Remember when everyone was like "Feminism is so dead?" Well, the last few years have absolutely proved that theory wrong.
Activists have become increasingly skilled in the digital age at using the sophisticated online tools to galvanize social change. The result? Amazing feminists are changing the world.
Here's a look at the incredible digital campaigns in recent memory resulting in amazing feminist victories. There's tons of work left to be done, but these moments are worth celebrating. They are a strong reminder of why we keep on fighting. Check out our conversation on ABC/Fusion:
Oh no he didn't. That's what thousands of women angrily uttered after Co-Founder and Chairman of Lululemon Chip Wilson went on national television to blame his company's sheer fabric pant problems on fat women.
"Frankly, some women's bodies just don't actually work for it," he said on Bloomberg TV, while his wife Shannon tried to interject. "They don't work for some women's bodies … it's really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, how much they use it."
After outraged customers hijacked the company's Facebook page and tweeted their disgust about his comments, Wilson was forced to step down.
After online outrage mounted last fall, SNL decided to hold a secret audition to hire a black female comedian earlier this year. The show ended up hiring Sasheer Zamata, their first female of color since Maya Rudolph left in 2007. The show also announced it had hired two black female writers earlier last week. ColorofChange's work was pivotal in making this happen. The group was the first to write an open-letter to Lorne Michaels and meet with NBC to help the network diversify.
When people spoke out, SNL listened.
After Rick Ross brazenly promoted rape in the lyrics of his new single back in March, Ultraviolet responded by creating a pressure campaign that encouraged advertisers like Reebok to drop the artist as their brand ambassador. Their petition got thousands of signatures in a matter of hours and read, "Reebok devotes a lot of time, energy and money to marketing to women — and now they’re paying a man who is literally bragging about raping women. That tells women that Reebok isn't interested in our business. It tells us that Reebok is okay promoting rape culture and when one out of five women are the victim of an attempted or completed rape that has real life consequences."
Reebok ended up publicly distancing itself from the rapper and issued a statement announcing they wouldn't be working together anymore. "At this time, it is in everyone's best interest for Reebok to end its partnership with Mr. Ross," the statement read.
This led to Rick Ross publicly apologizing for trivializing sexual assault. "Before I am an artist, I am a father, a son, and a brother to some of the most cherished women in the world," he stressed. "So for me to suggest in any way that harm and violation be brought to a woman is one of my biggest mistakes and regrets."
When Laura Bates, the founder of Everyday Sexism, got a tip about an iTunes app (and a game available on Google Play) that allowed children as young as 9 to perform plastic surgeries on a fictional female character, she took to social media to share her outrage. Within an hour, she had thousands of responses pouring in from equally fuming Twitter users who couldn't believe this kind of toxic app would exist.
It didn't take long for iTunes and Google Play to delete the program altogether. Although neither company issued a formal response (probably in an attempt to crush the story), Google explained that they "remove applications from Google Play that violate our policies."
In an interview with ABC News Bates said, "I think it's really affirming to know that there's enough public sentiment on these issues to force big organizations to listen."
After beating more than 15,000 other companies to the punch in a contest organized by Intuit, GoldieBlox became the first small business to ever advertise during the Super Bowl. Their entry video went viral this summer with a video encouraging girls to become engineers. The spot during the big game was worth about $4 million and got the small company exposure during the most-watched sporting event of the year.
Who runs the world? Girls.
It's always funny to see politicians run a campaign as if female voters don't represent a majority of voters (news flash: they do). The latest to ignore this important fact was Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate to run for governor in Virginia. Standing for notoriously anti-woman policies didn't only cost him a couples of votes, it ended up costing him the election.
Planned Parenthood was one of the most uniting forces in the quest to get voters informed about his problematic positions on women. Gena Madow, the press officer at PPFA, explained that the digital aspect of their campaign made all the difference in the world:
"Designed to coincide with the release of Cuccinelli's book, the "Keep Ken Out" website launched in early February. Over the next several months, Planned Parenthood political and advocacy organizations executed a robust social media program, including a unique @KeepKenOut Twitter handle to educate voters about Cuccinelli's record and his latest missteps."
