Authors: Kirsty Mac, Kara Beavis
Historically, feminism has had a numbers problem. The establishment has always figured as an omniscient force, with the number of misogynists outnumbering feminists.
Revolutions have a punk aesthetic. And punk, by its very nature, is about targeting the establishment by the marginalised even when the numbers are small.
Social media has changed the numbers game for women. It’s a decentralising and democratising tool used for connectivity, information exchange, passing a comment on current affairs, and, in the last week, passing a live wire of electricity around the world. Feminists are multiplying, and with every win, growing in confidence and power.
There have been surprising new developments each day since Julien Blanc’s Australian departure. With an already thriving feminist network in Melbourne, it took one woman, Jennifer Li, to ignite a fire by initiating a petition to Como Melbourne and creating the hashtag #takedownjulienblanc.
A petition to stop Blanc from touring Japan came next, as the following destination on his schedule. The petition received over 36,000 signatures in its first 24 hours and was submitted to the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau. Three days later, the petition started by two women in their twenties had been signed by a million people. Meanwhile, Japanese activists used Twitter to ask the world’s biggest banks to shut down Blanc’s accounts.
The rest of the world responded in haste with petitions started in Japan, Korea, Singapore, Germany, United Kingdom, Denmark, Brazil, Netherlands, Argentina, Ireland, Iceland and Canada.
People in Canada, the destination after Japan, had a swift response from their government. Immigration Minister Chris Alexander took to Twitter to strongly state, “I see your tweets & am aware of #KeepJulienBlancOutofCanada. His content is completely counter to Canadian values and common decency.” Later that same day, the Canadian tour dates were removed from the Real Social Dynamics website.
There has not been a feminist campaign with ripple effects of this magnitude in such a short period.
The power of social media to influence high-ranking government officials is unprecedented and fascinating to watch. The public witnessing afforded by social media is powerful and more actions continue as the sun and moon circle the globe and citizens arise and post of their activity. A marketplace that doesn’t condone what Real Social Dynamic does has conducted its global closing down as a private enterprise. Could there be a more salient reminder of the power of collective enterprise in the feminist movement?
Although the world has responded in an immediate way, Australia’s self-appointed Minister for Women is shying away from a statement. Given that the global response started in Australia, a statement of support would seem fitting. Abbott has found time to make macho threats to ‘shirt-front’ the President of Russia, but not to speak to the active feminism that is achieving extraordinary results locally and globally via social media.
Social media has ‘publicness’, giving feminists a voice and ability to join forces and rise up together. On the down side, it has exposed some women to threats of violence. Even when the violence is thinly veiled, ‘freedom of speech’ or ‘it’s only a parody’ is the predictable refrain from the men’s choir. White men use censorship as a shield to protect a misogynist viewpoint as ‘art’.
“White men,” writes Professor Sara Ahmed on her blog, Feminist Killjoys, “is an institution, a support system… not only what has already been instituted or built but the mechanisms that ensure the persistence of that structure.”
In the United Kingdom recently, a petition directed to ITV to protest the commissioning of a second series of Daniel O’Reilly’s Dapper Laughs, stated, “the show normalises sexist behaviour in apparent contradiction to ITV’s responsibility policy.” One of the ‘jokes’ on the first series was “if she cries, she’s just playing hard to get”. Similar statements are used by Real Social Dynamics.
ITV responded by confirming there would be no second series. To this, O’Reilly stated that online abuse towards him was wrong. This twist to focus on the rights of male perpetrators to be free of ‘online abuse’ rather than the women on the receiving end of sexist violence is common.
In Australia this week, a petition has been formed to request Channel 7 not re-hire Redfoo as a host for the next X Factor season. Redfoo’s new music video is violent towards women. Redfoo responded on Twitter stating, “I made a comical party song to satirize the cliché. Some get it, some don’t.” A repeat of the same old response. Women can’t take a joke.
Furthermore, he states “I love & respect women and feel they are the most powerful people on this planet!” Does this sound familiar? Blanc also claims to ‘love women’.
To top it all off, Redfoo says, “another example of critics victimizing an artist by purposely misinterpreting his/her work to support a pre-existing agenda.” Now Redfoo is the victim and the music video is ‘art’! It’s hard to deny a pattern emerging, as Blanc claimed to be the victim too.
How can RedFoo’s claims of being ‘a victim’ be taken seriously? The image on his twitter page is a camera on his forehead looking up at a girl who is straddled over him in her underpants. The victims, in all of these cases, are women.
One such woman went into Wikipedia and changed the description on RedFoo’s page. Within three hours, Redfoo responded on Facebook, saying, “if I offend anyone, I apologise from the bottom of my heart. In the future I will be more mindful of the way I present my art.” Don’t forget – it’s ‘art’ everyone!
Feminism is continually undermined by privileged ‘white male’ journalists claiming to be allies to feminists, or from self-appointed feminists as the male voices of feminism.
Sam De Brito from the Sydney Morning Herald has come to the defence of the clients of Real Social Dynamics in Australia. Sam De Brito would have us believe that women are to blame. The article states, “imagine you turned up at last week’s event with that mindset and had people screaming “creep”, “loser” or “abuser” at you and they were filming it?”
One of the authors of this article was at that event, Mr De Brito, and would like to point out that you forgot an important point. The men were prepared to meet in secret and hell-bent on learning Blanc’s lessons, even after the venue changed, which they were aware of before boarding the boat. They had seen on YouTube Blanc’s teachings on how to choke a woman.
De Brito goes on. “The flipside of this is your average man can go out every Friday and Saturday night for five years, buy himself a drink and stand at a bar and NEVER have a woman start up a conversation with him.” That’s right – it’s women’s fault again!
In the Daily Telegraph, two days ago, Martin Daubney confided, “as long as feminism is called feminism, a small, dark nugget of my soul will forever resist its message. That’s why I think feminism needs a new name.” That’s right; it is feminisms’ fault that men find feminism “off-putting and negative” and nothing to do with the historical allocation of power to men. Women receive death and rape threats online every day for the simple crime of having an opinion yet it is feminism that needs the rebranding.
Feminism doesn’t need a new name. Feminism needs privileged white men to change their viewpoint. Recent events have opened more eyes to the continual suffering of women. Could this be any more indicative that feminism continues its relevance? Or of the salience of words? Judging by the force of the movement, social media might very well be the beginning of the end of the patriarchy.
Kirsty Mac has been performing comedy since the first television she was a host on won the award for ‘Best Live to Air Programme’ on Melbourne’s Channel 31. Mac has been performing stand up comedy throughout Australia, Canada and the UK for the seven years since then. Her show Feminazi sold out at the Melbourne and Sydney Comedy Festivals. She was on the front cover of The Beat and The Conversation has labelled her a ‘Rising Star’. @MacKirstys
Kara Beavis holds post-graduate qualifications in women’s policy and has worked in Brisbane, Sydney, London and Johannesburg in the field of violence against women. She has recently been invited on the board of Domestic Violence New South Wales and is a recipient of national award for outstanding contribution to community. @KarsyBee