Feminism in the Facebook Age

It's a trending topic.

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The first issue of the legendary Ms. Magazine came out in July 1972. The magazine was revolutionary in that it was made for women, entirely by women, and had nothing to do with cleaning, cooking, or securing a wealthy husband. Instead, articles entitled “How Marriage Killed Love” and Don’t Believe Him When He Says Politics Begin in Washington. Politics Begin at Home” ushered in a new generation of feminists. Ms. introduced the everyday woman who who was unable to take Women's Studies classes at Vassar, to the cruciality of feminism. At its peak, the publication boasted over 26,000 subscription orders. Forty-five years later, the Ms. Magazine Twitter account (@MsMagazine) has over 107,000 followers as of this writing. Just as pubs such as Ms. indoctrinated a new generation of feminists, the internet is doing the same on an even larger scale.

So far in 2016, March has been the month with most Google searches for “feminist.” This could be for numerous reasons relating to equality. Members of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, alleging gender-based wage discrimination; they claim they were paid almost four times less than their male counterparts. The 2016 National Young Feminist Leadership Conference was held in Washington for the tenth straight year. And, most notably, March is Women’s History Month. Celebrities ranging from Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Shonda Rhimes, and even the usually apolitical Taylor Swift tweeted their support.

Joe Baldizzi, 19, a sophomore at St. Petersburg College, remains unimpressed by these declarations. “I feel [celebrities posting about feminism] is more about attention on social media, and money and endorsements for the celebrities.” Baldizzi says he “low-key” would consider himself a feminist. “I do believe women should be treated just as a man should... I wouldn't want my girlfriend being mistreated and harassed in the workplace or school or not getting the same opportunities as I would. At the same time, I'm not going to push ideas of it on anyone simply because I think most places and people will and do treat women equally and give them equal opportunities.” He is less enamored of his perception of more recent examples of feminism. ”Nowadays though, I think the more 'extreme' feminism isn't [good], because some women want and expect more than what men are offered [in the workplace and legally], and they don't like the idea of equal treatment because it's not enough,” he says.

Sarah Anderson, a sophomore at the University of Florida, credits social media and the internet for helping her become aware of global injustices against women, like genital mutilation and honor killings. “I feel like we have a pretty nice life in St. Petersburg, so it is good to be informed about the oppressions happening other places in the world,” she says. Anderson’s most passionate issues are equal pay for equal work, free birth control, and reproductive rights. “I can’t see how you can be a girl, and not be a feminist.”

Although pro-choice as well, Clemson University sophomore Lindsay Kay Eaton, would disagree. “I do not consider myself a feminist, only because I do not think we should be tearing men down because we aren't paid as much,” she says. “However I do think men and women should be paid the same. But I don't believe I'm a feminist in this day and age.” Like Anderson, the internet has influenced Eaton’s views. “The internet has given me a better view of what feminism is, but honestly has turned me away from it with the negative posts some women put out there.” 

Andrew Vandenberg, a sophomore at USF St. Petersburg, doesn't shy away from letting his conservative views be known. He's had people block him more than once on Facebook for his right-wing posts and shares. “To my generation, feminism is 100% harmful,” says Vandenburg. “It is still needed in third world countries and the Middle Eastern Islamic nations but not the western world.” Vandenberg identifies as an egalitarian, because he does not believe that feminism means true equality.

Margot Ash, a 19-year-old camp counselor, credits social media as her biggest influencer and teacher when it comes to feminism. “Before social media, there was never another place I was taught [about feminism]. It wasn’t taught in school or around me. Social media got me interested in researching more and gave me the ability to research,” she says. Ash doesn't limit her research to screens, though; she recently finished a book of essays called Bad Feminism by Roxane Gay. "I found out about her on Twitter," says Ash. "There is no way I would be able to even know her name without social media."

Olivia Snow-Smith is a sophomore at Bard College where she majors in written arts and minors in gender studies.

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