A ‘Female Blackout’ – Are You Kidding Me? Women Need More Presence, Not Less!

Posted: April 21, 2018

A post was doing the rounds on Social Media (SM) a couple of days back. It called for a ‘female blackout’. It was supposed to be ‘a movement to show what the world might be like without women’.

This entailed changing your SM profile photo to ‘a black square’. Apparently, this would make ‘men wonder where the women are’. It called itself ‘a project against women abuse’.

Ho hum! After that context setting, here begins my rant. ‘Female blackout’ you say? The women’s rights movement began in 1848. For the last 170 years, women across the world have been trying to get themselves to be seen and heard. Women before us have fought hard to move closer to something like an equal world. And, in one fell swoop, this ‘female blackout’ movement intends to undo what has been achieved. By participating in this movement (which, I have a nagging feeling, must have been designed by a man), you have done a disservice to the decades of struggle. No, my dear girls, making ourselves disappear is not going to solve our problems. Instead, it gives misogynists more to gloat about – that they managed to put us in our place – not to be seen or heard.

You say you will show what the world can be without women. I am sorry but when did SM become an accurate representation of the real world? Just by changing a profile photo, you claim to disappear from the world. If you really want to, leave your homes, offices and mobile phones behind for a day and go incommunicado. That is true disappearance. But, then too, apart from your family, a few friends, and maybe your boss, no one else will miss you. I am sorry to burst your bubble.

If you had said, “Let’s change our profile photo to a black square to show our support for abuse victims”, I may still have understood. Symbolic like the black armband; sure, I get that. But this whole logic of making ‘men wonder where the women are’ escapes me. So, did you, on the blackout day, not show your face to any man, or not even speak to even one of them? I can bet you happily interacted with the men who matter to you. So, then, who are these men who you wanted to wonder at your disappearance? Do I sound confused? You bet, for I am!

I wish ridding the world of abuse (of any kind) was this simple. Speaking about gender-based abuse specifically, what you needed to do, instead of this pointless blackout, was to make the men and women in your lives more aware of what abuse can be. It need not be physical/sexual always. Mental, spiritual, emotional, financial – you name it. You needed to step up at your workplace and call out those sexist remarks. You needed to stop your elders from making patriarchal comments. You needed to help your household help file a police complaint against her wife-bashing husband. You needed to tell the young ones around you that there is nothing called ‘like a girl’.

My heart goes out to all the victims of abuse but it also makes me more determined to not accept tokenisms of feminism or protests. I would, rather, create, in my own small way, a world where women do not have to hold onto their horses.

Image via Unsplash

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11 Comments


  1. We’ve become a world society of rabbid statementists.

  2. Black is associated with power, fear, mystery, strength, authority, elegance, formality, death, evil, and aggression, authority, rebellion, and sophistication. Black is required for all other colors to have depth and variation of hue. The black color is the absence of color.

  3. I find this blog patronizing, belittling, and akin to “mansplaining”: telling me who I am and what I am trying to say. You may not agree with the way I choose to send my message: that women are here and connected to many areas of your life, and that women have suffered countless abuse and are not only raging but also, many are in unspeakable pain. Rather than listen or give the benefit of the doubt, or the freedom to choose, the blogger condemned, insinuated we are ignorant of the Women’s Movement, and called us “girls”. She points to a conspiracy theory that “a man” started this gesture; perhaps that is true, I would be interested to find out, but certainly a bit of respect is in order for the choice of some women on social media to make a point. I absolutely agree that there is MUCH more important work to be done in the real world and that standing up for women in the workplace and society is much more important and effective than changing a FB profile. I read, think, and act on these issues everyday. This gesture (yes, it is a simple gesture) is one of many ways women are choosing to express themselves today, please do not silence them further. I encourage all interested to read the conversation on the FB page to see what diverse and respectful commentators have to say on this topic. https://www.facebook.com/events/1499266320112692/?active_tab=discussion

    • Absolutely! Thank you. I have mine blacked out to show that we are united (except for the writer) and standing together. The black out draws attention, where there would be none otherwise. Just an average day. I still have my voice and I still tell my truths.This author is just patronizing and trying to silence women.

