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#WomenBoycottTwitter raises the issue of who gets to find solidarity in a hashtag

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A 24-hour Twitter hiatus feels supportive to some, and like self-censorship to others

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Last night, some Twitter users began calling for a 24-hour boycott of the platform to show support for victims of sexual assault. The hashtag #WomenBoycottTwitter is trending right now, as the boycott is underway. But with its supporters offline, the hashtag is mostly being used by users who disagree with the boycott as an effective solidarity tactic.

The boycott is a response to Twitter’s recent suspension of actress Rose McGowan, following a New York Times report earlier this week that detailed decades of sexual assault and harassment by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. McGowan was particularly vocal on Twitter, condemning Weinstein and calling out actors like Matt Damon and Ben Affleck for protecting him. Yesterday, McGowan’s Twitter account was temporarily blocked for “violating the Twitter Rules.”

The boycott was first proposed by software engineer Kelly Ellis, according to The New York Times. A number of celebrities have since agreed to take part, including Alyssa Milano, John Cusack, Kerry Washington, and McGowan herself.

But shortly after #WomenBoycottTwitter started to pick up steam, some users argued that silence is not really an effective or radical strategy, especially for women of color, who often face immense harassment on platforms like Twitter. Several people have also pointed out that this move was prompted by the Twitter ban of a wealthy white woman, and these calls for solidarity don’t seem to extend to black women like ESPN anchor Jemele Hill, who was recently suspended from her job for her tweets about the NFL player protests.

Dorothy Charles, a med student and organizer, told The Verge she felt “a bit of wariness” after hearing about the boycott. “As a Black woman, the boycott reminded me a lot of the Women's March, where nice, liberal white women are reacting to the sorts of misogyny that Black, brown, and Native women have been protesting for years,” she said. “And they're doing it because white women are now affected.”

“The goal of harassers is to make women shut up. I don't see how giving them what they want is an effective protest,” writer Mikki Kendall told The Verge in an email. “I think it is important for us to keep speaking up and to move the needle away from this idea that bad things only matter when white women are impacted.”

Ellis, the creator of the boycott, addressed the criticism on Twitter last night, saying the boycott was a reaction to “a rough week.” “We can and should do better. It’s not okay for solidarity to only be for white women. I regret the timing,” she tweeted.

She also apologized for the hashtag’s exclusion of non-binary people.