I did shots with the women who make the internet a safe space for me

Up until 27 October 2014, the internet was a pretty scary place for women. Even if we managed to get our voices published, we were often on the receiving end of some pretty nasty trolling: comments about our weight, rape threats, and other misogynistic hate. It could feel rather overwhelming. That is, until a team of super-awesome women got together and set up the website Femsplain.

Femsplain sticker

I came across Femsplain a few months ago through Twitter, and I have to tell you, it was pretty much the same feeling as the time I got caught in a Force 9 gale in a boat, and was getting ready to face an unpleasant death by drowning before I heard the joyful words “Land ahoy!” Before Femsplain, I’d been riding the internet like a terrifying (but exhilarating) storm; Femsplain was the safe place I could finally crawl to.

So when, earlier this week, I found myself doing shots in a bar in London with the women who created this safe space for me—you can imagine it was pretty amazing.

Femsplain Gabi Barkho Amber Gordon

If you haven’t heard of it yet, Femsplain is a community for anyone who identifies as female to share their personal experiences of the world. You don’t have to have any writing experience; you don’t have to provide a CV or references; you just have to have something to say. If you have a personal story you’ve never known how to talk about, Femsplain is there to listen.

Ever since I discovered Femsplain, the internet has felt that little bit more welcoming. I published a story on their platform, and received support and encouragement from the rest of the community. Through reading pieces by a diverse range of women, I realised more and more that I’m not alone. Whether it’s believing the hate mail, struggling with your identity after marriage, or putting on weight—other women’s words helped me realise that my feelings are valid.

We even have a Facebook community. In a private, moderated group, we help each other out with job postings and article ideas; we advise each other on life decisions and career moves; we support each other when life gets really scary. Yeah, it’s awesome. But don’t feel left out: Femsplain are about to launch an online community for everyone (sign up here!) where anyone female-identified can feel safe and supported, have meaningful discussions, and not have to be afraid of expressing their views or asking questions. (I’m so psyched about it, I’ve even signed up to make donations to keep this awesome platform up and running—if you want to do the same then follow this link!)

Femsplain table

When I met the Femsplain ladies in real life this week (at a table the bar had reserved for “Femplain”—whoops), I instantly felt the same support I get from the online group. We chatted about everything from puppies to politics, and not once did I feel judged or unimportant. Amber Gordon, the founder, told me that originally the project started as “Sad Drunk Girls,” a series of essays she and her friends would write to each other when sad or drunk—and it made a ton of sense. Even though the project has expanded since then, that level of openness and understanding (that usually only happens between drunk friends) is still there in full force.

So who is my internet crush for this week? It’s a whole team. It’s Amber Gordon, for making this seemingly idealistic community a reality. It’s Gabriela Barkho, Jeanette Fabre, and Jacqueline Mirell who, along with Amber, founded this supportive network in the first place. And it’s all the women I’ve met along the way, the women whose willingness to open up to Femsplain have made it the support group it is today. You’re all ace.

Image: eggplantblogmissambear/Instagram; Amber Gordon/Facebook

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