How Social Media Has Helped Empower Women

Here we are again. Social media. Most of us have it, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn, Bebo (ah, those were the days). The list goes on. We rely and depend it on really on a daily basis, with so many of us glued to our phones. What did we ever do without it? TALK to each other? Perish the thought.

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Social media hasn’t just provided us with ways to connect with new people and interact with friends and families no matter when or where they are. It hasn’t just enabled the government to collect an abundance of personal data and keep tabs on where we are, who we’re with and what we’re doing. It hasn’t just given us ways to stalk our exes and judge their new partners. It’s also given women platforms and opportunities which have helped empower them, enabling them to speak up and be heard. Or ‘read’, rather.

Social media gives women a channel to speak out about their personal experiences and share them with others. From something trivial like what they ate for breakfast (who honestly cares?) to more pressing issues like their experience on the train that morning. That last one wasn’t a sarcastic comment (for once). Women are sexually assaulted on public transport on an alarming and disturbing scale. So much so that the British Transport Police have launched a TV campaign urging women to report it.

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Hashtags such as #TimesUp, #WhenIWas and #MeToo among others have provided women with a channel to speak up and share their sexual assault experiences. Women share things that they have kept built up for months, years, decades without telling anyone. So why are they tweeting about it?

Everyone has their own reasons, to generalise would be unfair. But here are a few common ones:

1) They feel as though they have a voice and their story is heard

2) It’s easier to type than say face-to-face. We’re all guilty of resorting to messaging rather than doing something in person, because you can to some degree reduce confrontation, embarrassment, and rejection.

3) The audience.

4) There’s a degree of anonymity which gives extra confidence and reduces potential embarrassment or fear.

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This was the least creepy ‘being anonymous online’ photo I could find

If you’re going to report an incident to someone, who do you go to? Your friend? Family? What are they going to do? They can’t (legally) punish the perpetrator. So, go to the police? What if they don’t believe you? Do you have evidence? Witness statements? Did you somehow manage to capture this on video? A signed confession and DNA samples? No? Oh. Well, then, hmm, that’s tough. How do you know you’ve told the right person? What if you haven’t, will the message be passed on?

Few women report incidences of sexual, physical, or emotional/psychological abuse. Sadly, the criminal justice system has failed so many of these. What do you do when you’re not being listened to and being ignored by those supposed to help you? Go elsewhere. So we go online. We tweet about. We tell everyone. Maybe we’ll be listened to when the problem is so big that it can’t be ignored. Do you think one woman coming forward inspired a national campaign about sexual assault on public transport? Sadly, the police want numbers. They want ‘big’ numbers. How many women have posted their experiences online? How many of them do you think would go to a police station and report it there? In person, a woman can speak about her problem. But thanks to social media, women, as a collective group, can shout about it.

Now just say the police do choose to ignore this (imagine that !!), even though they do have a ‘big’ number and evidence. Do you think Twitter can ignore it just as easily? These admissions are liked, favourited, retweeted and shared. Most likely millions of people have seen at least one of these entries. We all know that once something is online, it’s there forever (dun dun dun). Yes, that goes for those photos of you when you went through your ‘nobody understands me’ goth phase. And your full fringe phase *shudders* – don’t worry, we all had one.

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Why stop one perpetrator and try to change their behaviour, when you can try to stop and change the behaviour of a whole society? Social media is making a massive audience aware of these issues and incidents which have sadly become normalised, and a taboo. It gives a glimpse into others’ lives and what lets us understand and get an idea of things we may have had no idea even happened.

Being able to share these stories means that women can see that they’re not alone. Which, in a way is sad because it shows the scale of how many people are subjected to such horrendous behaviour, and how often it happens. Women can find support and reassurance from total strangers, people who have absolutely no loyalty to them. You know if you tell your best friend something that they’re going to have your back; so having strangers treat you this way is in a way more reassuring because they’re less likely to comfort or support you if it’s undeserved.

