Ever since the advent of the personal computer and information highway, our world has progressed into a globalized mass of information. We are a wired community, connected via social media and shouts into the voids of Twitter and Facebook. Naturally, modern activism has taken a digital turn, leading us to question the crusade of internet feminism. Can a post on Instagram petition for equity? Can sharing a link on Facebook do more than inform a skeptical society about elusive social inequality?
Since the internet is an omnipresent force on our minds, we must focus on what feminist campaigns have surfaced through the platform. One of the more shocking recent movements involved Instagram taking down a photo of a girl with a menstruation stain on her pants. This action outraged many women, leading them to believe that the website was disapproving of female biological processes.
Later, campaigns against the censorship of female bodies occurred in various public areas of New York. The group “New York Women’s Liberation” placed stickers stating “This Oppresses Women” on various ads in subways that exploited women’s anatomy for profit. These ads catered toward a patriarchal society, so activists sought to prove that sexualized images will not work to sell products anymore. Female bodies are not vehicles for third-party money, and will not be trafficked in subway traffic.
However, fighting patriarchy is sometimes passive and accomplished through utilizing a modern internet strategy: empowering young girls. The 2014 Always #LikeAGirl campaign discusses sexist language in our society and how Western idioms, while seemingly innocuous, are often denigrating to women. In the viral commercials, people are told to “run like a girl” and “fight like a girl.” Sadly, they portray girls as weak creatures. Yet when young women are instructed to depict “girly” actions, they exude strength and confidence. The advertisement sought to render the image of the modern girl in a new light; since women are being given more opportunities to excel in all fields, we must change the conversation on how girls should view themselves individually and as members of the modern female network.
“What does it mean to run like a girl?”
“It means to run as fast as you can.”
Perhaps one of the greatest catalysts for the digital feminist movement was The Representation Project. In 2011, the organization released the infamous documentary “Miss Representation” at the Sundance Film Festival, and later launched the hashtag campaigns #NotBuyingIt and #BuildConfidence. The former calls out sexism in advertising and encourages people to photograph examples of problematic marketing strategies, therefore pushing for interactive feminism and instantaneous dialogue. The latter seeks to inform members of the social media community about healthy body image.
While The Representation Project made strides in socially-just social networking, one of the most critical moments of digital feminism was kick started by Emma Watson’s HeForShe speech at the United Nations. The speech has garnered millions of views cumulatively on YouTube and effectively focused on feminism’s impact on underrepresented players: boys and men. Emma pushed for men to be more vocal about everyday injustices against women. She also pointed out a goal that all humans should consider – emotions should not be viewed as weakness. Emma states that the way men are dictated to conceal emotions is unhealthy and can lead to depression and suicide, and that emotional discrepancies among genders can be solved directly by raising our daughters and sons to equally embrace having feelings. In addition, UN Women spearheaded the auto-complete campaign, which utilized Google’s autofill feature for searches that started with “women need to….” With this campaign, the United Nations and Google revealed that worldwide sexism had reached its apex, albeit through digital mediums.
In tandem, several other global websites have been taking action to aggressively fight off the exploitation of women. Amazon has stopped selling shirts with openly hostile sayings. One woman reversed Twitter’s decision to remove the “block” button through an online Change.org petition. She received threats on the website and fought to keep the button for the protection of herself and other people who were exploited, namely other women. YouTube has a wealth of self-defense lessons and feminist vloggers. Twitter is loaded with catchy but meaningful hashtags. Ergo, the internet and the right to the freedom of speech allows for both sexism and a healthy amount of counter-active activism.
Are these campaigns effective? Perhaps to some they are not. Yet regardless of one’s opinion of the internet, one must realize that people are using this cornucopia of data to change our day-to-day interactions. Online campaigns and digital media may be the ideal panacea to patriarchy, chauvinism, and sexism in society. We do not all have to participate via every personal tweet and post, but it is not too much to ask to request the acceptance of these equity achievement strategies.