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International Womens’ Day and Feminism Today

Vicky Grantham discusses the prevalence of Feminism in light of International Women’s Day, especially through social media.

Hundreds marched in support of International Women’s Day in London with many donning Edwardian clothes and purple, white and green sashes, (the colour of the suffragettes) over the weekend. Among the supporters was Emmeline Pankhurst’s great granddaughter.

Women’s Day in Brighton was organised by Brighton Women’s Centre with a theme of ‘Make It Happen’ to encourage effective action for advancing and recognising women around the world.

The event has been held across the globe for more than a hundred years to recognise past struggles but also achievements of women everywhere.

Women’s Day is still necessary as feminism is still relevant today, 97 years since women in the UK got the vote.

In 2015 the feminist movement looks set to be more prominent than ever as feminists continue to go online using social media to tackle issues in the UK and across the globe.

Robyn Minshall, Comms Officer and Ellie Priest, Welfare Officer, both for FemSoc, said: “Feminism is, by definition, still relevant in 2015 while women still face ingrained and institutionalised inequality in innumerable forms throughout the world.”

By using social media causes are promoted quickly, meaning the word can get out there and the movement can generate more supporters.

Nadiah Jamaa, a University of Sussex alumni, said: “[Social media] can do good. There’s a lot of lad culture on social media but then you also have huge campaigns like No More Page 3.”

Coming over into 2015 from the 2014 campaign is #AskHerMore. This initiative strives to get red carpet reporters to ask female celebrities more than the standard “Who are you wearing?”

Female celebs get asked about babies, boyfriends and beauty whereas male celebs are asked about first jobs in Hollywood, their aspirations and contemporaries.

The campaign hopes that these reporters will dig deeper into the achievements of women in showbiz, similar to how they approach their male counterparts.

While social media can generate a lot of positive comments it also gives way to a counterculture allowing it to build momentum.

Pippa Adler, a second year film student, said: “I think social media can be both a force of good and bad. Good in that it spreads information to people who previously might not have an opportunity to obtain it (because of financial or physical issues for example), but bad in that it is also very quick in spreading lies and misconceptions.”

At the time of writing, #ActYourGenitals was trending on Twitter. The hashtag brought a slew of tweets in support of women and men ‘knowing their places’ in society.

The controversial hashtag generated supporters and opposition. One user @ImAGoodYute tweeted: “Girls with no back and no breast… Are you really girls? #ActYourGenitals”.

While another @AmeliaaaaLubna tweeted: “When girls expect guys to cook for them #ActYourGenitals and get back in the kitchen.” And, @RumBegum tweeted: “Males who get their eyebrows done #ActYourGenitals”.

These tweeters were not alone with their comments, which stir up a host of feminist and LGBTQ+ issues, proving the movement still has its work cut out for it in 2015.

There were, however, users denouncing the hashtag. @pandorasinbox spoke out, saying: “The #ActYourGenitals hashtag is 1 of the most disgusting trending topics I’ve ever seen on Twitter. Your genitals are not your gender.”

Pippa Adler, added: “[Social media] tends to make people reckless, like there are a lot of people who are very quick to support a hashtag or share a viral video, only to later find out that they don’t agree with the maker of these thing.”

Feminism recently took a knock when Page Three came back into The Sun following a brief reprieve.

Rupert Murdock’s sister paper The Times announced that the feature would be pulled to the applause of feminist campaign groups, including No More Page 3 who have consistently used social media to bolster their activities.

The Sun announced Page Three’s return with the words “We’ve had a mammary lapse,” which appeared to mock those who had hoped to see its demise.

On the day, @NoMorePage3 tweeted: “Thank you so much for all the messages of support and solidarity. Together we are strong”.

Not only are feminists still fighting for equality in terms of anti-Page Three campaigns, equal pay and slut-shaming along with a host of other issues, but now they also have to work to derail the ‘man-hating feminazi’ stigma associated with the movement.

Nadiah Jamaa, added: “It’s something I feel is still really important in today’s society, where women still face inequality or discrimination. Some people do say that feminism is a ‘loaded’ term, which I understand, but I think part of this idea of it being loaded comes from stereotypes and unconscious discrimination.”

The primary focus of feminism is equality across the all genders including cis, trans, male, female and gender fluid. Not only is the cause about women’s rights, but also the rights of all individuals.

Robyn Minshall and Ellie Priest noted: “It is essential in feminism to recognise that women themselves are not exempt from being oppressors. White, heterosexual, middle-class, cisgender women must recognise their inherently privileged status, which benefits from the social institutions of racism, classism, cissexism and heteronormativity.”

On campus the feminist conversation is ongoing with FemSoc regularly meeting.

Robyn Minshall and Ellie Priest added: “Throughout the year FemSoc will continue to host our ‘feminism and intersectionality panels’ in order to shed light on the experiences of different women. These panels centre around subjects such as the experiences of LGBTQ+ women, women of colour, trans women and religious women.”

Meanwhile, an app has been developed to highlight the pay gap that is still prevalent.

‘Toothpick’ was developed by a man called Whaley and his four person team in America. The provocative app calculates the appropriate tip to give your waiter or waitress, deducting 22% for female servers.

This is to demonstrate the difference in pay between the genders in the USA. Whaley told Buzzfeed he wants Toothpick to “make people angry.” Here in the UK the difference in pay is closer to 18%, highlighting the still prevalent gap between the genders and how much ground still needs to be covered.

Abraham Baldry, President of the Student Union, said: “Clearly, social media has changed the feminist movement, making it easier to join the dots between incidents which might previously have seemed isolated, and vastly facilitating the spread of feminist ideas, even if the intersection of social media and feminism has sometimes provoked new issues.”

The team behind Brighton’s International Women’s Day posted “What a wonderful day with lots of positive vibes” on Facebook following their activities.

The day is a celebration of women but there are still many issues that need to be addressed and 2015 looks set to be another powerful year for feminism.

Vicky Grantham

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