Writing exclusively for Women on the Page, The Vagenda‘s Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter discuss why social media and the rise of online activism is a brilliant thing for women.
Throughout our childhoods and our teenage years in the Nineties and early Noughties, it often felt as though the future for women was bleak. Barbies were all the rage, toy shops still had segregated pink ‘little girls’ and blue ‘little boys’ sections (mini hoovers and cookery sets in the former, space exploration games and train sets in the latter), lads’ mags were at peak ‘get your tits out for the lads’ hysteria, and people genuinely considered Hugh Hefner a serious businessman with enviable cultural capital. In this so-called “post-feminist” universe, the only women on the front pages of newspapers were princesses or murder victims, and catcalling was universally acknowledged to be ‘just a bit of a laugh’. Some things had changed for the better since the previous generation’s feminist efforts – but some had undoubtedly got worse.
Social media had a big part to play in challenging all of this. By 2013, women’s blogs were being featured across the mainstream media – and they were discussing subjects, from domestic violence to street harassment, that had previously been swept under the table. The progress we’ve made since then for women has been seriously encouraging. Girls on council estates in Cardiff and Middlesbrough were joining girls in Dar es Salaam and Pakistan online, sharing their stories and working together on issues that were important to them. People like Malala Yousafzai had their stories broadcast across the globe almost instantly, and were recognised as serious, hardworking figures deserving of a platform, rather than merely as victims. Online campaigns such as Everyday Sexism and No More Page 3 garnered mass support – not just from women, but from men, too. Activists’ voices on the need for better protection for women from FGM led to coverage in the national media and, for the first time, it began to look as if those in positions of power were actually listening. Our blog and Twitter feed, The Vagenda, was set up to combat media sexism and, while we have seen many improvements, there is still a long way to go.
We believe that the future for women is bright, especially if we continue to harness the power of the internet. Social media has galvanised us and allowed us access, for the first time, to a true international solidarity movement of like-minded people who believe in the power of equality, make us laugh, and introduce us to new ways of thinking and analysing. While internet activism should always compliment grass roots campaigning – there is so much work to be done on the ground, too – we are convinced that women finally being able to create their own content, largely unfettered, will force the old bodies of power to take notice, and to eventually give us what we so rightly deserve – equality, in all aspects.
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