It can be difficult to fight for and keep up to date with all of the passions that I hold dear - one of which is challenging sexism and misogyny. I want to fight for true equality for women in all of its forms and yet feel I never have the time to do something, never mind enough, towards the cause.
I have, though, become quite addicted to Twitter....and I am discovering that social media is enabling me to keep up with what's happening out there and to support it through the simple action of re-tweeting or responding to tweets. This is in no way a substitute for direct action and trying to live feminist principles in my everyday life but it is better than nothing and helps me feel connected when I have little time to engage in meetings or 'real life' events and projects. And some Twitter campaigns are being highly effective at giving women and the issues of equality, sexism, and feminism a voice where mainstream channels do not. Below are a selection of my favourites - I urge you to follow/engage with them.
NoMorePage3: [@NoMorePage3] Campaign lead by Lucy-Anne Holmes to persuade the Sun to drop scantily clad women on Page 3 - motto is 'Say no to the wrong things, the right things will happen'. NoMorePage3 is not about banning photos of women in minimal clothing - although many have tried to characterise it as frigid feminists doing just that and promoting censorship. It is about saying that such material can be accessed by adults freely already through the internet, top shelf magazines and, indeed, not so top shelf magazines like Nuts and Zoo. I am not a fan of Nuts and Zoo either but at least they don't pretend to be a national family newspaper and that is what the campaign is about - that naked breasts are not daily news so why are they in a daily newspaper? Lucy-Anne's petition has generated over 84,000 signatures and has given women and men a voice that the mainstream press - until recently - ignored. Her work has challenged Lego's advertising in the Sun [why would a family brand endorse such sexist behaviour?] and moved the Sun's position from one of complete resistance to Murdoch tweeting "you may be right, don't know but considering" in response to @NoMorePage3 tweeting "seriously, we are so over page 3 - it is so last century".
The Women's Room: [@TheWomensRoomUK] Website set up to proving the media wrong that the media just reflects the way the world is and there are not enough female experts around - research shows that while women are present in the media - for example we represent 79% of victims - three-quarters of the media's "experts" are men. You can sign up and log your area of expertise so that the website has a searchable database of experts for the media to draw on. Media outlets can contact TheWomensRoom for help in finding women experts so they achieve a more balanced panel/input. As they say on the site:
"For two days in a row, in October 2012, the Today programme ran a segment on a female issue. On both days, the issue was discussed exclusively by men. The BBC claimed that they had been unable to find female experts despite their best efforts. Well, their best efforts clearly weren't very effortful, because within minutes of sending out a request on twitter, we had found a wealth of female expertise on both topics – teenage contraception and breast cancer."
EverydaySexism: [@EverydaySexism] This project exists to catalogue instances of sexism experienced by women on a day to day basis and is the brainchild of Laura Bates. Too often women are told that the sexism they experience is one-off, not the norm, or not evidence of an endemic issue with society around the oppression and control of women. Women who do challenge sexist behavior are often labelled prudes, or uptight, or bitches, or ranty feminists who can't take a joke. And women who express that they think sexism is a real issue are told that equality has been won and sexism is not a real, live issue any more. Laura's project dispels those myths with over 10,000 instances of sexism being reported. You can submit your story in your name or anonymously, through the twitter account, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and she will upload your story for you.
WomenUnderSeigeProject [@womenundrseige] is a journalism project that investigates how rape and other forms of sexualised violence are used as tools of genocide and conflict throughout the 20th and into the 21st century. It was originally devised by Gloria Steinem and builds on works such as Sexual Violence Against Jewish Women During the Holocaust [Sonja Hedgepeth and Rochelle Saidel] and At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape and Resistance - a New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power [Danielle McGuire].
One of the key elements to note about all of the above is that they are action focused. Stating that sexism and discrimination against women exists is fine - because it is true - and I believe everyone should take action - everyone is responsible for this. But to all the naysayers who use jaded arguments about women not taking action, women just criticising from the sidelines [generally where we are put against our will it has to be said!] or there not being the women out there who can provide solutions - the above answers that in spades.
A wee note....
Engaging in social media is not risk free - it is worth noting that when I signed up to @NoMorePage3 I got several abusive tweets back. It isn't exactly pleasant. However, none of what I have experienced through social media is any worse than what I have experienced in real life. That is a sad indictment of the society we live in but, while I want to highlight the downside so you are prepared, I don't want to put people off. Words can and do hurt - the vitriol poured out under anonymity and with the abuser knowing they are safe from any real consequences can on occasion be poisonous - but you can't be physically assaulted [not that verbal abuse isn't bad in and of itself] and the abusive tweets can be easily forwarded to like-minded supporters to receive an equal and significant vocal response back. You can tap into support very easily in a way you can't when you have just been groped on the tube or are being heckled on your way home from work - both rather isolating experiences. The networks of support are being built and are there to join - get your own voice heard too.