Women not supporting women?

Another day, another list of top tweeters that pretty much ignores women.  And then this genius at the Independent decided that this must be because women are bitchy and unsupportive of each other.  And she concluded this because the stats don’t lie – this was scientifically analysed and so cannot be accused of gender bias.

Except – you can’t exclude gender bias by simply ignoring it.  How did they account for the bias within mainstream media and politics?  How did they account for the exclusion of women from politics, comedy and commentary?  They didn’t – and this is where the study was hugely gender-biased.  We also all know how much misogyny exists within twitter – how did they exclude this when deciding how much women were heard?  This study wasn’t gender-neutral, it took the gender bias from society and replicated it.

So of course, her conclusion that “we’re wary of other women’s success” is completely without grounds.

One of the things that so many people love about twitter is that it removes the bias we experience in the mainstream media and politics.  We can find other people who think like we do (or challenge us) and are not constrained by what is deemed by upper class white men to be important.  It’s been an absolute revelation for me to find sites like Womens Views on News that unearth important stories about women.  To find journalists like @Sianushka to offer a feminist commentary on news of the day.  To find campaigners like @theNatFantastic who are changing the world.  I don’t live or work in a town with a big feminist presence, and so to find out that my views aren’t quirky or extreme has been an incredible boost to my confidence.

Other women have supported me too.  I wouldn’t have learnt to tweet without the awesome @Trishie_D setting a great example and tweeting with me.  I certainly wouldn’t have started my blog without encouragement from @PitandPendulum.  I am also inspired by the support that women offer each other – for example when the #unilad scandal really broke, the women who were particularly targeted by offensive misogynists were, I know, overwhelmed by the messages of support that flew their way over twitter.

I could concede that perhaps men and women use twitter differently somtimes.  As much as it sticks in my throat to say this, hundreds of years of conditioning can still mean that men and women communicate differently.  And because of this (as well as the media bias I mentioned above) it’s vital that any study of influential tweeters considers these factors if they want to really look at who is influencing people. 

I’m going to finish with an anecdote – that’s all it is, I’m not claiming scientific objectivity.  Stephen Fry often comes out high in these influential tweeter polls, and I’ve heard charities say that one tweet from him, plugging their cause is worth about £10,000.  I’m never sure how they calculate this, but it seems to have become some kind of lore.  The other day, Sue Perkins made a real change in the world by calling a schoolgirl on a homophobic tweet, and contacting her headmaster to offer to go to the school and take an assembly.  Which person is really having the most influence on the world here?  And this is the crux of my point.  If you conduct a study, rewarding male styles of communicating, in a male-dominated society, of course more men are going to come out on top.

Please don’t then blame women for this.  Blame society, blame the study.  Blame yourself and go looking for more women if you don’t feel that your timeline has enough strong women in it – there’s plenty of them out there.

Twitter is full of AWESOME women, and I really do feel that they’re chipping away at society to make a real difference.  And twitter has enabled me to become a tiny part of that.


6 Comments on “Women not supporting women?”

  1. Molly says:

    I thought the “women don’t support women” premise was particularly tone deaf in the wake of Twitter-based campaigns in the U.S. against Komen for the Cure and Rush Limbaugh for taking anti-woman positions. Maybe those stories haven’t been getting as much attention in the U.K., but they’re high-profile, women-driven efforts that have had real-world results.

  2. jenniesue says:

    Thanks Molly, I hadn’t even thought of that. There have been some similar campaigns here in the UK that have been awesome – and the global Slut Walk movement I don’t think would have happened without women on twitter.
    Another whole avenue I hadn’t considered – thank you!

  3. NjugunaN says:

    An example of women not supporting women : Women still rarely vote for women.

    Need proof : Senate 83 men 17 women; Congress 22% women.

    We might chalk all this down to patriarchal socialization which states that leader means man,but this is a tired explanation that we need to move past as a human society.


    • Molly says:

      I agree the numbers of women in Congress are abysmal, but I don’t think that can be totally blamed on “women not supporting women.” Women have to *run* for us to be able to vote for them, and they don’t do that nearly as often as men do. Out of the 51 people running for Congress or governor in my state this year, only four are women. That said, I do think we should invest more time and money in encouraging women to enter politics at all levels.

      • jenniesue says:

        Interesting challenge NjugunaN, but I don’t think it’s quite that simple (at least here in the UK).
        I don’t know how things differ in the US, but here in the UK you also have to be selected by a major party to stand a chance of getting elected – and although there are a few women-only shortlists pushing women to the fore, overwhelmingly the selection committees (laregely white, male dominated) are selecting men to stand. And so women don’t have the choice to vote for a woman candidate.
        Having said that, I do agree with Molly that we can do more to encourage women to stand. And I think twitter particularly are giving a voice to women, and a platform for women to stand up and be counted which hopefully will contribute towards an increasing number of women entering politics.

  4. Otternator says:

    Excellent post as always, J-to-the-Sue. And huzzah for Sue Perkins, I have serious respect for her after that. Basically all the people with “sue” in their name have been awesome. EOM.

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