Feminism in the Digital Age
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Feminism is an ideological constant but is fluid in terms of its applicability, as every wave has been characterised by its most significant societal shift. Modern feminism is credited with a plethora of remarkable accomplishments, which it owes in part to our dependant relationship with the digital domain. Technology influences most of our daily lives in some way or another, and with the internet came new ways to defend ourselves as well as new ways for bullies attack us. Vive la trolls and the schadenfreude of their hideous attempts to destroy self-esteem.
Earlier this year I defended Kim Kardashian-West's nude selfie that attracted, shall we say, a mixed bag of judgements. I championed her 'internet breaking' Paper cover on the grounds that a fuck-you to the haters had never been this full-frontal or brazen since Annie Leibovitz's "culture-jolting" shot of a heavily pregnant Demi Moore for the cover of Vanity Fair in 1991, and I admired that.
She has since appeared at a conference of female bloggers and publicly refuted the possibility of her being a feminist because she's not a "free the nipple" kind of girl, bringing up the old 'I don't like labels' excuse. At the event on August 5th, she said:
"I just think I do what makes me happy and I want women to be confident and I'm so supportive of women ... and I love to support other women. But I'm not the free-the-nipple type girl."She later somewhat contradicted herself in explaining that she posts these nude selfies because she feels good about herself - and so she should, right on girl. The woman works tirelessly to balance her hectic business schedule and maintaining her physique with marriage and parenthood. To bounce back from constant criticism with the confidence she exudes is actually very inspiring. But she more than any other female celebrity right now FREES THE DAMN NIPPLE, and the exacerbating niggle of this quandary is her adamant rebuttal of the feminist label. Kardashian-West is arguably the face of the digital era, and so her advocation of female empowerment is encouraging, but an acceptance of the feminist denomination would be the stimulant to propel the fight for equality to the status it needs in order to fulfil its momentous potential.
Flip this round to another social media star of the moment, comedy queen Amy Schumer, who says "anyone who is not a feminist is an insane person." So what does this mean for Kim K, the multi-billion dollar juggernaut of luxury and success with an Instagram following bigger than the population of the UK? Why, and how, is she missing the point? The perpetuity of social media means that whenever someone in the public eye leaves the privacy of their home or hovers over the send button of an Instagram post, they have to be aware of potential backlash because the virtual anonymity of the internet invokes a superiority complex with users who would otherwise go unnoticed in real life. So the megastars of reality shows like the Kardashians have to be constantly forthright to satisfy the calibre of decorum expected of them from the media and their ardent fans. Amy Schumer, on the other hand, will shut down a sexist remark without a second's thought, then share it with the world on Facebook to both advocate similar action from her followers and demonstrate the misogyny still rife in the entertainment industry. This is where social media becomes an invaluable platform for bringing down the discriminatory smokescreen institutions such as television cling so tightly to.
Modern feminism faces many hurdles, an experience we share and overcome together despite physical distance or circumstance because we have the privilege of global interconnectivity. See Brock Turner's chickenshit rape trial and subsequent 'imprisonment', which, as Twitter user @FemalePains pointed out, was for a shorter period of time than what Stanley Yelnats served for accidentally stealing a pair of shoes in Holes. Every right-minded member of society was in uproar about this - Tumblr was awash with angry essays, Facebook with petitions calling for a retrial, Twitter with hashtags of solidarity and photosets highlighting the impact rape has on its victims. The rallying cries for Turner's victim was not only another enraged response to law enforcement in the US, but a humanitarian protest which transcended the regimented discourse used by news outlets to skirt around the core of such issues.
The microphone for a changing landscape of human psychology, behaviour and relationships, digital media simultaneously stands for freedom of expression and silencing controversial opinion, exposing corruption and encouraging rebellion, maintaining traditional morals and introducing alternative debate. It's a confusing and sometimes terrifying place to be, where to be at all relevant means adopting a degree of celebrity. But it has also brought about so much invaluable change, such as the anti-slut shaming movement spearheaded by figures such as Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson, creators of the Guys We Fucked Last Night podcast, the Period Positive campaign for better menstruation education in schools, the #WeWearWhatWeWant Twitter trend which inspired curvy girls to be body positive, and so much more vital work being done by feminist activists tired of the unfair treatment of women. We need to bear our shared goal for equality in mind the next time someone makes a snide comment about lyrical content of Nicki Minaj's tracks or the way Miley Cyrus expresses herself through what she wears.