Planned Parenthood even launched a clever interactive online app that allowed people to insert Cuccinelli and the "Keep Ken Out" banner into photos of places he didn't belong. Hundreds of Virginians used the app to post and share photos and close to 45,000 visited the website.
So in the end, who kept this notoriously anti-choice candidate out of the campaign? Women of color. When it comes to married women, Cuccinelli's opponent won by 42 points. However, when it came to African-American women, that number doubled to 84 points. "Keep Ken Out" didn't only educate voters about his radical social conservative positions, it changed the course of the election.
Wolfe's journalism project aims to document how sexualized violence is used in Syria against women, men, and children by creating a crowd-sourced map tracking every incident of sexual assault. The aim of the project is to plot where the crime happens, but hopes to also serve as evidence in the case of legal action.
Back in 2011, when the Representation Project started the #NotBuyingIt hashtag, Go Daddy was one of their main targets. After tens of thousands of tweets were sent, they had no choice but to respond.
With the launch of the Representation Project's new app, we can only expect more companies to follow in Go Daddy's footsteps. In fact, the 2014 Super Bowl was decidedly less sexist (with a few exceptions) than it has been in the past, and many are saying it's thanks to the nonprofit's online activism.
After Rush Limbaugh made disparaging comments about Georgetown law school student (and now congressional candidate) Sandra Fluke following her testimony in favor of the Obama administration's birth control requirement, activists came together to demand that advertisers drop the controversial show. After Media Matters broke the story reporting that Limbaugh had called the student a "slut" who wanted "be paid to have sex," people got organized. Like, really organized.
Inspired by activism directed at Rush Limbaugh, MSNBC host Krystal Ball wrote an op-ed that helped galvanize the #stoprush hashtag. That led to the creation of the Stop Rush website where netizens could track the show's list of the sponsors. Krystal Ball was amazed by the power of social media to garner support. "It was and is a totally amazing 100% grassroots effort that is still having an impact. The overwhelming majority of advertisers never returned to Limbaugh's program."
In lieu of apologizing, Limbaugh added insult to injury by suggesting that women who believe they should have access to birth control without co-pay should record their sexual escapades.
"So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you Feminazis, here's the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. We want you post the videos online so we can all watch," the conservative host said.
Limbaugh also kept referring to Sandra Fluke and "her friends" as "having so much sex" that they are "broke," leading Rachel Maddow to posit that Rush Limbaugh doesn't actually know how birth control even works.
Limbaugh did end up apologizing, but feminists did not accept it.
When Wendy Davis stood up to Rick Perry and his anti-choice GOP posse during a 13-hour filibuster, not a single major news outlet chose to air it. That didn't stop 180,000 people from tuning in to the livestream after the state senator posted it on social media.
People didn't just watch it, they tweeted about it, like A LOT, making the #standwithwendy hashtag the most trending topic in the United States that night, bringing in at times, 1700 tweets per minute. Rachel Sklar, co-founder of TheLi.st put it perfectly in a piece on Medium:
"What should have been a dry parliamentary proceeding — like watching paint dry on C-SPAN — was a riveting spectacle featuring a thirteen-hour filibuster, a grassroots uprising, a stolen vote, a Twitter revolt, umpteen points of parliamentary inquiry, a stunning 3 a.m. reversal and a new national feminist hero."
The bill Wendy Davis was filibustering (the one that would close a third of Texas' abortion clinics and make the procedure illegal after 20 weeks) didn't end up passing that night. Although Perry got his way and signed the draconian bill into law, Davis vowed she would run for governor and reverse it. Thanks to her huge support base, she's already received a total of 95,892 grassroots contributions of $50 or less. Organizations like Emily's List have helped Davis sustain that kind of support with numerous petitions and contribution pledges.
After the Susan G. Komen foundation decided to remove all its grants to Planned Parenthood out of the blue, the internet lost it. MoveOn.org played a pivotal role in creating a petition that drew more than 800,000 signatures in support of Planned Parenthood. According to the petition's website, Komen's decision to drop Planned Parenthood would mean "up to 170,000 women could be unable to get the screenings and early detection of breast cancer that save lives."
