(WOMENSENEWS)– One of the attitudes older feminists seem to have about my generation is, essentially, that we need to get our asses into gear.
After all, they petitioned door-to-door for the Equal Rights Amendment. They held conscious-raising sessions. Hell, they slammed their livid bodies against the doors of the Playboy Club to protest violent pornography. So when they watch us tapping away on our computers and calling it activism, it makes sense that they’d be like, “Um, no, I think you’re confused. That’s not activism, that’s actually the ancient art of sitting on your ass.”
But, in defense of technology, I have to say: The Internet is one of the greatest things ever to happen to the modern feminist movement.
The Internet has allowed feminists–who are an incredibly large and diverse group of people–a place to convene. Sure, it’s a virtual convening, but we gather nonetheless.
We can unite by reading blogs, or by blogging ourselves. We have an instantaneous way to share and encounter ideas with a potentially vast number of people.
Beyond the blogosphere, we can join feminist-oriented Facebook groups and meet other like-minded feminist souls, or organize an event and alert an entire online network to its occurrence. We can spread awareness of our cause through mass-email chains or via awesome organizations (like Change.org) that have a mission to raise awareness and gain support for worthy causes. There are plenty of sites where users can create their own petitions and otherwise be in charge of creating their own form of change. There are even websites (like Kickstarter) that allow people to raise money for their projects or ideas.
Reaping the Benefit
And while these websites and new opportunities for communication and connections aren’t limited to the feminist community, our movement has certainly reaped their benefits.
The Internet also allows us to begin to bridge the gap among different global feminist movements. With the Internet, we can see what our feminist sisters in India and Saudi Arabia are up to. And then we can support them–and use their stories, perspectives and ideas to shape our own movements.
Discovering female feticide and infanticide was what first got me involved in feminism. The fact that such atrocities could not only be committed, but also be so common, such an accepted part of other cultures, that was what lit the fire within me. But even though what I found in all my research and reading on the subjects made me irate, it was still something I only read about. It wasn’t something I could see or feel. Only later, when I was connecting with actual girls abroad via my feminist blog the FBomb, did the adversity that women face on a global level become truly tangible.
A few months after starting the FBomb, I received an email from a 15-year-old girl from Jordan. She sent me a blog submission about how difficult it was to be a teen feminist in the Middle East. She wrote of how free speech and empowerment are weakened and undermined by patriarchal control and widespread rejection of anything Western. She asked that I post her submission under a pseudonym, because if anybody were to find out what she had written, she could be in great trouble.
She continued to write posts over the next year–about her feelings on the headscarf (hijab) and about “honor” killings. So-called dishonorable activities include having an affair and, in some extreme cases, simply talking to a man to whom she is not related.
That’s when I felt the connection. That’s when it became real to me. Here was a girl who had witnessed things I’d only read about and who lived in a culture that promoted values different from the ones we live with in America. She had emailed me. It wasn’t in the printed text of an article or the spoken words of a teacher. It was a direct connection. She was real and part of my life now.
It was then–when I could actually point to somebody real who had witnessed these things–that I finally realized, on a deeper level, “This shit actually happens.”
Ultimately, the Internet is a tool that is beyond powerful. Just as it has changed the way business is conducted, the way we define our relationships and the way we communicate, it has also changed the way we create, maintain and grow social movements.
I’m not saying that the Internet will solve all of the feminist movement’s problems. There are still pervasive issues that have nothing to do with communication and accessibility. But at least with the Internet, we’re able to remove some roadblocks in a fresh and largely effective way, and that is nothing to sneeze at.
Excerpted from the book “A Little F’d Up: Why Feminism is Not a Dirty Word” by Julie Zeilinger. Excerpted by arrangement with Seal Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright copyright 2012
Julie Zeilinger is the founder and editor of the FBomb, a feminist blog and community for teens and young adults who care about their rights and want to be heard. She has been named one of the eight most influential bloggers under the age of 21 by Woman’s Day magazine, one of More Magazine’s “New Feminists You Need To Know,” one of The Times’ “40 Bloggers Who Really Count” and one of the Plain Dealer’s “Most Interesting People of 2011.”
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A Little F’d Up: Why Feminism Is Not a Dirty Word
by Julie Zeilinger
Young women today have a bad reputation, and for good reason: Theyre sexting their classmates, they spend more time on FaceBook than they do in class, and their appetite for material possessions and reality TV is matched only by their overwhelming apathy… (read more)
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