Drawing upon lived experiences, this article explores challenges facing feminist academics sharing work in the media, and the gendered, raced intersections of ‘being visible’ in digital cultures which enable direct, public response. We examine online backlash following publication of an article about representations of Meghan Markle’s feminism being co-opted by the patriarchal monarchy. While in it we argued against vilification of Markle, we encountered what we term distortions of research remediation as news outlets reported our work under headlines such as ‘academics accuse Meghan of dropping feminism like a hot potato’. Negative responses were polarised: anti-Meghan (drawing upon racist, anti-feminist, pro-empire, pro-Brexit/Trump rhetoric), and pro-Meghan (both general royal enthusiasts, and a smaller subsection viewing Markle in terms of politicised black uplift). In response, we received accusations of sexist, racist bullying, debate over definitions of feminism, claims feminism has gone ‘too far’, variously worded directives to ‘shut up’, gendered personal insults, and threats of doxxing. This article examines the tenor of public discourse around feminism and visible feminists. It questions the responsibility of institutions benefiting from public intellectuals for the wellbeing of employees in the public eye, particularly in the anti-intellectual socio-political context of Brexit and Donald Trump, where the costs for ‘visible’ women and feminist activism are ever higher. It also considers our responsibility as researchers to ensure our contributions to public discourse do not exacerbate existing harms of a white-supremacist, classist society. This article interrogates the risks – of misrepresentation, hyper-visibility, and reputational, psychological and potentially physical harm – faced by those engaging in acts of public feminism.
Department of History, Philosophy and Culture
Year of publication: 2020Date of RADAR deposit: 2020-05-14