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Networked Feminism Is A Boon For Us Only If We Don’t Fall In The Pit Of First Wave Feminism

Posted: September 15, 2020

The author talks about the importance of ally-ship, intersectionality, inclusivity, and reconditioning our minds to become better feminists.

The age of the Internet has many achievements to its credit and one of them is opening a new frontier for fourth-wave feminism to flourish. The current wave is largely dominated by the social media mobilization of feminists from different parts of the world, different cultures and ethnicities.

This has given rise to an interwoven global phenomenon which helps encourage solidarity and discuss shared experiences. There are feminist groups and online feminist platforms which act as a virtual refuge for millions of feminists all across the world including me.

Ally-ship and activism

For women who live in small cities, it is especially hard because most people around them are highly patriarchal. In a middle class, educated family, even today, feminists find it difficult to relate to the people around them.

In fact, it’s not only the thinking but also their way of life that is deeply entrenched in a patriarchal set of rules, that they earnestly abide by. They are conditioned to believe in societal norms of misogyny and baseless gender roles, which they are reluctant to unlearn.

Though some people do believe in educating the women of their house, it’s only to get a degree and get settled thereafter. Their daughters, wives and sisters learning about feminism, wanting to be a feminist, talking about liberation, about changing the traditional norms, is certainly not what they want.

Consequently, we look for opportunities to connect with like-minded people who believe in the precept of egalitarianism. In such a scenario, it is more often than not, these online feminist groups that come to our rescue. They help us find a way out of our problems, both personal and professional, by building an online community of women who have similar experiences and/or thinking.

It provides us a safe space where we can talk about the issues we face in our homes, workplaces, etc. Not only has it given a sense of connection and support but also ally-ship when it comes to issues that demand justice. It helps form a community which fights against oppression of any kind and helps initiate the much-needed discussions which were not possible in the past, especially in our country.

Another significant achievement of such ally-ship has been growth in feminist activism. Be it macro-level movements like the ‘me too’ movement or micro-level feminists’ initiatives, all of it significantly contributes to the landscape of activism. Women voicing out their grievances and reflecting on the socio-political issues online has led to mainstreaming of feminist notions and agendas.

For instance, feminist portals like FII, Women’s Web etc. serve as a trustworthy news medium and help us build our own feminist agenda for our lives. Moreover, it helps us develop the inter-sectional approach that we need as feminists, by giving us a glimpse into the issues that each section of feminists is faces in society.

What do we need to change?

Most of us grew in a patriarchal set-up owing to which understanding feminism and being a feminist is often about reconditioning our minds. This unlearning itself is a process which takes time and effort. We need to understand this reality and keep this in mind so that we do not be pedantic.

Especially in this era, everything that is in our mind and has been put in words is just a click away from the public to scrutinize. In such a case, being burdened about how precise we are/have been is not going to make us better feminists but empathizing and allying will. We need to tell the other person that it’s okay to make mistakes as a feminist too. After all, we have all been there.

Feminism should be adopted by us as a philosophy to live our life and doing so is a process. Being condescending, and tone-policing others will not help our cause and will only repel others from the movement. It is definitely not what we want. If a person who supports feminism and by mistake says something misogynist in the fit of anger owing to the reason that they grew up listening to the same phrase, will tagging them as an anti-feminist be fair? No. It’s time that instead of getting into the web of over-exacting, we focus on actions.

Digital divide is real

While it is true that feminism did start as a reactionary movement, its sole aim shouldn’t be limited towards it. For feminism to penetrate into each stratum and section of our society, it needs inclusivity. I say this is because the marginalized sections of the society are still far from the issues that we feminists often discuss on Facebook or twitter. It is often women, especially at the lowermost rung of social hierarchy, like adivasi and dalit women, who do not, often, have access to internet. Their representation in the online movement is negligible.

This calls for us feminists to go an extra mile and talk to Dalits, Adivasis and Kashmiris and help them bring their issues to the forefront. It will be good if we try organize feminist meetings in smaller groups either in person or virtually, and have conversations about their opinions and aspirations.

We need to make sure that Facebook or WhatsApp feminist groups have all sections of the society represented. If this is not done, this movement will surely fall into the pitfall of first wave feminism which is criticized till date for being elitist and even racist for being for and by the white women only.

Time to take action

It is time that we transform our networked solidarity into a strong socio-political action. This would require us to take tangible steps like occupying public spaces. There have been groups like Pinjra Tod; I will go out etc. in the past who took the initiative to take it to the streets but it mostly remained confined to big cities like Bangalore and Delhi.

We need more of such initiatives in the smaller cities of the country now and online networking can truly make it possible.The motive will be to claim the streets of the country, especially at night. This will help bring about a revolutionary change, making it safe for women to venture out without fear.

What we need to do now is to make as much use of this networked feminism as possible, to discuss our agenda together and seek political power. It is because, believe it or not, political power will enable this movement to bring about the change that it wishes to bring forth.

We need to occupy public positions as much as possible. For our voice needs to be omnipresent in the system. Whether they are bureaucratic positions, judicial positions or legislative positions, our call for egalitarianism and other women’s issues needs to be said, heard and adhered to in the halls of power itself.

Therefore, it is only when Feminists of India occupy different rungs of the socio-political ladder of the country; real change is possible. It is time we take this networking a step ahead and formulate goals and strategies which penetrate deep within and help it to be a substantive one.

Picture Credits: Pexels

First published here.

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Artist, Law-Graduate, Intersectional Feminist, Social Activist, Mental Health Warrior

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