My name is Laura Martin and I am an internet addict. There, I’ve said it. I’m one of those irritating people who tweets about what they’re having for tea, that kid on the train that won’t stop screaming, the colour of my toe nail varnish. Although a large proportion of my tweets concern kittens and biscuits, a substantial amount concern my other great passions: feminism, politics and my meagre attempt to change the world. People snort when I tell them I’m in to online politics. “What has online activism ever achieved Laura, seriously? Is this because you don’t like crowds and drizzle? Man up, get your rain mack on and tie yourself to the fencing at Downing Street like a proper activist.” Well, no actually. Online activism is changing things and I have two excellent examples of how.
The #FBrape campaign. No, I’m not referring to when you leave your account signed in on your friends computer and they change your display picture to one of David Cameron (which, incidentally, has happened to me and I was mortified). I am referring to some of the images circulating Facebook depicting disgusting violence against women, trivialising rape and abuse. Before I get comments telling me to get a sense of humour I will give you a couple of examples. (Massive TW here!)
1) A photograph of a woman with two black eyes, a split lip and the caption “this bitch didn’t know when to shut up.”
2) A photograph of a woman lying unconscious at the bottom of a stairwell with the caption “next time don’t get pregnant”.
3) A photograph of a woman lying limp in a man’s arms with the caption “Rohypnol – For when you want NO to mean yes.”
These are amongst a plethora of repulsive images I saw personally. Now, maybe I am a humourless feminist but to me, that is the opposite of humour. Granted I am juvenile but to me humour includes fart jokes, word play and people falling over. Not rape. Not violence. Many of these images were reported to Facebook, who did… nothing. Apparently these images did not violate their terms of usage or policy. Meanwhile, images of women nursing their children were removed as you could see the woman’s nipple. DAFUQ?
The FBrape campaign was spearheaded by Women’s Rights groups Women, Action and the Media and The Everyday Sexism project and involved hundreds of other groups, over 60,000 tweets and over 5,000 emails, aimed at companies that advertised on the site and Facebook itself. Within a week, Facebook conceded that these images were not properly dealt with and promised to retrain moderators, change their policy on hate speech and put tighter restrictions in place. Now, I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a victory for online feminism. V I C T O R Y.
Personally, I hope that this is not just empty promises and that we are not being fobbed off with a kiss arse statement to placate us. I sincerely doubt that we will be placated. We rocked it and we will rock it again.
My second example is one which is yet to be resolved and one that I beseech you to get involved with. The Bank of England recently announced that social reformer Elizabeth Fry is to be removed from the £5 note and replaced with Winston Churchill. I have nothing against Churchill really. The problem is that by removing Elizabeth Fry, the Bank of England has removed the only woman (aside from The Queen) depicted on our banknotes. Caroline Criado-Perez, co-founder of The Women’s Room UK and generally completely badass lady, took exception to this, quite rightly. The online petition Criado-Perez started currently stands at over 20,000 signatures. The Bank of England has been threatened with legal action under the 2010 Equality Act. Criado-Perez writes on the petition site that
An all-male line-up on our banknotes sends out the damaging message that no woman has done anything important enough to appear. This is patently untrue. Not only have numerous women emerged as leading figures in their fields, they have done so against the historic odds stacked against them which denied women a public voice and relegated them to the private sphere – making their emergence into public life all the more impressive and worthy of celebration.
People will perhaps say that the Queen appears on all the notes. But the Queen would be there whatever she achieved – she was born into her position. The men on the banknotes – Charles Darwin, Adam Smith, Matthew Boulton, James Watt, and soon, Winston Churchill – are all there because of what they have done, not because of who their parents were.
This decision by the Bank of England is yet another example of women’s considerable achievements being overlooked in favour of the usual (male) suspects – and yet another example of how the establishment undervalues the contributions of women to history – and indeed to the present.
If successful, this petition will make a real impact. Make it happen guys
Online Feminism is raising awareness and engaging women (like myself) who don’t feel comfortable attending marches and rallies. It is an inclusive, engaging form of activism that everybody can get involved with. So what are you waiting for? G E T I N V O L V E D ! Follow @TheWomensRoomUK, @EverydaySexism and of course moi (shameless plug) @nitramarual!