I hurried into 92Y and took a seat in the third row, between a lesbian couple, who gladly let me pass them, and a cute white girl wearing a faux leopard coat, so I was in good company.
At least I felt that way.
The crowd, as a whole, was diverse in gender and race. I saw as many men as women in the crowd, seemingly just as eager to hear trans women’s rights activitist Janet Mock, Joy Reid of MSNBC’s The Reid Report and Lizz Winnstead, co-creator of The Daily Show and head of Lady Parts Justice join a conversation hosted by Elizabeth Plank on “Millenial Feminism.” A talk that turned out to be very much a look back on how feminism made it’s mark in 2014.
The conversation began as you’d expect. Gushing over Beyoncé’s undoubtedly important role in ushering in new wave feminism.
But it got deeper (no shade to our Bey) and social media’s grand stance in today’s feminist movement was a common thread through the entire discussion. Who were the voices? What doors had it unlocked? And how, despite its set backs (and Twitter’s twitches,) could users utilize it is as a tool to safely and courageously spread thoughts and ideas on their feminism?
All having veracious twitter followings and separate experiences voicing their stances on feminism, the panelists and Plank spoke a lot about the good, bad and ugly of the keyboard.
There was great discussion on #hashtivism and its perils and triumphs. On one hand, we have seen how social media is a powerful tool to bring awareness and organize protest. We see movements birthed on social media, and mainstream media pick up stories for their daily shows, thanks to Twitter. #BringBackOurGirls, case in point.
On the other, women who are persistently vocal about their experiences as, well, women, are targeted. Reid explained how the “anti-women ethos” is especially viscous on social media.
“These trolls so loyal,” Mock chimed in.
Lizz Winstead then brought up an idea I found interesting, backed by an evident observation. “Social Media Bootcamp.”
“When young women and young people are developing their voices and the medium is now the internet, and that’s where [they’re] writing, and that’s where [they’re] creating, I really feel like we need to have seminars where we really walk people through what people actually see in your feed and versus what you’re feeling and what you see.” Winstead went on to explain, “So that people won’t have their voices silenced. I do fear that some of our strongest, most interesting people are going to be freaked out by these shit heads.”
This was a smart talk because Plank, Mock, Reid and Winstead all brought something different and valuable.
With that being said, a quick memo about Mock that must be addressed: we’ve been doing ourselves an injustice by conveniently coining Mock as only a women’s rights activist, when she is so much more. Her nuanced thoughts on feminism during the 92Y panel touted broader questions about media today. It’s easy to tell she examines culture from many angles. During the panel, she never seemed to take any claim at face value and pushed her fellow panelist, Plank and the audience to ask more questions about the relevancy of topics brought up. Refreshing. It helped to push the conversation towards thinking about feminism’s actual situation in American culture today. Thankfully, with the launch of her new streaming show at MSNBC, “So POPular,” we’ll begin to see Mock as the tastemaker she already is.
You can watch the hour long talk below: