In further proof that Twitter’s memory is goldfish short, controversy erupted last night over the hashtag #FeministsAreUgly, which was invented by two feminists of color all the way back in August of 2014. Last night, it exploded into controversy all over again, in a truly unholy convergence of 4chan trolls, a bad Twitter update, and young white feminists who didn’t quite get what was going on.
Several times over the past few months, though, people have discovered #FeministsAreUgly, assumed it was propogated by evil sexists, and shared “retorts” like this, featuring photos of pretty, famous, mostly white people:
In other words, the hashtag became an opportunity for people, many of them young white cisgender women, to battle fully imaginary trolls—and thus attract real ones—by showing off their dewiest, doe-eyed, sexiest Selfies for Equality. Sharing a hot photo can be a joy, but fellow Jez writer Jia Tolentino correctly identified what was going down as “the social justice thirst trap.” It inspired responses like this, from British writer Laurie Penny:
Which is true. Beauty and morality aren’t tied together. Being conventionally unattractive has no bearing on a person’s inherent worth. It literally would not matter at all if every feminist on the planet was genuinely, legitimately “ugly.” It wouldn’t change a goddamn thing. In reacting so hard to accusations of “ugliness,” we veer dangerously close to turning ourselves into Bizarro World Ann Coulters here, observing that “all pretty girls are right-wingers.”
On Sunday night, Bolourian responded to those criticisms by pointing out that for feminists of color—the people the hashtag was originally meant to speak to—talking about beauty standards is a way to talk about cultural privilege:
This is a worthy conversation. Unfortunately, Twitter’s ability to muddle any signal is strong (as is, frankly, white feminism’s ability to make everything about white feminists).
To make things even dumber, when #FeministsAreUgly sparked up again last night, 4chan—the Internet’s home for teenage bridge trolls who send me pizza and rape threats when I point out their bridge troll-ness—got involved. On 4chan’s “Politically Incorrect” board last night, someone started this thread, noting, “#feministsareugly is trending and it is a goldmine of, you guessed it, ugly feminists getting triggered.”
Naturally, 4chan waded in with glee, sharing photos in the thread of feminists they deemed “ugly” and composing charming replies like this:
Hot feminists post provocative pics to prove feminists are attractive = porn collection expanded
Ugly feminists post provocative pics to prove feminists are attractive = humor folder expanded
Literally win/win proposition, this hashtag is genius, I wish we’d thought of it sooner.
And just in case things weren’t enough of a queasy shitshow, as the Verge pointed out, we also have Twitter’s terrible new “trends” feature. It tries, Facebook-style, to sum up what’s going on in the trending topics with one sentence. But in this case, pulling from an old Inquistr headline, that one sentence was: “Ugly Feminists Freak Out Over #FeministsAreUgly Hashtag.”
There’s truly something to piss off everyone here, isn’t there? Great job, Twitter. Great job, everybody.
Screengrab via Hocus Pocus/Disney