  4. Twanna LaTrice Hill -

    I find the reasoning behind this action and the explanations of it – especially to those of us who have been fighting since the 1970s and have disclosed and have reported and have testified and have advocated – much more patronizing and mansplaining, It seems the direction of the movment in this generation is for someone to come up with some quickie digital idea and then to attack women who feel differently. I’m not surprised – we women are notorious for eating each other alive – especially when we try to show ‘solidarity’. Those who are not moved to participate in this action are then acccused of not showing their support for abuse victims, or not helping other women, or holding each other up. I had planned to black out my photo until I started seeing some of the snarky comments to folks who felt that this action made us invisible – which I believe it does but I was going to do it anyway. BUT there is a quality to our ‘actions’ of late that is beginning to feel like extortion. I want to hold up all women, and especially my sisters who are choosing to follow their own conscience and listen to their own voice, not that os some abstack ‘movment’ that by all appearances is looking less and less diverse. Iwant them to now that I hear them, even if the people who come up with these ideas don’t. I am also frustrated that we keep having partial conversations – we are sharing and publishing lots of stories now about why we don’t report, but we don’t talk about what needs to change to make it easier to do so. We don’t even acknowledge that reporting in a timely manner is actually a good thing and is a great way of showing support for your sisters by helping keep them safe. There are abuses I disclosed and there are abuses I did not and it is always my choice. But these issues are much more complex than a catchphrase or short term action suggests. AND men need to be part of the conversation. Just as black people talking to black people didn’t move civil rights forward, neither shall women chatting with other women. AND men are also victimized by other men. These issues are not simple – but a blackout certainly will make some folks feel like they’ve done their part. On this issue we must support all victims, survivors, women and children, and yes, even men. Sexual violence is a non-partisan issue. Predators don’t ask your party affiliation before violating you – at least none of mine ever did. And some of the most awful women I know have also been victimized – it is certainly no badge of honor. But it is wholly wrong – it is destructive and it is criminal. How we choose to address it ‘symboliocally’ is a lot less important than contacting our representatives by phone or letter (even email), by going to court to support real survivors in one of the most terrifying experiences of their lives, and by going out and taking the time to vote. Lastly, as a survivor, I am the one who determines if I feel supported – and I feel much more supported being heard and respected by someone who truly cares, than by a blacked out face book profile pic by someone who claims to.

  5. Twanna LaTrice Hill -

    BTW – if we are trying to somehow corral the attention of men, I would suggest we do not schedule actions on Sundays during football season. Seriously.

  6. Emma Gonzalez went silent for 6 min and 20 secs. There was more heard in those 6 minutes. The women on the red carpet all wore black. More people talked about that. I saw more bashing of other women yesterday by women telling them they shouldn’t do this and ridiculing them. Trying to silence those women not understanding why some may have done it. They were relentless. NOT TAKING A NO FOR AN ANSWER! Women trying to silence other women.

