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May 29, 2016 | by  | in Opinion |
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In Defence of Internet Feminism

Late last year, I ditched Tumblr. For the three or four years previous to this, I had used my blog as an outlet for all my frustrations and musings, particularly to do with my interest and involvement in feminism. But soon after I became incredibly hostile towards “internet feminism”—the feminism that involves posting feminist opinions on social media rather than being active outside the internet and making real change. I started to believe that feminist cyber communities were an obsolete platform for this kind of discussion because no one needed convincing, they were all just getting frustrated over bigotry and oppression without actually doing anything about it. I got really, unnecessarily bitter.

Lately however, I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of the “keyboard warrior” and the way it is used to silence the voices of marginalised demographics that use social media as a safer platform to discuss the various oppressions they face. It also totally invalidates the possibility that the internet isn’t the only place someone is engaging with feminism. It reduces them to a Facebook status machine, and dismisses the self-education and thought process behind whatever they’re posting. And I’ve begun to realise that discussing these issues in self-selected groups maybe isn’t quite as futile as I had previously thought.

Social media gives feminists, particularly young feminists, the platform to be able to refine their stances and gain feedback from other feminists on their opinions. This kind of solidarity is pretty powerful when you think about the millions of young people around the world contributing their own experiences and thoughts to the discussion, strengthening each other’s arguments. This means that when they go out into the IRL world, their arguments are better developed and can make some real change to the people who aren’t already in agreement. These platforms also give us a strong sense of agency, we feel like our opinions are valid and worthy of being listened to. In a world where women have been historically silenced and taught that they are to be seen, not heard, this is a powerful idea.

Internet feminism is also really damn good for giving women the resources to educate themselves and become feminists. Without Tumblr I would have no fucking clue what intersectionality was, and I would be totally unaware of the more insidious manifestations of patriarchy. My feminism would be centred around equal pay and basic rights, with no understanding of how poor women, transwomen, and women of colour have a harder time getting these than me. Even if Tumblr didn’t give me all the information I needed, it gave me the motivation to go and research some more reputable sources, and listen to music by women and read their literature and study their art and truly understand how misogyny works.

Even without Tumblr, I am still very, very guilty of internet feminism. Most of my Facebook posts are related to feminism, and on Twitter I engage with a lot of other feminists around Wellington / NZ. However I’m also co-president of the VUWSA Women’s Group, I’m involved with the coordination of the Thursdays In Black campaign, I do a bit of work creating safer and more inclusive spaces for women in music, and I’m intending to spend the next few years writing an encyclopaedia of women in art history. The internet is only one facet of my feminism, but it’s probably one of my favourites, because I can sit in bed (as I am now) and engage in important discussions and support other feminists in their endeavours, then shut my laptop and sleep.

As much as it’s important that feminists are out rallying and being politically active and truly making waves in society, it’s also important that we look after our own mental health, and sometimes an evening of feminist shitposting our opinions on Twitter and drinking a bottle of cheap wine is exactly what we need. And sometimes it’s just nice to have a friend comment “yass” on your latest Facebook yarn.

 

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