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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Column: Online media connects feminists worldwide

The Internet gives feminists the opportunity to learn from those with different experiences.

Elise Moser

April 30, 2014

The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.

If you’ve been reading my column this semester, you might think I’ve known about this feminism stuff a long time. I like to think I do a good job of making it seem as though I’ve been shouting “down with the patriarchy” since I was in middle school.

Although notions of feminist ideals have been in my head since my mother gave me my very first Barbie doll (prerequisite: she was required to be employed), I didn’t learn about some of the more nuanced ideas of feminism until very recently. In fact, I’m learning new things every day.

It started with following Lunapads, a company that makes eco-friendly cloth pads and also works to provide women in Africa with proper menstrual care, on Facebook and Twitter. Lunapads posted lots of articles related to menstruation, body image and feminism. I was really interested in these topics, obviously, and was being linked to other feminist media sites. Suddenly I realized there was a whole world online devoted to feminism!

As it turns out, the internet is chock-full of wonderful feminist media. Publications like Bitch Magazine, which has been printing since 1996, are now updating their websites daily with all of the feminist musings I need to read. Feministing is another one of my favorites, and their daily feminist roundup provides links to all of the feminist news I need to know.

I started the plunge into full-on feminism by doing a very simple thing: I followed Bitch Magazine and Feministing on Twitter. All of the sudden, I was clicking on links to feminism-related news stories, and I was learning about all kinds of new things. I was exposed to feminism in a whole new way, especially as it relates to race, class and sexual orientation.

This education was important for a feminist like myself, who happens to be white, middle class, straight and cis-gender. Basically I check off all of the boxes that make up “privileged” other than male. So it’s not surprising that I hadn’t considered how feminism intersects with other social justice efforts.

I started to read feminist media written by women who were different than me. And it opened my eyes to issues that I had never heard before. Suddenly I was considering feminist issues not only through the lens of “how does this affect women” but “how does this affect poor women disproportionately?” or “how are women of color disadvantaged here?”

I was able to really think about these issues for the first time because I was learning from women whose experiences were not the same as mine. And that’s what’s so special about the Internet: people from all different backgrounds and geographic locations can come together and learn about how feminism can help all women.

Before the Internet, feminist ideas were spread through printed word and word of mouth. I can’t imagine it was a very global effort, because it would have been expensive to spread Gloria Steinem’s message to, say, India. But now, I can connect with Indian feminists in a very simple way, and learn about their issues with feminism online.

Last week, I discovered Laci Green, a feminist sex-ed YouTuber, and spent two hours watching her videos. A lot of the topics she takes on were totally new to me, and sometimes I’d find a video where I was like “Yeah! That’s what I’m talking about!” Her experiences with the LGBTQ community are much more extensive than mine, and I found myself grateful that someone like her decided to go online and create videos so someone like me can learn something.

So if you’re new to feminism or a seasoned veteran, there’s feminist media out there for you. Immerse yourself. Use social media and let it come to you. There’s so much to learn.

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