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The Global Reach of Fourth Wave Feminism

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As a millennial, my childhood caught the tail end of third wave feminism as I was being introduced to the internet. Growing up, I saw the internet change, from barbie.com, to myspace, to facebook, to twitter, it continued to morph and struggle.

Everyone seemed to be learning how to handle the power of the web along with myself, as a kid.Today, the internet includes much more than large floppy discs and myspace top friends. It has become a platform for the forward movement of social issues, such as feminism.

The issue of gender equality has been striking conversation across the web recently. The internet gives a voice to feminism never possible before.

First-wave feminism took place in the early 20th century, second-wave feminism in the 1960s into the 1980s, and third-wave feminism during the 1990s and into the early 2000s. Some may argue that we are still in third-wave, but the conversations happening today are definitively different. With fourth wave of feminism, the reach is global. One of the most defining factors of fourth wave feminism is the global reach with the help of the internet.

The demand for female education was high after the popularity of Malala Yousafzai, a fifteen year old girl who was shot by the Taliban for attending school. She survived the attack and used her story to become an advocate for female education. Celebrities such as Beyoncé took to social media to amplify the conversation.

 

Malala Yousafzai speaks on the International Day of Girl on Oct. 11, 2013. Photo by Simone D. McCourtie at the World Bank headquarters.
Malala Yousafzai speaks on the International Day of Girl on Oct. 11, 2013. Photo by Simone D. McCourtie at the World Bank headquarters.

Recently, the UN launched the HeForShe campaign, encouraging men to join the conversation surrounding feminism. The campaign skyrocketed with the popularity of British actress, Emma Watson’s speech at the UN. Her speech gained millions of views. She encouraged her followers on social media to take the pledge and then show their support through their own social media.

Emma Watson at the Launch of the HeForShe campaign on Sept. 19, 2014. Photo by Simon Luethi of UN Women.
Emma Watson at the Launch of the HeForShe campaign on Sept. 19, 2014. Photo by Simon Luethi of UN Women.

The conversation does not stop with widely broadcasted campaigns. YouTube, Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram are all platforms that can control the media. If someone thinks a company ad hyper-sexualizes women, they have the opportunity to say so and be heard.

What makes feminism now powerful is the personability and the presence of individuals online. I understand many people cringe when they hear the word “personable” used to describe the internet, but it is. It is a mode of communication and it gives everyone a voice. Not one group, organization, or company has to step forward for gender equality to be presented on a global scale.

Despite what many say, sitting behind a computer and typing in a hashtag is a way of taking action. It’s a way of supporting a cause and raising awareness. Of course, there is always great value and courage in stepping out of the house and doing something about injustice. But, it is also important to note that a primary purpose of protests and strikes throughout history was to give voice and validity to a movement. Seeing as many readers are probably familiar with the examples listed above, I’d say the internet successfully gives a voice to feminism. Unlike strikes, big name media doesn’t have to be a factor for an idea heard. Essentially, the limit to fourth-wave feminism does not exist.

Our demands for proper portrayal in the media, education, equal pay, control over their bodies, and the end of violence and rape will not end.

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