Silence is a rubbish weapon. In real life the silent treatment usually causes you to end up in the wrong because eurgh, it's just annoying. But also it implies your argument might not be very good. Online it smacks of what is called 'flouncing'. The notion of a dignified silence is, on the whole, bollocks.
Basically, fellow feminists, when I find myself reading a Samantha Brick piece (we read them so you don't have to!) promoted with the tweet "Caitlin Moran & her #TwitterSilence group are jumped-up attention seekers... DO YOU AGREE WITH ME?" (oddly in it she criticises Moran's use of capitals) and kind of nodding along I worry about the direction the movement is taking.
Caitlin Moran believes the Twitter silence to be an act of solidarity: "I'm pro the mooted 24-hour walk-out on 4th of August, because not only is it a symbolic act of solidarity - which are my favourite kinds of symbolic acts - but because it will also focus minds at Twitter to come up with their own solution to the abuses of their private company." However so many women, cis and trans* lack a voice that the silence only works if it is in order to provide them with space to speak.
Every movement has its fractures and infighting, however not every movement finds that its opponents focusing so heavily on its failures and using them as a reason for why the movement is so awful.
Silence breeds fear. Bullies rely on silence and feelings of isolation.
I disagree with Brick over why the #twittersilence was a useless reaction to trolling: "Moran and her ilk are, to my mind, little more than jumped up attention seekers desperate for a cause - and any ole cause will do. As for Mary Beard, I fear her university and broadcasting career have been eclipsed by her dogged whinnying about the threats she's apparently received."
Silence breeds fear. Bullies rely on silence and feelings of isolation. Which is why it is vital Mary Beard, Laurie Penny and Stella Creasy et al (I mean 'and their ilk') continue to report and publicise the threats they receive.
It is not Mary Beard's unashamed retweeting and mentions of her online abuse that dilutes her academic and broadcasting prowess but the reviews she gets from people such as A. A. Gill. In fact, it is sexism and Gill's sexist tainted view that causes him to concern himself over her teeth rather than her admirable talent for reeling Latin off as most people might a bit of French at a fancy dinner party.
Making it important that Mary Beard both highlights the ridiculous threats and nasty messages AND continues to do her job. To tweet, to write, to present, to be unapologetic. In fact I think everyone should take lessons from Beard on Twitter etiquette, graciously accepting apologies and not rising to insults.
If people can come up with frightening threats in 140 characters, surely we can come up with a nuanced defence.