@notofeminism's bec shaw is the internet’s favourite feminist troll
Meet the writer taking on the patriarchy, one ridiculous internet statement at a time.
On paper, writer Bec Shaw might not seem like a cult feminist comedy icon. She is after all the brain (and keyboard) behind @NoToFeminism. But as anyone who follows the hypnotically ridiculous Twitter account knows, she's an impressive study in parody and the sometimes confusing logic of the Women Against Feminism movement.
Rather than get into public spats with people whose opinions are very different from her own, she cuts down their arguments with laughs. Outside of her online disguise she's equally impressive; her own writing is filled with incisive commentary on gender issues, politics and the superiority of crispy M&Ms. We're clearly not her only fans, this week she announced a book deal to turn her @NoToFeminism Twitter account into an IRL publication.
i-D called her up to talk about when it's okay to make fun of other women online.
I really like @NoToFeminism but there are clearly issues of taking on other women to prove a feminist point. Do you ever struggle with that?
This is a good question. To be honest I haven't really felt any discomfort around that because I feel like the majority of the points I make are really broad and more about how women are treated and feminist issues in general, rather than actually going after anti-feminists. It's hopefully mostly more "this is why feminism is still important" rather than "this is why these people are stupid".
Most of the arguments you're parodying are pretty easy to rebutt, but a lot of women do have legitimate reasons to feel on the outside of feminism. Criticisms over the inclusion of women of colour come to mind. Do you ever find the arguments of women who don't identify as feminists persuasive?
Absolutely, and same goes for trans women and sex workers. @NoToFeminism is very much directed at people in the broader Women Against Feminism movement who mostly have terrible reasons for not identifying as a feminist. I do try to do Tweets on occasion that acknowledge that there are a lot of valid arguments from women who don't identify with that label because they are consistently let down by the feminist movement. Tellingly they are not as popular as the other joke tweets—I probably should do them more often. Also, the account only follows about 50 people, and I really try to follow a lot of different voices in the hopes that other people might as well.
It's interesting that they don't get the same response. I often think about how much more directly you can get a point across when you make it as a joke.
I think people who can weave comedy and feminism together have it a bit easier than those who are out there every day slogging away with smart and serious arguments; humour is more palatable and can draw people into engaging more easily. Both are really necessary and important in their own way. But mainly for my own sanity, being able to make fun and find humour in the face of the constant waterfall of depressing things is the only thing that keeps me going some days.
I think a lot of women who write online feel like that, alongside an outlet for jokes have you found a community on Twitter?
Definitely. A lot of my feminist education has come from Twitter; it gives me really easy access to so many different perspectives that I need to hear in order to be a good and informed person. Sure the trolls are there, but the value I get from it at this point far outweighs the community of deadshits. Also it has translated into real life, I am now friends with a lot of incredible people that I would never had met were it not for Twitter.
Do you ever regret or delete tweets?
I delete them every so often, but it's usually after I've sent them and then realised I actually hate it or I remember I've done a similar joke before. On my personal account it's far more often because I regret everything always.
Your following is really exploding and you now even have a book in the works. Do you have any internet heroines of your own?
I am a huge Mallory Ortberg fan. I love how irreverent she is, and how much she really values humour. By extension I love her website The Toast, which is just a treasure trove of hilarious and niche humour aimed at people like me. I also love Ijeoma Oluo, she is a really smart and interesting writer and great on Twitter. I also think Patricia Lockwood is amazing and so hilarious. That's the great thing about Twitter and the internet, I could list hundreds of people here. Maybe I should just do that in my own time.
Text Katherine Gillespie
Image by Sarah-Jane Edis