Is the feminist movement trapped behind our screens? I started to wonder this after I came across an article discussing this idea. Author Rebecca Traister writes, "Feminist Internet discourse doesn’t do much for me, no matter how robust it may be or how much money it gins up for the people and causes that happen to have gone viral on any particular day. People talk—and talk— about everything on the Internet, but that doesn’t mean the talk changes anything". So, is the feminist movement doomed to lose momentum if most of the action we are taking is through hashtags? Can progress happen if the conversation is mostly being discussed digitally? Here are my thoughts on the matter and my somewhat comprehensive answers to these questions.
I came to first really understand and gain knowledge about the feminist movement through the Internet. My defining moment of calling myself a feminist was after I watched Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s beautiful speech, “We Should all be Feminists”, online. I learned more about my feminist icons through Google searches. But does my feminist identity begin and end online? Most of the fighting I do for the gender equality movement is through Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. Is that enough?
During my senior year of high school, I was hesitant to wear a shirt with the word “feminist” sprawled across the chest. I was worried about the judgmental looks I would get for wearing it, since the gender equality movement was unfortunately misunderstood there. Untrue tales of bra-burning, men-hating feminists were whispered through the halls. But I was not hesitant to retweet a link to Emma Watson’s HeforShe speech the night before. Why? My feminist beliefs are not just an online gimmick that I should be afraid to share with the world. I am a feminist, I am proud to be one and my feminist identity should not just exist on the Internet.
I wore the shirt.
Fighting for gender equality outside of the screen does not just mean wearing shirts, either. There are conversations to be started, ideas to be shared, minds to be changed, progress to be had, people to stand up for and events to be planned in the real world. Not to say that the progress being made online is not real. It very much is. The Internet has helped this new wave of feminism thrive. There are many resources for women of all ages online that promote the feminist message. But we as a society must not trap the feminist movement behind our computers and phones. Let us use the power of the Internet to leverage our voice and power. We can cover double the ground, we can share our beliefs to double the number of people and we can add double a number of voices to our fight.
Allow me to answer the questions presented at the beginning of the article. Is the feminist movement trapped behind our screens? It surely exists behind our screens, which is a good thing, but I do not believe it only exists there.
Is the feminist movement doomed to lose momentum if most of the action we are taking is through hashtags? No, the hashtags have power. There have been many important hashtags that have trended on Twitter in the recent years. #AskHerMore promoted the media to ask women questions other than ones regarding their appearance during Hollywood’s red carpet season. #EffYourBeautyStandards was started by plus-sized model Tess Holliday to promote body positivity. #EverydaySexism was started by Laura Bates, the founder of The Everyday Sexism Project to show the subtle ways women encounter sexism. These hashtags and many others enable ideas to be shared, which is important to any social movement. I believe online force can translate into outside force.
Can progress happen if the conversation is mostly being discussed digitally? Absolutely. The Internet allows conversations to be started, which is where all progress starts. The Internet allows voices to be heard that would be quieted without it. Jessica Valenti, founder of the blog Feministing, said, “Social media is not just another way to connect feminist and activist voices - it amplifies our messages as well”.
I actively advocate feminist change online but strive to do more in reality. My goal as a feminist from here on is to equally spread the word and make change digitally and in the real world.
I believe the digital age and the feminist movement can make monumental progress when put hand in hand.
So keep on posting, sharing and reblogging, my feminist friends. But let’s not let the fighting end there.