“Deal with it you stupid feminist”. This was what a man tweeted at me on January 21st of this year. I had been minding my business, retweeting what I could about the Women’s March in Washington when I received that tweet. It shook an inner part of me that was full of passion towards the feminist movement. In fact, at this point in my life the term “feminist,” which has many negative connotations, has been one thing I can identify with.
You’re probably wondering why I let a simple tweet from a stranger cause such emotion in me. I will happily explain why in this post. Let me first, start out by saying that I was never verbal about being a feminist up until college. Spending years at a Catholic school and being with the same people, didn’t allow me to meet different personalities or broaden my horizons. Instead, I was in a bubble that blocked any worldviews besides the ones instilled in me. I found that through social media I could express myself in ways I couldn’t in my day-to-day life.
I don’t like to view it as hiding behind a screen, because I believe only cowardice people are the ones who hide. Instead, I think what I am posting through these various medias isn’t concealing me, but contributing. Social media has been a huge aide to many movements as well as being a channel for individualism. Therefore, I believe your regularly used apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, are pivotal contributors to feminism and other causes. Whether it’s a retweet, share, or repost, what you’re doing is taking part in sending a message to others who may stumble upon your social media. Though you may not realize it, that simple click became a potential impact on another human being.
Women of the 21st century who take part in the feminist movement through social media are more inclined to do so because it is more comfortable for them. This is the easiest way to become involved. According to Julia Schuster’s research (2013), she finds that women partake in what’s called “microactivism”. This means being an activist on the lowest level. Although you’re not at the rallies or openly partaking in protests, you are sharing those beliefs to those who may or may not listen. Because this requires little physical effort and is easily engaging, many are more inclined to call themselves feminists and offer their opinions.
Schuster also hints that this has created a sort of safety. Whether from parents or parental-like figures, considering her findings were that “younger” women, e.g. 20 to 30s, use social media more than those who are older. On the same note, many women felt support from feminists. Something they may not get in real life from friends, family, etc.. (p. 16).
Blogging platforms such as Tumblr, was one of the sole reasons I found feminism to begin with. In this day in age, blogs are sprouting up like flowers in May. Because it takes more work to regularly update and upkeep, “microactivism” wouldn’t apply here (Schuster, 2013, p. 17). Back when I had my own Tumblr blog, I was constantly on the lookout for exciting updates, pictures, and other feminist-related postings. When it comes to politics the best way to keep informed is to remain up to date on all that is happening. For bloggers, this means hours of research to accumulate information, take a stance, and finally write, rewrite, and post their final opinions.
A blog by Stephanie Timp had an article focusing on the topic of feminism and it’s linking to social media. In it she states, rather poetically, “Social Media is more than just a platform for the dissemination of information, it is a foundation for the proliferation of opinions where one can look on as consciousness is raised; thus, it is an invaluable addition to the internet of things for women especially” (pg. 14). Her words ring with truth: although someone is not actively engaging in the fight, they are making the conscious effort to understand, and that’s all feminism really needs — to be understood.
Aside from the blogging, Twitter has seemingly inhabited a lot of the feminist social media due to the fourth wave. Perhaps the most touching, awe-inspiring, and unifying moment was when the #YesAllWomen hashtag trended. For those who don’t remember, a man went on a hate-filled killing spring in Santa Barbara, California, back in 2014 (Chittal, 2015). A common line for men when someone is speaking ill of another man is “but not all men are like that/say that/do that,” etc. This hashtag symbolized that while not all men are sexist killers, but all women are targeted every day simply because they are a woman.
This sparked a light that ignited every feminist across the media platform. Up until now, social reforms and activists alike use Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to show their support by using a commonly used, widespread symbol. This symbol unifies and sends a message. For example, according to Twitter’s polls, the top trending feminist hashtags are: #BringBackOurGirls with 5.5 million, #YesAllWomen with 3.4 million, and #HeForShe with 1.7 million (MSNBC, 2015). Those numbers say something and it’s one of the reasons why you should listen.
Feminism in the 21st century has been labeled the “fourth wave”. Now, if you’ve never heard of the fourth wave feminists before, let me quickly explain. According to Ealasaid Munro (2013), feminism came in waves, built up over the years and progressed such as time had. Because we’re now in the 21st century and technology has advanced, feminism took to the shiny new outlet and incorporated it into our agenda. As I stated previously, with the Internet and its accessibility, it’s much easier to be linked-in to what’s going on and to quickly form and post your opinion about it. Munro called this type of action a ‘call-out culture,’ where people are very interested in today’s media and criticizing it.
So, you’ve seen feminism on your social media, or even in print like some design itched across a Hot Topic t-shirt, or a sticker on RudBubble, but where is it in the news media? Why is feminism relying so much on social media? Jaimie Loke, Ingrid Bachmann, and Dustin Harp, conducted a study which found that feminism is rarely deemed as a topic that is newsworthy. Even this news could just be politicians debating over the definition of feminism (p. 129). In this case, feminism is put in an unflattering light. If members of the movement act in a negative and controversial way then people will listen to their message.
Feminists unify themselves under one belief; equality for all. We fight every day to ensure better futures for our children. We hope that they can grow in a world that accepts them for who they are. A world that doesn’t base their worth on things like gender, sex, and the race. Social media aids us in our endeavor to spread these ideals. Hopefully this will make a difference in generations to come. As technology advances, we continue to look for more outlets to share the fight for fundamental rights for all, as we are all living and breathing the same air on the same Earth.
Whether you’re using your social media to simply post pictures, check up on family and friends, or post a status that you put great grandma Agatha’s lasagna recipe to shame, you will most likely encounter cyber feminism. I hope that after reading this post you’ve learned a little about why we utilize social media and how your simple favorites, likes and shares contribute to the cause. All we want is change, and through visibility can that change become a possibility. If you’re feeling good about this feel free to share this blog post and be a part of the change.
Bachmann, I., Harp, D., Loke, J. (2017). Co-opting feminism: media discourses on
political women and the definition of a (new) feminist identity. Media, Culture &
Society, 39(1), 122-132.
Chittal, N. (2015). How social media is changing the feminist movement. MSNBC.
Retrieved from: http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/how-social-media-changing-the-
Munro, E. (2013). Feminism: A fourth wave? Political Insight, 4(2), 22-25.
Schuster, J. (2013). Invisible feminists? Social media and young women’s political
participation. Political Science, 65(1), 8-24.
Timp, S. (2016). Social media and feminism. Linkedin. Retrieved from: