“a moment of intervention”
Because there’s no audio component to Twitter, women’s voices are harder to dismiss as “shrill” or “annoying.” Because there’s no audio component, Keith Olbermann’s words can’t benefit from his baritone gravitas. The subconscious processes that incline us to hear a man’s voice (and a lower voice) as more judicious or reasonable or authoritative than a woman’s are harder to trigger on Twitter. Like song lyrics in the absence of the song, both sets of words have to stand alone. This is an amazingly democratizing side effect…
Which brings me to the second advantage Twitter affords women: comparative invisibility. In the example above, Keith Olbermann demonstrates a kneejerk (and often quite effective) response to a female opponent—scour her image for something to criticize. Olbermann did his best, but he didn’t have much to work with. Twitter actually offers precious little fodder to those who, if provided with a physical image, would immediately criticize their weight, size, demeanor, etc. Despite the abundance of determined trolls (as well as legitimate critics) using the #Mooreandme hashtag, you’ll find comparatively few references to the appearances of the women concerned. If you’ve spent any time anywhere else on the internet, you’ll know how unprecedented this is.
Reminded me just a little of this:
Tsitsi Dangarembga opens her novel Nervous Conditions with the following, “I was not sorry when my brother died.” This is a shocking statement which I cannot imagine uttered in a room full of uncles, grandmothers, parents, or siblings. Moreover, being uttered by a woman, without preamble; the head bowed for example, the knees bending, the voice disguised and apologetic, the voice bending even farther than the knees can reach. None of this. In the culture in which Dangerembga’s pronouncement is set, such a statement would make clear that the speaker has been abandoned by her ancestors and all acts of healing summoned.
Dangerembga does not apologize for the taboo in her mouth. For being a witness. If speaking is still difficult to negotiate, then writing has created a free space for most women — much freer than speech. There is less interruption, less immefiate and shocked reaction. The written text is granted its intimacy, its privacy, its creation of a world, its proposals, its individual characters, its suspension of disbelief. It surprises in the best carnival way, reducing distances, accepting the least official stance. The book is bound, circulated, read. It retains its autonomy much more than a woman is allowed in the oral situation. Writing offers a moment of intervention.