    • Twanna LaTrice Hill -

      Either choice – top articipate or not – needs to be okay. Given the behavior I’ve witnessed in the last couple of days, we have along way to go at building solidarity before we can start advertising it to the world. And that includes the women and men who do NOT live their lives out on line – thousands upon thousands who are not constantly taking selfies or checking their notifications. I think part of the disconnect is between those of us whose lives are more impactful and impacted irl than online. Let’s also not overstate the affect of this – nore the affect of women wearing black at award shows. Making a statement is nice – effectively changing behavior is better – and if we can’t get on the same pagewith each other, how can sustain long term social change. Social change is hard work. It is slow and long and hard and only peppered with a few major events. Showing up for the big momentsisn’tnearly as meaningful as digging in and committing the the fight on a day by day basis – which means becoming deeply immersed in local politics, which isn’t nearly as sexy as hooking into big national events. Most importantly let’s work on really supporting each other – which means respecting everyone’s individual decision and choice – so that actions like this have meaning.I have definitely observed that age, race, and class are all affecting how people feel about actions like this – privilege is again rearing its head. The bickering that has gone on all day onevery site focused on ‘women’s issue, has most certainly left me feeling less connected to my sister, unheard and unsupported irrespective of how much time and energy I have committed to ending sexual violence over the last 30 years – which matters much more tome than anything on facebook. The deification of FB and Twitter continually amaze meand will never have as much of an impact as people actually showing up to a time and place together, in real life. That’s what made the omen’sMarch significant – it wasn’tonline – it was hard, it was inconvenient, it was difficult, it showed determination and resolution. I chane my FBprofile pic 5 times a week to quotes, costumes, pithy aying, and gifs. I noticed almost no blacked out faces on my pages yesterday,or among my hundreds of social media friends. And this was easy. That’s all I’m trying to say. Some of us feel very strongly that actions like this fly in the face of more than 30 years of activism for the rights of womenand it’s certainly beginning to feel like our experiences are irrelevant – as if this movement arose overnight and not from an historical context on the backs and battere bodies of those of us who claimed our space and paig incredibly high prices in doing so – all inhopes of making it easier for the generations that now seem largely ignorant of the effortss that came before.

  7. Protests work… there are so many things wrong with this article, but I’ll start with this. When the women in Iceland protested by going on strike in the ’70s, it led to the world’s first female president – now, they are one of the few countries where men and women are truly considered equal in many ways. It takes BIG efforts by many to make a difference: https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-34602822

    • Twanna LaTrice Hill -

      I agree – and if you look at lasting social change, the protests that are most effective are those where people show up. As you pointed out, in Iceland the women went on strike. But we don’t need to look to Iceland. Look at the civil rights movement in this country. What made a difference was when black people stopped riding the buses, when they refused to leave lunch counters, when they marched together peacefully, when they showed genuine solidarity. And in my opinion, blacking out your facebook profile picture doesn’t even rate when compared to those kinds of actions. Change happens when people come together and show up. The fact that there is such disagreement on this issue clearly indicates that we are not of one mind, we are not united. When those who did not feel compelled to participate in an online action, those who question the efficacy of it, have tried to explain themselves, they have been continually attacked. online action have been the I disagree with you 100% that there are ‘so many things wrong with this article’. This is a woman expressing her opinion about this action and she is being shouted down and patronised. Because she does not share your view, you have decided her opinion is invalid, that it is ‘wrong’. How is that any different than men the world over trying to silence women for speaking their truth? In my opinon, there is absolutely no difference and attacking a woman for thinking for herself and having her own opinion clearly demonstrates the lack of solidarity among women. If we want to show solidarity for victims and survivors, for women, for children, why don’t we start with honoring their right to think independently and have their own opinions which are EQUALLY valid. That kind of demonstration of solidarity is much more authentic than a blacked out picture on a facebook page. The unwillingness to acknowledge that women can have opinions that are different than those of the small cluster of folks who all crafted this action, and then to dismiss their thoghtful and well-crafted opinions in a clear effort to invalidate, silence, and diminish them because they feel differently about how to effect meaningful change – especially older women and black women who are being treated like children and disproportinaley attacked is deeply offensive to me . It is quit3e obvious thatt this ‘movement’ is not democratic – it is a complete oligarchy with a handful of folks claiming they know what’s best without even considering the opinions of others and attacking them if they don’t subscribe to the group think,instead of hearing thier perspective and working to find common ground and actions that support a diverse array of women. I am troubled by the self-righteousness that is permeating this movement and the self-appointed leaders. This is NOT okay. And, BTW, Iceland is not the US – their culture is steeped in a wholly different historical context and a much more democratic political structure with more effective checks and balances. Protests can be efffective but are not always – or have women forgotten that despite the heroic efforts of countless women, this country NEVER ratified an equal rights amendment for women.

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