Recently, I’ve posted a lot about how social media shames people. In class, my students mentioned that social media creates and perpetuates drama – sometimes in really poisonous ways. In fact, one student is writing her Multimodal Advocacy Project about cyber bulling.
And yet, I see ways in which social media and collaborative writing spaces provide unique opportunities for people to connect. Today, I read this story about a reddit megathread in which women recounted stories about the first time they were looked at in a sexual way by a man (Trigger Warning if you decide to read the thread). This thread on reddit is really powerful because of the sheer number of women coming together to describe their experiences. I should clarify. This question garnered thousands of responses and tens of thousands of comments.
The power of this megathread is manifold. First, the pathos of these women’s stories is powerful. Reading about an eight year old girl running away from a stranger in a store or about a twelve year old girl having obscenities hurled at her from moving cards, makes the reader realize how vulnerable young girls can be in the most mundane situations. In many of the stories, the girls didn’t understand what the men said to them. Their innocence emphasizes the threat. For women, the experiences are so familiar that they may feel sympathy.
While pathos is a powerful appeal, in some ways, this thread is really an appeal to ethos. The credibility of these women is created by their critical mass. When thousands of women in a relatively small corner of the world share story after story about harassment, their authority to make truth claims increases. Collaborative social media created a space for these women to demonstrate that this experience is real and ubiquitous. In other words, the massive response makes it an appeal through phronesis. It’s common knowledge now; prepubescent girls are sexually harassed before they understand their young bodies.
As much as I may rail against the sexism on reddit, I am impressed when women can use the space to make statement about the conditions they live in.