By Daniela Meza
I became a member of the ExperienceProject.com close to two months ago and joined the “I am a feminist” group within it. The Experience Project (EP) is a social networking site intended for people to virtually meet, chat, and share stories with other people that have had one common experience. The groups can range from educational interests, to film and TV shows, and sometimes, even serious experiences like eating disorder recovery or breast cancer survivors. EP professes to be a “community where you can truly be yourself, share the things that matter to you, and connect with other passionate people that really understand you,” a statement which I found to be in line with most feminist thought and politics.
I was interested in finding out whether or not EP, and more specifically the “I am a feminist” group, a space that was designated as a feminist space, upheld the principles of feminism and how feminism functioned as something you experience rather than only a political statement. My actual experience did not in any way resemble what I expected to find.
As I read through posts, stories, and comments by members I came across a lot of the expected topics: job/wage equality, rape culture, domestic abuse, etc. I did find one thing interesting about the topics and it was how race came to play within the group. The only times race came into the conversation was in reference to Middle Eastern culture and predominantly Muslim countries and these conversations often dealt with conflicts over what feminism meant to difference cultures. The story on the hijab as an empowerment to women in the Middle East specifically stimulated heated discussion.
And then I came across the infamous knightrunner on EP, a self proclaimed MRA (Men’s Rights Advocate) who continuously posts comments filled with misogynistic, antifeminist rhetoric and outright false information, often citing incorrect high percentages of false rape accusations and women’s domestic abuse of men. This member has gotten other people of his MRA group to also join the feminist group and they also participate in feminist hating on the site.
When I asked him what he was trying to accomplish, he said, “Fifty years feminist have been speaking without opposition. No one has ever questioned anything feminism has ever done or said. This has lead to a situation where feminist feel like they are entitled to say and do anything they want. Society assumes that they must be correct in what ever they say and do because no one speaks against them.
MRAs are here to change that.”
Frankly, I’d really like to know what world he’s living in if he says feminism has had no opposition for fifty years because I’d really like to live there, too.
The other members of the site initially try to combat and argue his false data and generalizations about man-hating feminists but often become exhausted and frustrated with their denial of anything they argue. Most of the time members like ladyblue848 say, “please don’t let the MRA, anti-feminist trolls get you down. If they start climbing all over everything you write and attacking you just flag them and then block them,” as she once told me. However, this has just created a community of self-identified feminists who are either too afraid of sharing their own stories for fear of the MRA hate or are too exhausted from defending themselves to keep trying.
Sadly, EP does not offer a solution to the problem. The groups cannot filter out/block disruptive members. A member WeaknessIsOurStrength said it best, “EP is a moderated site that you can more or less not expect an empathetic response from. Here works, but EP is moderated but UNFORNUATELY speakiing The moderation staff is slow to the draw and relucant to take extreme measures against anyone. Very conservative because they want people to have a free speech space” (sic). It seems that EP moderators are not willing to get threatened with a possible free speech lawsuit from its more conservative and argumentative members and therefore do not take any serious action.
Unfortunately for the “I am a feminist” group, this means that members will continue to get attacked with ignorant and false information from members like knighrunner who are actively seeking to destroy feminist community. According to him, “MRAs are everywhere. We have infiltrated every feminist group on the net. We monitor all feminist activity. We make sure that all feminist bigotry and hate is recorded and exposed. From now on there shall be no “feminist safe space” ever.” And despite how wrong he is, it is unfortunately true about EP.