It used to be pretty lonely being a left-wing feminist off-campus. While I had political friends I was reasonably sure were feminist too, I was surprised enough times by sexist statements from lefties and ardent rejections of the f word by sisters in the movement that I didn’t take it for granted that we were fellow travellers on the Down With Patriarchy journey.
Slowly but surely I started to identify like-minded individuals, many of them already people I gravitated to for other reasons like simpatico senses of humour. But still it was a lonely every-day existence sometimes, with energy stored up from those sparse get-togethers to see me through.
These days my life fair buzzes with feminist left-wingedness and it’s mostly thanks to my friend The Interweb. Through the internet, blogging at first, then Facebook and now Twitter, I have met so many amazing women; feminists all, left of centre mostly, and each a jewel in their own way. It seems hard to remember now that five and a bit years ago, before The Hand Mirror existed, I was often nervous about posting a feminist-minded status update; how could I know that my Facebook friends wouldn’t trot out the old tropes “man-hater” or “feminazi” or, perhaps worst of all, silently defriend me.
I’ve also found the feminist friends I had all along but didn’t recognise as such, or wasn’t sure of; people from my past, before I was actively political, who I knew from school, or sailing, or via family connections. They’ve been able to show their agreement and support through the really very small, but often highly significant, act of clicking Like.
For me this solidarity has been amazing. Not only have I been able to make visible my work, I’ve been able to receive feedback, not always positive but generally always well-meant. The Likes, the comments, the occasional Shares have been like a kind word in my ear, or a thumbs up and a grin from across the room. Retweets and Favourites are the high fives of the digital world. They give me a warm glow that helps to keep me going when the world that isn’t in the ether is getting tough.
Here’s a very different example which reached across political boundaries: the solidarity shown by dozens, possibly hundreds, of tweeters and bloggers when Colin Craig of the Conservative Party decided to take on The Civillian’s Ben Uffindell for a mischievous satirical misquote.
The proliferation of hashtaggery poking fun at Colin Craig was not just a chance for people to exhibit their wit (although it was also that). It was in a very real way a chance to show support for Uffindell and his (often) good works on The Civillian. Tweeters nailed their colours to the mast, very publicly, and most of them weren’t in Colin Craig’s shade of blue.
Then there were the solidarity blog posts, from other oft-times satirical bloggers Danyl Maclauchlan and Scott Yorke, and even a newspaper column from Toby Manhire, again standing alongside Uffindell, for satire, for freedom of speech, and for puncturing the pomposity of politicians who act in such a humourless manner.
The Power of Like is now an undeniable part of our political interaction. Those who are excluded from the internet are excluded too from this solidarity. I hope we can get better at becoming more effusive with our honest compliments and warm thoughts in real life too.