Although successful women’s movements have persisted in the past, organizing and communicating across large groups with ease has never truly been realized.
The advent of social media has opened up a world full of possibilities for how women’s movements can be successfully executed. Using social media, women are able to organize for causes and share stories with ease — increasing awareness about issues that impact other women. On top of that, social media allows for women to mobilize all demographics in support of women’s issue movements. In particular, social media helped to mobilize people for the “He For She” Movement, which is a solidarity movement founded in 2014 committed to ending gender discrimination and inequality. By adding a quick hashtag and taking to social media, the movement has greatly expanded in recent years — helping to gather advocates towards the goal of gender equality.
Throughout history, activism has continued to evolve in order to best relay the messages of different causes to the public. However, with the emergence of technology and multiple social media platforms, activism has entered a new age. By pairing activism with social media, a more diverse audience has been reached and engaged than any other previous generation. Before social media platforms were popularized, technology brought the invention of virtual activism mediums.
The overall era of virtual activism began gaining momentum in the 1990’s through websites like MoveOn.org and through the ability to amass supporters for protests and demonstrations via email. Already, these additions to technology began to change activism. As new developments were made to existing technologies, virtual activism became even more popular going into the 2000s. With the emergence of new social media platforms — like Twitter in 2006 and Instagram in 2010 — social media activism became a way for even more audiences to connect with new social movements.
So, how does social media enhance activism and create a larger space for women in activism?
1. Exposure & Awareness
One way in which social media helps support activism is it allows for the coordination of numerous individual responses and aids in connecting people with the causes they relate to. This can be seen largely through the cultivation of hashtags for specific activist movements. Through these cultivations, social media allows for a more diverse set of lived experiences to be shared that previously may not have been brought to people’s attention. Exposure to new lived experiences can help shed light on situations around inequality, such as gender inequality. Increased awareness around issues affecting women could potentially influence others to realize opportunities in their own lives to make a difference.
Once people are moved to activist causes, social media allows for easy promotion of unified protesting efforts and other events. The widespread access of social media allows for these efforts to be shared anywhere from a local to global level. Digital platforms enable the sharing of photos and videos depicting collective action being taken towards achieving an activist’s goals. This allows for people to see the progression of movements they support.
3. Including the Voice of Women
Lastly, the “He For She” campaign is one of the primary examples of social media activism in the last decade that promotes advancing the voices of women and recognizes women’s rights as a human rights issue in mainstream media. The online campaign launched via social media in 2014 — founded by the United Nations and famous individuals who endorsed ending gender inequality. Through the launch of this campaign, the United Nations utilized social media influence held by celebrities to help draw large scale support from fans across the globe. Famous actress Emma Watson — who has over 63 million Instagram followers — leads the “He For She” campaign online.
Through collaboration with the United Nations, she has been able to help with efforts, such as fundraising, sponsoring, and educating on many issues that disproportionately affect women all around the world. From this point, the movement encourages people to help join efforts to end gender inequality in their own communities. The “He For She” movement provides a prime example of the ways in which social media brings women’s voices forward in social media activism. Moving forward, this example — alongside other current social media activism efforts — displays a loose blueprint for the ways in which women can begin to organize themselves for activism across various online platforms.
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Sliwinski, Michael. “The Evolution of Activism: From the Streets to Social Media.” Law Street, 21 Jan. 2016, legacy.lawstreetmedia.com/issues/politics/evolution activism-streets-social-media/.
“Social Media as Activism and Social Justice.” Maryville Online, 25 Nov. 2019, online.maryville.edu/blog/a-guide-to-social-media-activism/.