Event Date
Feb 25, 2016
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Center for Race and Gender Thursday Forum Series

#BlackMasculinity: Race, Gender and the Politics of Twitter

#MasculinitySoFragile: Dismantling Toxic Masculinity From the Inside Out
Anthony Williams, Sociology

This autoethnographic essay explores my experiences practicing public sociology through the medium of Twitter. I joined Twitter in 2009 and I gain followers daily as I tweet about #BlackLivesMatter as well as the targeted murders of brown, trans, indigenous, queer, and differently abled folks. By centering marginalized folks in my consciousness raising, I write for my audience. With #MasculinitySoFragile, I write for an audience who also seeks to dismantle oppressive systems like patriarchy. Unfortunately, my hashtag also attracted “internet trolls” who threatened my life, thereby embodying what I critiqued: the violent reaction when anyone challenges hegemonic masculinity, even—or especially—on Twitter. Sociologists and academics in all fields have an opportunity to wield Twitter as a public sociology methodology for consciousness raising; #MasculinitySoFragile and #ASA15 are case studies of the potential.

Drawing on my experience at the American Sociological Association conference and tweeting with the hashtag #ASA15, I gained 413 new followers and 1.02 million 11 tweet impressions in just one month. I started #MasculinitySoFragile the next month, and I gained 799 new followers and 1.52 million tweet impressions. A tweet makes an “impression” anytime a user sees it, regardless of if they engage. Each impression is an opportunity to engage a user in ‘doing’ sociology outside of academia. I argue that Twitter is another avenue of sharing our scholarship and holding ourselves publically accountable for our role as scholars. Like Audre Lorde, I believe that the personal is political and that we can use Twitter to connect to those we study but rarely reach with our research. With #MasculinitySoFragile, anyone could and still can add their voice. But finally, #MasculinitySoFragile is public sociology that transcends lectures or books to expose the brutal violence that often targets women when they say something as simple as “no” to a man socialized into toxic masculinities.

BIO: Anthony J. Williams is Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. He transferred from Solano Community College, where he studied drama and still practices as an actor & director, including touring Northern California with Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre Program. He studied abroad at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. He is working on a senior honors thesis examining the relationship between self-care, sexuality, and leadership in the #BlackLivesMatter Movement. He is a writer with the Afrikan Black Coalition and has also been published in The Independent, Black Girl Dangerous, and the Daily Californian.

#Ferguson2Cal: Social Media and Activism from Campus to Community
Blake Simons, Political Science

The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter is both synonymous with the current movement to end police terrorism, as well as the ability to use social media for protests online and in the streets. Young people are using new media tools like Twitter to elevate racist threats and hate crimes from simply being local stories into global news. From Ferguson to Baltimore, from Chicago to Oakland, from the streets to universities, young people are making our voices heard.

This essays explores my experiences as an activist using Twitter as a tool to amplify mobilizing and organizing efforts at UC Berkeley and in the wider Bay Area. Using the autoethnographic method, I share my transformation from a student athletic to a student activist, highlighting my experiences as a Black man experiencing issues of racial profiling and police violence, white terrorism and the Black Radical Tradition. I specifically focus on #Ferguson2Cal and Black student efforts at UC Berkeley, the Charleston Massacre, and #BerkeleyKKK and the response of Black students at Berkeley high school to a racist hate crime. Since fall 2014, I’ve gained over 4,000 followers on Twitter. Activists can use social media to both express a fearless voice of new Black man that does not reproduce the harmful effects of patriarchy.

BIO: Blake Simons is a UC Berkeley senior studying Political Science. He is a former student athlete. He is a member of the Cal Black Student Union. He is deputy communications director for the Afrikan Black Coalition, a statewide collective of Black students in California.