Fourth-wave feminism – let’s talk about the digital activism

if you’re not part of it, you’re doing something wrong

This is not just another article on feminism; This is part of raising awareness, learning & unlearning.

Before we dive right in, let’s acknowledge how important it is that you landed on this page.

While reading this article, I want you to make mental notes of things you find interesting or intriguing. You don’t have to agree 100% on everything you read on here (or anywhere!), you are more than welcomed – in fact you are encouraged to use your critical thinking skills and read this piece of information as carefully as you can. 

If you’re like me, then you’ll have probably asked ”Why wasn’t the first wave of feminism enough for women to gain the political, social and economic rights they deserve?”. Turns out, we needed more than one wave to get to where we are today.

The fourth – wave feminism shows how gender inequality is still a persistent global issue and unless we are all educated and willing to take action, we’ll all witness the fifth, sixth, and seventh wave of feminism, because we are not going anywhere. We’ll keep fighting until all women around the world are treated equally. 

When did people start using the concept of waves when discussing feminism?

It started in 1968 with an article that Martha Weinman Lear wrote for the New York Times ”The Second Feminist Wave”.

In 1968 she discussed how feminism wasn’t dead; a second phase of the social movement had just begun, aftert the first, which succesfully ended with the glorious victory of suggrafe. I wonder if Martha realised that feminism wouldn’t be dead in 2022 either.

With time, the wave metaphor was widely used to explain the different eras, forms and generations of feminism.

Did you know Martha lives happily with her husband in New York? Read more about her story here.

Feminism has been more than just a social movement, even if it began as such. The wave metaphor can feel quite reductive when we discuss the feminist movement; it is not the best way, but it certainly helps us raise awareness and make it easier to understand and explain it in various conversations.

Here is an overview of the feminist waves, starting from the suffragettes to #MeToo social movement.

First-wave feminism

1848 – 1920

What was it all about? The right of women to vote, to access higher education, birth control, workplace rights, private property rights for married women and equal and fair marriage laws.

Second-wave feminism

1963 – 1980s

Second-wave feminism raised awareness of domestic abuse and marital rape, established women’s shelters, and influenced adjustments in custody and divorce laws.

Third-wave feminism

1991 – 2000s

Third-wave feminists sought to question, reclaim, and redefine the ideas about womanhood, gender, beauty, sexuality, femininity, and masculinity, among other things.

Welcome to the fourth – wave of feminism.

The fourth-wave of the feminist movement began around 2012 and its main focus is centred around empowering women in the digital era. The fourth -wave is all about readdressing gender roles and the way they have radically changed during the last decade.

A major part of our life now includes social media – shocking, I know. The digital era has revolutionised the way we live, think, act and work.  That’s why the fourth – wave feminism was a necessary social movement for women to raise their voices and share their experiences on different online platforms. 

Nowadays, this new era of feminism has given millions of women the chance to talk about sexual abuse, sexual harassment, the issue of objectification and sexism in every aspect of our lives; in the household, in the streets and in the workplace.

fourth wave feminism

If you are one of those people who are tired of watching women tell their stories about sexual harassment online and you keep thinking ‘not another one’, then to you I say, yes – another one. If you are tired of listening to us, imagine how tired we are.

As women all around the world started opening up about their personal stories, they slowly became aware that they are not alone.

That’s why digital activism is a significant element of fourth – wave feminism.

Intersectionality

Intersectionality is a concept that has gained popularity in recent years, but what does it actually mean, and what does it have to do with women’s issues? 

Put simply, the main idea of intersectionality is that all oppression is linked.

More specifically, the Oxford Dictionary defines intersectionality as “the interconnected nature of social categorisations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage”.

Intersectionality is the realisation that every individual has diverse experiences of discrimination and oppression, and that we must address all the issues that can potentially exclude people because somehow they are interrelated – sex, ethnicity, class, sexual preference, physical capabilities, and so on.

@Photo by Liu Guanguan

Who invented this term? It was Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw who came up with the term “intersectionality” in 1989, and it was introduced to the Oxford Dictionary in 2015, since its significance was growing in the area of women’s rights.

Fourth- wave feminists are all about (just like earlier feminists) greater representation of not only marginalised women in politics and business, but they are advocating for all minority groups that are excluded. What’s more, they argue that society can only reach equality if policies and laws incorporated the perspectives and experiences of all groups.

