Contemporary feminism in the western world has already set itself apart in tone from the movements that preceded it. It is already being referred to by the media as “fourth-wave feminism” in order to acknowledge that it is doing things differently. The current wave of feminism tends to operate outwards from the micro level. It highlights the individual experiences of women and uses these to call for changes in societal thinking. This strategy is very effective. Most people who engage with the feminist Twittersphere will find it hard not to get angry at the stories being shared. You can scroll down through thousands of 140-character stories about the difficulties faced by women simply going about their own business.
Twitter has become an exciting place to be engaged in identity politics. By virtue of its openness as a platform, it is bringing together a more diverse array of voices than anything else ever could. On top of this, the 140-character limit is challenging people to come up with innovative ways to express complex thoughts and emotions around discrimination and identity. Groups that would have a hard time being heard in conventional media are flourishing on Twitter.
One such group is Killjoy Prophets. In their Twitter bio, they define themselves as a “collective centering women of color feminism” which is dedicated to “ending dudebro Christianity.” The group feels that the mainstream of Christianity in the United States wilfully buries its head in the sand when it comes to issues of race and gender, and often uses theology to justify oppressive systems. Killjoy Prophets was created out of frustration with already existing “progressive” Christian groups. Suey Park, one of the co-founders of Killjoy Prophets, wrote on the progressive Christian blog Emerging Voices about the shutting down of women of colour’s anger within Christian discourses: “The reality is that far too often we are silenced for our questions. We have been labelled ‘toxic’ and ‘divisive’ and chastised for not showing enough ‘grace.’ We have become cast as the problem for pointing out the problems of heteropatriarchal white supremacy.”
Park went on to explain that the challenging of power is a central tenet of the group: “We founded the Killjoy Prophets Collective to make space for people of faith (especially Christians) to continue asking these questions, to amplify the whispers and to continue troubling the dominant narratives of justice and liberation while we also seek to imagine what liberation might look like from the perspectives of the most marginalized themselves. We work to affirm power and agency among those whose voices have for too long been spoken over.”
Killjoy Prophets rose to prominence on Twitter in August this year with the #NotMyChristianLeader hashtag. It was used mostly by women of colour to express anger with their churches. A lot of the criticism stemmed from the use of the Christian concepts of “forgiveness” and “grace”, “salvation” to gloss over the justified anger felt by oppressed groups. @pdxPinay criticised Christian charity as a tool of glossing over racism at home: “Obsessed w/the “salvation” of black & brown people in the 3rd world but no care for well-being of people of colour in your country #NotMyChristianLeader.” @boldandworthy criticised her church for failing her when she was being domestically abused: “When you told me to stay w/ an abusive husband b/c “God commanded wives to submit to husbands” disregarding my safety #NotMyChristianLeader.”
Although Killjoy Prophets have not yet surpassed the success of #NotMyChristianLeader, they are showing no sign of slowing down. They are still angry. Like many popular Twitter activists who are working in the area of race politics right now, Killjoy Prophets is not seeking a “racial reconciliation that envisions the goal as representation and recognition by whiteness.” Suey Park says that this is inadequate “because our aim is to dismantle white supremacy altogether.” She does not want to slip into a niche for women of colour within a still white-dominated Christianity. She want to smash the lens that makes people see whiteness as the universal experience, and non-whiteness as the other.
Illustration: Nadia Bertaud