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So, despite the issues and negative impact social media has had on women in today’s society, some good has come of it. Good in the form of empowerment. Women have spent too long being silenced, so post a photo of your breakfast, take your duck-face selfies, share your experiences. You go gurl. *sassy click*

The “F” Word

Bet that got your attention, eh?

Feminism.

What other word would I be talking about? Shame on you.

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Recently, I bought a book about feminism, and reading it made me realise how, for someone who considers themselves to be a ‘feminist’, there’s so much I actually don’t know about the history and topic itself. I then proceeded to buy 4 books on the subject because I wanted to learn a bit more (and I couldn’t choose between them). While reading it, I realised that there is no one type of ‘feminism’ – everyone has their own individual experience and views. It’s not “you’re either this type of feminist, or you’re not a feminist” – it’s the same way that no two people of the same religion have exactly the same religious views/opinions. It’s a very personal thing, and everyone has their own ways of being a feminist.

Yes, there’s the old “Oh so you’re a feminist but you want your dates to pay for your stuff? Doesn’t seem very equal to me.” Well, who doesn’t want free stuff? Pretty sure you’d rather not have to pay for your food either like.

And yes, I like having doors held open for me. I don’t care who holds the door, I just don’t want it hitting my face.

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But anyway, this is basically some of what feminism[s] mean to me.

It means not having to change my name when if I get married. Getting married (if anyone should be so lucky) doesn’t change me or who I am, it doesn’t make me any less “me” and any more my husband. To me, my name represents who I am and what me and my family have been through. If he doesn’t have to change his name, why should I? I’m still me, just with a ring on my finger. I know many people choose to take their partner’s names, and that’s perfectly fine, at the end of the day it’s a choice, and that’s enough for me.

It means identifying as ‘Ms’. On forms and accounts, I tick the ‘Ms’ box, because it’s nobody’s business whether I’m married or not – what difference does it make? What has my ~questionable~ relationship history or status got to do with anything? To me, if a man doesn’t have to state his marital status, then I sure as hell don’t.

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It means not having to choose between having a career or children. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. I don’t want to have to make a decision on which of the two is more important to me, I have a right to have both. Paternal leave to me means that both parents should have equal opportunities to be with their family, and be at work. I want my cake (preferably carrot), and I want to eat it to, please agus thank you.

It means being able to support myself and live independently, not needing a man to “look after me” *que Ne-Yo ‘Miss Independent’*. It means not having to rely on someone else to be able to apply for a mortgage or a bank loan, or have enough money to eat and live comfortably. I don’t want whether or not I live with someone, to decide whether or not I live.

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It means having an education and a career. I am so lucky to have grown up in a time and place where I had equal access to education as males. I know that so many others aren’t as lucky as I am, with millions of girls never setting foot in a school in their lives. I’m so lucky to have been presented with the opportunities I have been, which have enabled me to receive an education and go to university and work. I want the choice and option to choose my future.

It means having opinions and being able to express them. Whether or not views and opinions matter should be based on the merit of what is said, not who says it. Being listened to is a whole other story.

It means supporting other women. It means raising others up, even if it’s something as small as commenting ‘YASSSSS QUEEN’ on an Instagram photo, or telling that stranger in the nightclub toilets that her highlight is “poppin'”. It’s so important to support each other, instead of making everything a competition and tear each other down. Don’t insult your ex’s new girlfriend, feel sorry for the poor girl.

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It means believing in equal domestic responsibilities. Your gender shouldn’t define what you do around the house. All to often, females are subjected to the homemaker role- taking on the majority of cooking, cleaning and childcare responsibilities. I’m not saying that females shouldn’t do any of these, I’m saying that these roles should be shared. Take it in turns, do half each – I don’t think it should be ‘who does what’, but ‘who does what this time‘. Basically, make your own sandwich. And do the dishes after. Merci.

This is just a very brief summary of some of the views I have on the subject, and you may disagree with them, and that’s fine. These are MY opinions which I hold based off MY experiences. I’m not trying to make you share these views, just respect them and understand why I hold them.