Snark, noun. Combination of “snide” and “remark”. Sarcastic comment(s). Also snarky (adj.) and snarkily (adv.)
Ah, snark. If you spend any time on the internet, you become intimately acquainted with it. It can happen anywhere at anytime, but it seems to be most prevalent among people who think that their positions are so above comment that they can speak at their opponents with disdain, ridicule, and sarcasm. Snark is used by those who are so single-minded in their worldview that they believe it is beyond questioning, like the sky being blue or gravity pulling things downward. Anyone who does not agree with them is below contempt, to be cast aside with derision without a second thought.
Snark is the tool of the lazy and of cowards.
Unfortunately, you see snark in places where genuine, honest, debate and discussion is most desperately needed: in feminism.
No, I’m not really talking about serious academic feminist criticism. I’m talking about popular feministy websites like Jezebel and Feministing. I’m talking about conversations I have with my friends, articles I see written by feminist figures, and popular graphics I see passed around Facebook.
Seriously, it’s time for the snark to end, my feminist friends. You’re only hurting yourself.
Shockingly, equally reasonable people can disagree (and people don’t always have all the information).
Snark has one purpose, no matter who is using it: It undermines the legitimacy of the other person speaking and treats their point of view as not worth considering. The only problem with this is that two people with the same facts can disagree on the meaning of those facts, or the cause, or what to do about the “problem.”
Additionally, it is increasingly the case that people don’t always have the right facts. Maybe someone needs to sit down with all the “legitimate rape” government officials and sincerely explain to them how rape and reproduction works. Maybe they didn’t know. You never know until you approach someone with sincerity.
Snark convinces no one. Ever.
If our interest is really to bring about equality for women, I can pretty much tell you right now that snarking is not going to get you anywhere. When people snark, they immediately create an polarized audience: people who are circlejerking with you and laughing at all the stupid plebs—and people who are sympathetic to the opposition and are now really pissed off.
You have done nothing productive. All you have accomplished is you have made yourself and those who agree with you feel superior while isolating people who need convincing by disregarding their thoughts. You aren’t really advocating for women’s freedom.
There’s a reason the terms “feminazi” and “angry feminist” are a thing.
I’m not about to launch a defense against Rush Limbaugh, but, if we take a step back for a moment and look at the pure amount of sarcasm and disdain that feminists use to rip on others, is it really surprising that they have been branded as such? There are so many angry mainstream feminists that the real meaty critical analysis is drowned in the roar. The great points that even the mainstream feminists make are lost in their sea of slimy sarcasm.
Even if the terms are unfairly branded upon them, feminists would do well to notice that they are running uphill against them, and to adjust their rhetoric accordingly. Given the other two reasons (and many more), there’s no real benefit to being angry—even if we are justified in being so.
Women have a right to be angry about their lot in life. Representation of us in popular culture certainly isn’t great; we are still socialized to be submissive; we are expected to carry the weight of a career and family on our shoulders. That’s a lot to be angry about. Anger has its place, but this kind of anger-in-superiority does not belong in something public. Feminists have a lot of really important things to say, and there is a lot that could use refining. If feminists care about the robustness of their philosophies and want to truly change the world to help women, they are going to have to cut the circlejerking, the snobbery, and the snark and start having real conversations with people.