Recently it was announced that after months of campaigning, Jane Austen would replace Charles Darwin as the figure on England’s £10 notes. The online petition started after it was revealed that Norwich’s own Elizabeth Fry, currently the only woman besides the Queen to appear on banknotes, would be usurped by Winston Churchill.
Whilst most people celebrated Austen’s recognition by the Bank of England as an influential figure, Caroline Criado-Perez, a feminist campaigner involved in the petition, received a multitude of vile tweets threatening her rape and murder. It is slightly comforting to hear that one 21-year-old male has already been arrested and police are currently investigating other perpetrators of the abuse. However, the fact that an individual could receive such disgusting abuse as a direct result of campaigning for the equal recognition of British women clearly illustrates the sad necessity for feminism in 2013. Whilst second wave feminism (the name given to the women’s rights movement after suffrage was achieved) has been making itself heard since the 1960’s, campaigns today are made all the more potent through their clever use of social media to raise awareness.
One of the most recognisable campaigns around at the moment is Who Needs Feminism? The premise is very simple and it is its uniformity which makes it so effective; individuals are photographed holding a sign which reads ‘I need feminism because…’ completed with whatever reason that person feels feminism is important to them. The photographs raise conversation about the varied and personal definitions of feminism; through its encouragement of a spectrum of definitions, the campaign aims to eradicate the negative stereotype of the bra burning feminist: whiny, aggressive and exclusively female. The scheme has been adopted in universities and cities throughout the world in order to raise the subject of feminism in a more localized area, whilst the images are shared via Facebook and Twitter to create a universal feminist presence online.
Whilst Who Needs Feminism? seeks to eradicate outdated stereotypes towards gender equality, the Everyday Sexism Project on Twitter illustrates just how much we all need feminism. Users tweet @EverydaySexism to share their real life experiences of gender inequality and often sexual harassment, which are then retweeted to the page’s 84,500+ followers. It’s sickening to see that these examples of sexism, which should be an archaic occurrence in 2013, are not uncommon or isolated. The page receives hundreds of tweets every day, from both men and women, some as young as twelve years old, who have been subjected to sexism whilst simply going about their everyday lives. Though it is certainly disheartening to read about the foul treatment that an individual can be subjected to by their equals, by drawing attention to sexism in all of its forms and forcing the issue into the spotlight, the Everyday Sexism Project encourages us all to take action against gendered abuse, speak out and educate.
Another campaign which utilises Twitter to its full advantage is Lucy Holmes’s petition to remove the infamous ‘Page 3’ from the Sun newspaper. The petition to David Dinsmore, current editor of the Sun, has over 111,800 signatures and is expanding every day. The Sun, keen for us to believe that it upholds “family” values, argues against the inappropriateness of displaying soft pornography where it can be easily seen by children. So far the paper has not relented in its decision to include a page three, remaining of the opinion that bare breasts are news. Holmes’s Twitter @NoMorePage3 not only keeps followers up to date with the status of the petition but also shares news of other current feminist issues in the media. No More Page 3 recently showed great support for the Cooperative’s announcement that “lad’s mags” such as Zoo and Nuts must be dispatched in sealed modesty bags within the next six weeks to avoid being boycotted by the store. Like the other two campaigns, No More Page 3 uses social media to both raise awareness of the need for feminism and to change the inherent sexism of one of Britain’s most widely read newspapers. Here’s hoping that they gain the extra 888,000 signatures they need to reach their goal.