mentoring younger women.
Rose McGowan was on the right track by speaking out against Harvey Weinstein. The point is that change requires women and the men who support them to take action.