Gender, voice and space: Feminism online


  • Ruth Lewis University of Northumbria



This paper addresses the highly topical, rapidly developing subject of feminism in contemporary society. Topics that have long been the concern of feminists - such as violence and harassment, the gender pay gap, and women’s suffrage - are currently receiving a level of media attention that suggests a new feminist movement that some might depict as a ‘third or fourth ‘wave.’ However, arguing for a more sceptical and historically-grounded approach, positing that we should maintain a critical eye on popular and media depictions of feminism, this paper highlights the contours of feminist activism which indicate significant continuity in terms of feminist concerns over recent decades. The paper critiques the idea of ‘waves’ of feminism and proposes instead the concept of a “woven tapestry” of feminism. It then argues that, despite changing methods of communicating feminism, contemporary feminism shares many of the same concerns and diverse perspectives that have marked the development of feminism over the last century. Although the growth of the digital landscape does offer new opportunities to feminism, it is also marked by very familiar forms of misogynistic abuse and harassment. The paper attempts to make sense of this online misogynistic abuse by reflecting on the historic silencing of women’s public voice. The paper notes that, far from representing a novel phase of feminism, much of contemporary feminism is marked by its continuities with feminism in the twentieth century; a historically-grounded approach to understanding and developing feminism in the twentieth century is therefore of value.


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