Ok. I think we know each other well enough by now for me to let you in on a little something about myself: I consider myself a feminist.
I feel exposed writing that – like I’ve just told you I eat cats. And that, ladies and gentlemen, that discomfort right there is why I wanted to write this post. It’s not a super-heavy post (I hope – I’m only three lines in at the moment), but I have been thinking about a few things recently and want to articulate them. I hope you’ll read on.
So my personal foray into feminism started when I was 14 and we all had to do speeches at school. I spoke passionately about something I vaguely called ‘The Inequality of Women’, and railed against the inflated male ego, proven by the amount of airtime Sanjay had in Eastenders because he got stage fright in the bedroom. I tackled the deep stuff, I tell you.
Then when I was 17, Madonna released her single What It Feels Like for a Girl with the lyrics ‘Strong inside but you don’t know it/Good little girls they never show it’, and I listened to it on repeat for about 6 months. And then, when I was 19 and at university, I read ‘The Whole Woman’ by Germain Greer, joined the ‘We Heart Germaine’ club, and decided that I would never be scared of walking anywhere in the dark because, why should I be?
So, between analysing Eastenders, listening to Madonna, reading mainstream feminism (recently supplemented by Caitlin Moran), and actually being a woman, I feel I’m qualified to address this issue. Specifically, where social media comes into it.
For a while, it felt like this issue had died a death a little bit. It wasn’t (isn’t?) cool to call yourself a feminist, and any feminist notions were wrapped up in the much less confronting ‘girl power’. But thanks to social media, a more three dimensional wave is developing.
The best and worst thing about social media it highlights how women still face challenges and even abuse every day by virtue of their gender. I follow @EverydaySexism on Twitter, and there’s some horrible stories out there of the sexism women face regularly. But I won’t un-follow because I want to show that people are listening, and I do believe in the principle (I’m sure they’re thrilled to know that Ellie B in Durham is listening).
Sheryl Sandberg also used social media to spread her #BanBossy campaign, after the success of her book Lean In (which I think everyone should read. So many times I was reading and thought ‘OMG she’s right! Why do I do that?!!’). #BanBossy encourages women to own being confident, assertive and, when necessary, in control rather than being wary of it. And thanks to social media, both sides of the debate raged and raged. But you know what? Suddenly everyone knew that there was support for women to have a louder voice.
The beauty of social media is that it’s big enough to include all elements of the discussion. Whatever you feel/believe in, whether your feminism is Lipstick, Bra Burning, or I-do-care-but-I’ve-not-experienced-sexism-personally, there’s something for you. @EverydaySexism and the post-Elliot Rodger campaign #YesAllWomen highlight the ways women are treated appallingly. To be honest, I don’t un-follow @EverydaySexism but I sometimes skim past it because it’s so uncomfortable to read. But that’s their point: they’re not constructive or comforting, they’re confronting and defiant. They expose the problem and we should all consider the solution (so maybe I shouldn’t skim past it).
#BanBossy encourages a solution, which is not to be scared anymore. I’m sure the point was not to actually ban the term ‘bossy’, it was to make people stop and think when they find themselves thinking ‘damn she’s such a bossy…’. And to make women feel more comfortable taking a stronger position than they might have done previously. As Victoria Coren wrote, ‘the ten-year-old me knows exactly what it means’.
And what about beloved Facebook, my favourite of all social media? This week I saw two advertisements which made me want to punch the air and shout ‘Who runs the world? Girls!’. I have a Beyonce lyric for most situations in life. Anyway, the ads: here is one, and here is the other. These ads crystallise everything that the other social media campaigns are doing: they are confronting, celebratory, challenging and constructive all at once. And thanks to the power of the Facebook ‘share’, they’re out there and the discussion continues.
They ultimately made me want to write this post, which in itself is another example of social media feminism – and how a running blog has been hijacked yet again at the whim of it’s author 😉
14 years after Madonna released her song, and 44 years after Germaine Greer wrote The Female Eunuch, it’s sad that we still face similar challenges. But social media gives us a shared voice, and a way to make our thoughts and feelings known. Hopefully the messages will will seep into our seams, so in another 44 years we’ll look back with the same bemused horror that we have when we see how women are treated on Mad Men. And by then we won’t need hashtags or Twitter because we’ll all be able to communicate with our minds and using our hover boards to get to work.
Next post is a running one! Or at least a sporty one 😉 And because I love Texts from Hillary: