This is the story of how I became a feminist.
Towards the end of my confusing, exciting and awful teenage years, I was browsing around the internet in order escape a ‘How to make a graph in Excel’ class. As I went through my usual list of fashion and creative lifestyle blogs, I stumbled upon a blog post that would change everything I knew (or didn’t know) about womanhood in the patriarchal world.
It was called ‘Feminist Literature you Cannot Miss’. For me at the time (and was/is the case for many others), the word ‘feminist’ was an unappealing and way-too-radical term that I was afraid to even be associated with. I wanted to be the cool girl and everyone knew that the cool girls were completely cool with patronising comments like ‘you’re actually pretty clever for a girl’ or ‘come on, don’t be such a drag, just suck my dick’. ‘Feminism’ was not for me. But then again, this blogger was the cool girl. And so I checked it out.
The literature list included everything from Simone de Beauvoir’s ‘The Second Sex’, to a DJ/It girl/TV host/blogger’s guide on how to become a feminist. I was intrigued. I went to the library and borrowed them all and then I realised that their struggles were mine too. Cat-calling, tacit harassment and unequal opportunities were all issues I experienced too. I was not alone.
As I was (and still am) as impatient as my five-year-old cousin, I did not finish even half of the stack of books. And this is where the great big internet came in; Google was my professor indeed. Everything about unequal pay or statistics about sexual violence, was revealed to me in a few minutes. And not only that, but feminist blogs, articles, TED talks allowed me to observe — and later participate in — discussions about gender oppression. Women from all over the world in different life situations, different ethnicities, had started a debate about something we are all a part of. Everyone’s voices were allowed to be heard. I was so amazed, so moved by all this knowledge opening up to me through the channels of cyberspace.
In this space, I was allowed to express frustration and anger I did not even realise was related to the everyday experiences of being a woman. And it felt like a safe place, despite all the lessons my mum had tried to teach me about the internet being a poisonous place. To me it wasn’t, because in many of the cases where a guy expressed their hatred for ‘sluts’, ‘uptight girls’, ‘stupid girls’, ‘boring girls’, ‘skinny girls’, ‘fat girls’ — the list of categories we are at risk of being placed into via the male gaze is never ending — clever ladies fought back, telling these dudes to grow some ovaries. The internet allowed me to have a dialogue about female oppression — one I did not dare have with my friends at the time for fear of being labelled as the classic man-hating, bra-burner.
The internet creates an opportunity for women to reclaim space; if not in the physical sense, at least in the virtual one. It has allowed a debate about all the ways in which women feel oppressed, exploited or harassed, and everyone can be included. The internet has provided me with the chance to learn about the experiences of black women, female porn stars, Muslim women, trans women — the young and the old. No one is being silenced. We can learn from each other’s experiences because everyone is included in the same space.
The internet has not given rise to the fourth (or fifth, is anyone counting?) wave of feminism because, as discussed by my fellow internet sisters before, waves come and go. They create a turbulence or a minor storm, only to be silenced later. Instead, the internet has partly given rise to another feminist revolution where discussions are opened up and ever-growing. Furthermore, it creates opportunities for women to come together and collectively make change, not just in cyberspace but in the real world. Demonstrations, meetings and live debates are being arranged via Facebook events; petitions can be signed and societies formed. The internet has given women a fresh voice where we can all share our opinions and be recognised.
Internet, bless you. It is here to stay on our side ladies, because we have claimed it as our space.