Fourth- wave feminism and social media 

Feminism no longer searches traditional institutions (universities, conferences, mass demonstrations, street protests, etc) to gain political influence; instead, it now has a significant space on social media, giving anyone the chance to have their voice heard anywhere in the world – as long as there is a Wi-Fi connection.

Although this has increased public awareness of feminist statements, it has also created new marketing opportunities, commercialising the social movement and all its achievements.

While earlier waves of feminism faced challenges such as strict socio-cultural structures and a lack of suitable communication tools, fourth-wave feminists use digital media as a broad platform for connecting, sharing perspectives, generating a broader scope of experienced marginalisation, and they are also criticising previous feminist wave.

@The conversation

Here are some examples that have greatly influenced, educated and revolutionised public opinion:

  • #MeToo movement
  • #YesAllWomen
  • #Bringbackourgirls
  • #NotYourAsianSidekick

The has#tag activism is here to stay

Because of the visibility, communication and omnipresence of social media, not only communities but also protests can be formed faster than ever. All it takes is a single post that reaches like-minded people for change to happen.

Revolutionary women of the fourth -wave feminism

Let’s meet some incredible rebel women around this world who are making history by raising their voices, creating positive change and in many cases, risking their lives just for being brave enoug to speak up.

Modern feminists


@Blair Imani
Faces of Resistance, watch the full video here.

Tarana Burke

After Weinstein, Burke’s viral hashtag was embraced overnight by people sharing their stories of sexual harassment. Tarana Burke quickly became an influential activist who continues to use her high profile to support young women and help those who don’t have a voice be heard.

Blair Imani

Black, Muslim American queer activist who created the nonprofit Equality for HER in 2014 to offer a safe space for women and nonbinary people to be uplifted and empowered. While the nonprofit stopped operating in 2019, its digital resources remain accessible today.


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
@https://www.nationalobserver.com/

Angela Davis

Davis played a significant part in the Civil Rights movement as a political activist and was one of the most crucial leaders in the Black Power movement in the 1960s and 1970s. In 2020, Davis was named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People of the year.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

She was the youngest woman in history to be elected to the US House of Representatives in 2018. One of my favourite things she has said is the following quote:

‘I am here because I have to show my parents that I am their daughter and that they did not raise me to accept abuse from men.’


@atmos.earth

Zarah Sultana

As the MP for Coventry South, she has repeatedly used her platform to raise awareness about Islamophobia, racism and violence against women. You can find her twitting about everything she cares about!

Vanessa Nakate

Ugandan climate activist is using her voice to speak about climate issues, sustainability and a fairer world for everyone. “Every climate activist should be advocating for racial justice because if your climate justice does not involve the most affected communities, then it is not justice at all.

It should be noted that the #metoo social movement slogan does not belong to women in Hollywood; it is used as a tool to draw intersectional attention to the persistence of sexual abuse.

Modern activists are endless. We can’t name them all, but we can join their fight in the simplest forms; educating ourselves, learning and unlearning, engaging in healthy conversations and using our voice.

Why are we still fighting?

The fourth – wave has been labelled “queer, sex-positive, trans-inclusive, body-positive, and digitally driven.” It aims to dismantle gender norms even further.

The issue that these feminists face is institutional white male supremacy. Fourth – wave feminists support the idea that there is no true feminism without a holistic approach to gender equality and social justice.

You are not promoting equality for all if your feminism does not fully and clearly acknowledge and support trans people, people of colour, non-gender conforming people, people with disabilities, and all marginalised groups of people.

Feminism is still essential, particularly in today’s sociopolitical climate. Fourth-wave feminism keeps the radical fundamentals of its past while adapting to the digital era, with an emphasis on intersectionality and insightful awareness of how the complexities of class, race, sexuality, gender, religion and age all affect us in various ways.

So long as gender inequality and male supremacy exist, women all over the world need feminism.

Although we are well into the 21st century, women are still under-represented in leadership roles and men are under-represented in the social care sector.

I am a firm believer that raising awareness is the first and most effective way to reduce gender inequality issues.

Get in touch with me if you have any questions or if you just want to say hello!

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