Best-of lists are always controversy magnets. By definition, they elevate some at the expense of others. Earlier this week, when Fast Company published a list, compiled by Ann Charles, of “25 of the Smartest Women on Twitter” that failed to include a single woman of color, the Twittersphere responded immediately. Within a day, the hashtag #SmartBlackWomenofTwitter, created by @FeministaJones, trended, and additional hashtags sprung up in its wake. Soon, the tags #SmartLatinaWomenofTwitter, #SmartAAPIWomenofTwitter, and #SmartNativeWomenofTwitter (all created by @graceishuman) were generating conversations and more lists. What started as a reaction to the biases of the Fast Company list quickly grew into an online consciousness-raising meet-and-greet.
While lists are inherently essentialist and are arguably never really complete, Twitter makes it possible for us to continue, extend and customize our own lists. In the world of 140-character posts, we can quickly identify others who share our interests and forge alliances. We can react to current events, add our viewpoints and even change conversations.
Best of all, Twitter is fundamentally interactive. For feminists, Twitter can accelerate the flow of ideas and facilitate social change. In a spirit akin to that of the Riot Grrrls of the 1990s, who made use of photocopiers, word of mouth and the U.S. Postal Service as part of a feminist DIY (Do It Yourself) ethic, Twitter can help feminists connect with one another instantly and allow for messages that are produced—and updated—collectively.
As queer white feminist academics who met on Twitter this week when we shared our dismay over the Fast Company list, we applaud the #SmartWomenofTwitter hashtag creators. The hashtags continue to offer opportunities for women of color to join forces and for other Twitter participants to discover and celebrate these women. This is valuable cultural work.
Keeping in mind that the original list was published in Fast Company, a business-oriented site, we shouldn’t be surprised that the list was not particularly feminist. In our view, the success of the Twitter campaigns in response to the list can’t be measured by Fast Company’s issuing of a second list which featured all women of color—although it’s always good to see women of color get recognized in places where they previously weren’t. Even more important, these discussions illustrate the value of intersectionality—the idea that systems of oppression are interconnected—and should encourage us to engage more fully in intersectional practices. Biased best-of lists emerge from a cultural context that perpetuates interlocking systems of oppression.
If you’re not already interacting with other feminists on Twitter, we’d like to provide some advice on how to make your own lists, and we’ve even created the hashtag #SmartFeministsofTwitter as one possible point of departure. Although we would be hard-pressed to come up with a specific number of Twitter personae to suggest and will not adopt the exclusionary practice of presenting a “complete” list, we want to suggest some approaches that will be particularly useful for feminist Twitter newbies. We believe in the idea of feminism espoused by theorist and cultural critic bell hooks (follow her on Twitter @bellhooks!) in Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center that values action (“I advocate feminism”) over identity (“I am a feminist”). Not all cisgendered women are feminists, and not all feminists are cisgendered women.
A good starting place once you set up your new Twitter account and begin to seek people and entities to follow is the simple hashtag #feminism (go ahead and search, we’ll wait…). You can also find #feminist and #feminists. See who’s tweeting with these hashtags, then decide if you want to make a connection. To see the possibilities for complex, nuanced and heated debate on Twitter, search under #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, created by Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia–follow her, too!). You’ll find numerous smart voices there, and you can see interactive intersectionality in action.
In terms of people and feeds to follow, we’ve already mentioned @FeministaJones, @gracieishuman, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t namecheck Ms. friend @FeministHulk—and @msmagazine! Now, from our own Twitter feeds, we offer a handful of categories with the beginnings of what we intend to be open-ended lists that will give you some entry points into the feminist Twittersphere. If we left you off or missed anyone we should know about, please share here and/or on the Twitter thread. That’s what interactivity is all about!
(Note: Within categories, the lists are strictly alphabetical, not hierarchical. Full names are often, but not always, listed in Twitter profiles.)
@feministabulous Elizabeth Plank
@feministfatale Melanie Klein
@feministteacher Ileana Jimenez
Advocates and Activists
@jamiaw Jamia Wilson
@janetmock Janet Mock
@Jess_Danforth Jessica Danforth
@katebornstein Kate Bornstein
@NativeApprops Adreienne K.
@ShelbyKnox Shelby Knox
Writers, Journalists, Bloggers
@jaclynf Jaclyn Friedman
@jennpozner Jennifer Pozner
@pamspaulding Pam Spaulding
@xeni Xeni Jardin
@AntheaButler Anthea Butler
@c_j_pascoe CJ Pascoe
@imaniperry Imani Perry
@MHarrisPerry Melissa Harris-Perry
@ProfessorCrunk Brittney Cooper
@ProfTriciaRose Tricia Rose
@StephanieCoontz Stephanie Coontz
Celebrities and Comedians
@KateClinton Kate Clinton
@Lavernecox Laverne Cox
@LizzWinstead Lizz Winstead
@MarthaPlimpton Martha Plimpton
This is only a start, so get busy: Join the conversation, make friends and recommendations. Your DIY feminist community is just a click away!
Audrey Bilger (@AudreyBilger) is a professor of literature and faculty director of the Center for Writing and Public Discourse at Claremont McKenna College. She is co-editor, with Ms. magazine senior editor, Michele Kort, of Here Come the Brides! Reflections on Lesbian Love and Marriage, a 2013 Lambda Literary Awards finalist.
D’Lane Compton (@drcompton) is an assistant professor of sociology at The University of New Orleans. Her career and research interests use social psychology and demography to examine issues of inequalities and methodologies, especially as extended to gender, sexuality, the family and social media.