In 2017, the empowered #MeToo movement began to spread across the country, gaining popularity after the exposure of sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein. A handful of actresses who were sexually harassed and assaulted by the American film producer began to speak out on social media, gaining responses from celebrities like Gywneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Uma Thurman, and Jennifer Lawrence. The power of this movement sheds light on sexism in Hollywood, allowing women to use a social media platform as an opportunity to be heard. Moreover, it encourages solidarity between women who have shared experiences and has redefined feminism as a whole, making social media more inclusive to anyone with the desire to spread awareness and engage in activism.
In 2013, a group of women protested an abortion bill at the Texas State Capitol. Those who weren’t able to make it in-person still were able to contribute to the effort online through the hashtag #StandWithWendy. At the time, Texas state senator Wendy David was leading a filibuster that kept her state from passing a controversial abortion law. Similarly, when children’s clothing companies manufactured sexist t-shirts, women began commenting and protesting on social media pages affiliated with the company until the product was taken down. Companies included Gap, Boden Clothing, and JC Penney with T-shirts saying “Pretty Like Mommy,” “Smart Like Daddy,” and “I’m Too Pretty To Do Homework So My Brother Has to Do It for Me.”
The #YesAllWomen hashtag trended for weeks in 2014 after Elliot Rodger, a man who wrote about his anger towards women online, went on a shooting spree in Santa Barbara, California. Thousands of women on social media began to share their stories of sexism and domestic abuse online and how appalling words from men affected them in their everyday lives. These online movements also influenced the actions of companies. Young girls and women gathered online and protested that a Victoria’s Secret campaign promoted negative body images and triggered unhealthy eating disorders for audiences. As a result, Victoria’s Secret changed their slogan of “Perfect Body” to “A Body For Every Body” in their advertising campaign that featured mostly white and size 0 models. In 2013, Facebook also changed their policies to ban gender-based hate speech.
The APC media also released a well-written and beautiful statement with regard to the online feminist movement: “a feminist internet works towards empowering more women and queer persons - in all our diversities - to fully enjoy our rights, engage in pleasure and play, and dismantle patriarchy. This integrates our different realities, contexts and specificities - including age, disabilities, sexualities, gender identities and expressions, socioeconomic locations, political and religious beliefs, ethnic origins and racial markers.” Social media allows participants in the feminist movement to fight gender-based violence and help young women suffering from sex trafficking, sexual abuse, and domestic violence.
Before 2020, young girls on social media were incredibly prone to poor body image and increased feelings of depression. According to a study conducted by the University of Washington Tacoma, 38% of 7-10-year-old girls feel that they are not pretty enough, and most of them say that “the most important thing to improve their lives now would be to stop judging girls and women on the way they look.” Recently, multiple social media platforms have been providing a safe space for girls to build each other up and talk about positive body image. Beth Daley, a writer for The Conversation, discovered that “body positivity-oriented posts could boost women’s self-esteem.” In 2020, thousands of creators on TikTok and Instagram focused on encouraging their followers and supporters to love their bodies. Even celebrities have been showing their own flaws in appearances to indicate that no one’s body is perfect.
Please find a list of activists below who focus their work on gender equity and the progress that still needs to be accomplished: