TW: Sexual abuse, sexual assault
Written by Charlotte India Howard (@ccindiez)
Featured image by Lucy Nicholson (@lucynic)
With both digital media and social media constantly adapting to new technologies, so are the ways in which we communicate with each other. These newfound social platforms, particularly those established within the past two decades, have also had a fundamental impact on the advocacy and future of women’s rights and women’s empowerment.
The reason these technological advances have impacted feminist activism to such a degree, is because, unlike past generations, young girls are now much more exposed to its histories and importance within society. Furthermore, as demonstrated through the perpetual surge of new blogs and pages being created on various social media platforms, this exposure to the history and existence of women’s rights continually encourages women to connect and communicate with one another. This accessibility to such technologies and platforms has, for the first time, the potential to inspire young girls (and women) to partake in their own feminist activism, both on and offline.
The #MeToo movement, which started in 2017 as a social movement against sexual abuse and sexual harassment is just one example of how the relationship between social media and feminist activism has become not just a tool of communication, but a means of female solidarity. With this movement having encouraged millions of women to come forward and share their experiences with both sexual abuse and harassment, there is no denying the impact social media had as a means of communication during this pivotal period. In fact, it could be argued the #MeToo movement would not have existed at all if it were not for the social platforms that allowed users to communicate amongst one another, as supporters of the movement used these online platforms to share information, plan and organise protest actions, propagate political messages, and debate feminist ideas (Hillstrom, 2019).
More recent events, such as the death of Sarah Everard earlier this year, continue to demonstrate this necessity for digital communication and female-led conversations when speaking up for women’s rights and demanding for change to be made and justice to be served. With social media platforms allowing news of the disappearance to spread amongst women all over the world, it took less than one month for the injustice Everard faced to provoke the beginning of yet another political movement to encourage women’s safety to be prioritised and taken more seriously.
#ReclaimTheseStreets, initially organised by a group of women over the internet, was launched just seven days after Sarah’s story made headlines on both digital and social media. Their first post, published on their website and social platforms, titled ‘A vigil for all women threatened on our streets’ attested the importance of women feeling safe on the streets, arguing that “women are not the problem”. They also announced a vigil that would be held “for and about women, but open to all”. The vigil, intended to take place in Clapham Common on Saturday the 13th of March, was described as “a vigil for Sarah, but also for all women who feel unsafe, who go missing from our streets and who face violence every day”.
The unrestrained use of the #ReclaimTheStreets hashtag on social media inspired women from all across the country to initiate and attend vigils in their own cities, with over four different vigils having been held in Glasgow alone. Of course, The reality of feminist activism is that there are still many issues that are ever-present for many women, as what women have fought for over the last few decades has not resulted in long-lasting positive changes (Griffin, 2005). However, with the developments of digital technology that we have adapted to throughout the past two decades, there is no denying the progress that’s simultaneously been made towards creating a sense of inclusion and unanimity to prioritising safe, digital spaces for women online to connect, support, educate and inspire one another.
There’s still a long way to go until we live in a society that prioritises the safety and equality of women. Though, we know that to create change, feminist activism requires the backing of street demonstrations, a large coverage in the press and the support of convinced MP’s to obtain new legal rights (Jouet, 2018), and with millions of indignant women, including myself, using social media to come together and make our voices heard, there’s not a single man that could stop us.
Jouet, J., 2018. Digital feminism: Questioning the renewal of activism. Journal of Research in Gender Studies, 8(1), pp.133-157
Hillstrom, L.C., 2018. The# metoo movement. ABC-CLIO.