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The Women’s March: Sexism on social media

Women are shamed on social media sites following their decision to publicly protest for women’s rights

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The word ‘feminist’ has become a word that we constantly see and hear over the recent years, especially on social media platforms. You would think that this would be a good thing, to have people talking about the social, economic and political equality of the sexes, right? However, it appears that a lot of people have adopted the term ‘feminist’ as a word of negativity and a form of insult. Is it because gender equality frightens people so they feel that they must tarnish the word that represents the very idea of it?

Some people may feel more strongly about finding gender equality in social situations, others may feel more focused on finding political equality and others economic, and a woman from one culture may be more privileged in all three of these aspects in comparison to a woman from another culture. Feminism may have different meanings to women of different social class, working professions, sexuality, race and religion but this does not mean that anyone should have to justify their reasons for wanting gender equality. Sadly, it seems that not everyone agrees with this stance, especially on social media. Following the Women’s Marches throughout the world, posts appeared on the internet that shamed women for participating in the protests for various reasons.

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Photo: MissyHii @ Twitter

In one tweet on Twitter, a woman claimed that she was ashamed that model Emily Ratajkowski and singer Madonna were protesting for Women’s Rights alongside the hashtag ‘makes no sense’. The only thing that does not make sense is why a woman is ashamed that two fellow women want their gender to have the same rights and opportunities as men. Some of the responses to this tweet talked about Ratajkowski’s profession as a model.

To claim that Ratajkowski is unable to have a political voice or a so called valid reason for wanting feminism because of how she chooses to show her body to the world is just one example as to why women protested and why Ratajkowski protested whilst holding a sign which read the words of Naomi Wolf, “we deserve to be sexual and serious or whatever we please.” Rightly so, women do deserve to be whatever they please, including the ability to wear whatever pieces of clothing that they desire.

 

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Photo: Shannon Clark @ Twitter

One Twitter user shamed singer Ariana Grande for the outfit that she chose to wear whilst protesting, which consisted of a large sweatshirt and a pair of thigh high boots. Unless you are complimenting a girl for what they are wearing, you have no right to make comment on their outfit or to act in a certain way towards her because of what she is wearing. One of the reasons why millions of women protested was for women to have the right to wear the clothes that they want to without men using their outfit choice as a sexual invitation. Of all places, a Women’s March for women’s rights should be where a woman can wear whatever she pleases without ridicule. Shannon Clark appears to think differently.

Sadly, these sorts of comments are not abnormal on social media and it would seem that the Women’s Marches highlighted this even more so. I scroll through Twitter and Instagram and constantly see women being shamed for wearing “too much” make up, shamed for not wearing any make up, shamed for wearing revealing clothes, shamed for wearing clothes that do not reveal anything, shamed for the shape and size of their bodies, shamed for their behaviour, shamed for their display of sexuality, shamed for their lack of sexual display. The list goes on but one of the saddest parts of reading these comments is when I see that a woman has posted them and the last thing that women need right now is to be scrutinised by fellow women.

If anything, it is these posts that prove that to be a feminist does not mean that you have to be a woman, a misconception that many seem to make. Despite the comments of negativity on social media, the beautiful photos and posts of unity and strength outweighed them all. The Women’s Marches that we have recently witnessed are just the beginning and I hope that social media continues to spread the movement far and wide.

“Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.”

  • Claire Kueffner

    I do not understand why some women feel the need to tear down other women, especially when the issue at hand is one of women’s equality and rights. While there is place on social media to comment about the efficacy and execution of the women’s march (for example, it may be appropriate to comment on the fact that it wasn’t very trans-inclusive, etc.), using social media to just degrade and tear other women down is actively harmful. These destructive social media posts prove how ingrained patriarchal norms are in our society – you’ve got even women promoting the notion that “women are bad” on platforms that the whole world can see. So deeply troubling.

    Claire Kueffner
    Freeman School of Business / Tulane University