Feminism Today Is an Online Movement

Kayla Tehero, Staff Writer

Kayla Tehero

08 November 2022


Journalism – Pd. 1


Gender equality is something that people have been fighting towards for centuries. Although we have made great progress, women are still oppressed around the world and there is a lot we need to do to achieve equal rights. As feminism has developed over the years, the eras in which people fought for women’s rights can be identified in waves. In America, many claim that this is the fourth wave of feminism, with the first wave beginning in 1848. So, what is unique about this time period for feminism and how is it identified?

The past six months have been such a critical period for women’s rights and feminism, revolving around two historical events in world history. The first was the Supreme Court’s decision on June 24 to overturn the 1973 case Roe v. Wade, which grants the constitutional right to an abortion. Since then, many conservative-leaning states have banned most or all abortions.

More recently, on Sept. 16 in Iran, 20-year-old Mahsa Amini was brutally murdered by the Iranian morality police for not wearing her government mandated hijab “properly.” In response, brave young women throughout Iran began to protest the violence and misogyny in their government by marching, burning their headscarves, and cutting their hair. In response, the Iranian government is executing men, women, and children who protest. Senior Marcus Heu-Weller says, “Both these events bring ideas surrounding women’s rights to the front of our societal conversations.” These events have sparked outrage from people all around the world, but neither would have received the same outreach and support without the help of social media.

Today, news sources like magazines and newspapers are not as useful as they once were. With the click of a button, news and current events can be spread throughout the world with websites and social media accounts in just a second, which helps people stay educated about the world around them. People have more resources about feminism today than ever before. Junior Cassidy Furdyna shares how she gets most of her information on women’s rights from social media, saying, “No one is really talking about it … the only times I hear about it is from the people who are somehow getting information to us … [through] Twitter, TikTok, Instagram.” Social media platforms have such a profound impact on the spread of feminism. So how has it affected recent current events?

After Roe v. Wade was overturned, people from across the country and around the world condemned and protested the Supreme Court’s decision to withdraw the protection of abortion. But the most powerful response was in fact a virtual one. Pulitzer Center says that “with 48 percent of the population looking to social media for their news, social media accounts that promote feminism have attained the opportunity to reach an even wider audience.” This is exactly what happened this year. Many news sources and pro-choice organizations used their social media platforms to inform the public about the Supreme Court ruling, and most importantly encouraged them to make a change. Accounts all over social media encouraged young people especially, who do not historically have a big voter turnout, to show up to the polls for this year’s midterms and vote against further attacks on reproductive rights. Voter turnout for young people did increase in the 2022 midterms, and has provided some protection against total abortion bans, despite the initial threat. Although the overturning of Roe v. Wade still takes a toll on American women’s rights, states like Michigan, Kentucky, and even Montana have put in place measures to prevent further restrictions, all thanks to voters in this year’s midterms.

Social media has also had an important role in the movement in Iran. After Mahsa Amini’s murder, young women risked their lives posting on social media about the movement: videos of cutting their hair, updates about protests and government response, and empowering people around the world to support the Iranian women risking their lives for freedom. Since then, the Iranian government has taken down the Internet to keep the women’s rights movement under wraps, but news sources on social media continue to inform the world with updates on the Iranian movement when possible.

Both Roe v. Wade’s overturn and women’s oppression in Iran are two conflicts that are far from over, and yet we hear less and less about them each day. Social media does a great job raising awareness for these movements, but as time passes, we see less on social media about these movements as other things begin to take the public’s interest. FiveThirtyEight reported that “shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling, 29 percent of reproductive-aged women (ages 18-44) said that abortion was one of the top three issues facing the country…. But since then, the issue has lost some steam. Even among reproductive-aged women, only 12 percent listed abortion as one of their highest priorities in the most recent wave of the survey.” That is one of the flaws of having a social movement led primarily virtually; there is so much information to absorb through social media, that gender equality movements do not get to spend too long in the spotlight, even when conflicts and threats to women’s rights remain unsolved.

The other question is if social media is really that effective at spreading the word? Students at IHS were doubtful. Many students admitted that they had heard little to nothing about the Iranian women fighting for freedom, or the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Freshman Annabella Mobilia said, “Americans are not really responding [to these movements], I think.”

Another problem that social media prevents for the feminist movement is how it impacts the way people perceive feminism. Feminism is a social movement that advocates for gender equality, but many individuals who do not support feminism often have misconceptions about what it really is, and social media is part of why. These people associate feminism with radical ideas about female domination they hear from extremists online, who express those beliefs and paint a bad picture for feminism as a collective movement. Sophomore Jieden Fenderson says, “Feminism in the US has been tarnished by weird, extreme people. But there are actual women out there who are being oppressed.” Feminism is about achieving gender equality for everyone all around the world, but people who identify as feminists but do not support gender equality for all people can harm feminism’s reputation and prevent people from supporting women’s rights movements like the ones currently happening in the US and Iran.

Although social media’s influence on today’s feminism has its flaws, its powerful impact on the spread of gender equality movements today cannot be overlooked. For all that social media does for the fight for equality, we can certainly identify the wave of feminism as an online movement.