Movement Building

The internet is a transformative political space. It facilitates new forms of citizenship that enable individuals to claim, construct and express selves, genders and sexualities. This includes connecting across territories, demanding accountability and transparency, and creating opportunities for sustained feminist movement building.


Background 

For nearly two decades, feminist activists have claimed and used the extraordinary opportunities offered by the internet for resistance, counter-narratives and movement building. Internet technologies are increasingly embedded into the landscape of our organising, movement building and our politics of engagement. Feminist campaigns incorporate online and offline actions acknowledging the need for permeability between the two, recognising the complicated, gendered nature of access. And at the same time realising the embodiment of the digital. The internet opens spaces for engagement between movements and linking intersectional struggles. We are witnessing how digital and networked technologies are stitched into every layer of personal, social, cultural, economic and political life in an increasingly data-driven world. The digital landscape has a growing impact on feminist, women’s rights, sexual rights and intersectional movement building work.

The internet as a site of resistance forms part of a continuum of our resistance in other spaces. Recognising that both governments and the private sector are increasingly successful in the colonisation of the logic, materiality and culture of the internet, internet governance is a critical site of engagement for feminists and queers. Feminists are challenging the patriarchal control of internet governance spaces through visibility at decision-making tables and advocating to privilege gender issues at internet governance forums.

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Social media is ushering in a new era of mobilizing for social change: it is a promosing tool for spreading feminist discourse. Examples abound. A global wave of awareness and action on violence against women (VAW) is emerging from campaigns such as #EverydaySexism, #UrgentAction4Women and #EndFMG (female genital mutilation), opening new opportunities for feminis movement building.

This exploratory article stems from the desire to continue debating, as well as co-creating, the “feminist internet”. I first heard of the feminist internet in 2014 in Southeast Asia at a meeting of activists from all over the world. I then participated in subsequent discussions in July 2015 in Malaysia alongside Latin American, Indian, African, European and Arab women.

The world as we see it today is characterised and defined by power – expressed in political, social and economic terms and manifested in phenomena such as the erosion of democratic spaces, global economic crises and inequalities based on gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, age, sexual orientation and so on. In particular, women continue to be impacted in ways that persistently compromise their dignity and human rights. While there is almost universal recognition of women’s rights, for most women their rights only exist on paper.