How the internet created the new wave
Waves of feminism come out of generational ideals, all urging in some way for women and gender equality. Each wave of feminism promoted different ideals to solve social problems, but also pushed forward to create other movements. The Third Wave of feminism focused on various women’s issues which challenged the way society viewed queer and non-white women.This was important for it lead to the inclusion of women of different ethnicities, nationalities and backgrounds in the discussion towards gender equality.
Today, many speculate about the legitimacy of a Fourth Wave of feminism. Yet, Jennifer Baumgardner, executive director and publisher of The Feminist Press claimed “We are basically in a fourth wave of feminism.”
This can be seen through activism in movements such as free the nipple, and many ideas being propelled forward because of access to social media and mass information available online. Today, it has become a generational staple of feminist movements to promote organizations and fight against relevant issues through platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The internet has been helpful in providing real life action against issues in comparison to the early 1990s during the Third Wave of feminism where the internet was not available.
Third wave feminists and organizations in the early 1990s relied predominantly on things such as fanzines, independent niche magazines produced by fans focused on specific topics, to promote ideals and explore feminist issues. The upheaval of feminist movements inspired by the grunge riot grrrl movement in the music scene, allowed female bands, to express frustration with issues such as rape culture, abuse and patriarchy. Many bands, such as The Bikini Kill, were a part of this movement and used music to address these issues.
“In place of zines and songs, young feminists created blogs, Twitter campaigns and online media with names like Racialicious and Feministing, or wrote for Jezebel and Salon’s Broadsheet,” Baumgardner said.
Baumgardner explained how the fourth wave of feminists came about out of an age of increasing technological advancement.
“I think feminist on platforms such as Tumblr and Twitter, as well as blogs like Feministing and Crunk Feminist Collective — to just name two — are examples of the impact of access to social media in keeping feminist conversation alive,” Baumgardner said.
Setting them apart from other feminist movements, the fourth wavers were born into the technology age, utilizing the internet and social media to promote accessibility for all.
“Social media and access to online content is of vital importance to connect individuals, and help to promote real life action against harassment” said C.J. Morrison, program and administrative assistant of Hollaback!, an organization that works to combat street harassment.
“Access to social media allows individuals to be educated about street harassment and promote the notion of becoming active bystanders in regard to these social issues,” Morrison said. By engaging in online activism, individuals can promote the idea that this behavior is unacceptable thus alieving the greater problem of street harassment.
Kelsey Carroll from the Feminist Majority Foundation explained how social media has been extremely effective in providing real life action in Fourth Wave feminist issues. She said, “As with most activist groups, FMF has used social media for a number of our campaigns. For example, we successfully got Time magazine to apologize for including ‘feminist’ in its 2014 list of words to ban”. Carroll also claimed things like Twitter and Facebook are useful in getting information to the public, and helping to further movements.
Today, social media has become an excellent tool to perpetuate movements, whereas in the early days of the Third Wave of feminism, reaching thousands with just a click was impossible. Social media allow for individuals to join movements, and become actively engaged in feminist discussions. Not only has access to information become unbelievably simple, but rallying behind ideas and taking action against injustice is as easy as Instagraming a picture and posting a hashtag.
Shannah Sacco is a junior politics major who doesn’t need the internet to make waves. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.