Feminists talked about it, wrote about it, tweeted about it and stopped financial contributing altogether (amounting to a 22% drop in donations the following year), forcing the Komen Foundation to cease its temper tantrum against Planned Parenthood. Even once the controversy was over, major sponsors dropped the organization and participation in their events plummeted.
The digital tools that women's health activists used to organize then, are still active now. The #standwithpp hashtag, first started by Amanda Marcotte, is still being used to mobilize around Planned Parenthood funding. The Tumblr called "Planned Parenthood Saved Me" by Deanna Zandt continues to post stories about safe and accessible health care for women today.
It took 1,000 #NotBuyingIt tweets and almost 8,000 signatures on Representation Project's Change.org petition, but the Disney Store finally withdrew their t-shirts reinforcing terribly outdated gender stereotypes. The Avengers t-shirts that read “I Need a Hero” were pulled thanks to unflinching feminist activism, all of which took place online.
Although Feministing as a whole has been committed to hosting conversations about sexual assault and rape culture, three people on staff have been particularly invested in using those discussions to effect social change. You might be aware that that President Obama formed a task force to tackle the epidemic of sexual violence on college campuses, but you might not know that three members of Feministing were key to making that happen.
Alexandra Brodsky, an editor at Feministing filed an administative complaint against Yale along with 15 other students after school authorities told her to keep quiet after a classmate attempted to rape her. Wagatwe Wanjuki, a survivor of sexual assault, also organized protests about campus sexual assault reform Tufts University. She works as a contributing writer at Feminsiting. Together, along with many other organizers, they delivered a Change.org petition demanding the Department of Education take steps to tackle the culture of impunity many rapists enjoy in universities with lenient policies. Both women, along with Feminsting contributing writer Suzanna Bobadilla created a campaign called "Know Your IX's ED ACT NOW" which was designed to empower students to stop sexual assault.
Lori M. Adelman, the Executive Director at Feministing, couldn't be happier to see social change unfold before her eyes. In an email, she explained that her writers' efforts certainly paid off when the White House's guidance included their recommendations.
"Good Morning! Please be advised that the children's books that many of you have tweeted us about have been removed from our shelves ..."
That's what thousands of consumers woke up to the morning after they sent tweets in droves to Harrods department store in London for displaying a pretty disturbing children's book display. In less than 24 hours, the popular department store removed the books and apologized for ever having them on display. Most of the conversation online happened thanks to the Representation Project and their hashtag #NotBuyingIt.
Thanks to the tireless activism of Caroline Perez-Criado, the UK government revoked its decision to remove a female figure from the 10 pound note in favor of a male one. After she started her campaign to get Jane Austen on the bill, she received a slew of online abuse mostly through Twitter. She reported receiving up to "50 abusive tweets an hour for about 12 hours." The man responsible for some of the most severe death threats was recently arrested by police.
Although this wasn't the only Amazon product the Representation Project got off the virtual shelves, it was an definitely an important one.
After feminist activist Sara Alcid went to support her friend running the Women's Nike Marathon in Washington, D.C. last spring and saw young men being paid to promote a product by holding suggestive signs like, "You look beautiful all sweaty," she was outraged. After teaming up with Renee Davidson at CASS and Holly Kearl of Stop Street Harassment (SSH), she formed a Change.org petition asking the company to stop encouraging sexual harassment. Only a couple of hours later, BareMinerals issued an apology and response to the campaign:
“First and foremost, we want to say how incredibly sorry we are that we caused any offense. Our messages were meant to motivate and support but you’ve made us realize that not everybody would find these messages motivational or supportive. It’s ironic because you’re exactly the kind of women that we are inspired by because you’re fighting the good fight and standing up for women. Our mission is to make a positive difference in women’s lives and to inspire women to be their very best. So to know that this is not what was translated on the street really pains us. We take your concerns so seriously, and we really believe this is a learning opportunity for our brand. Please rest assured that these signs will not be used going forward on the Go Bare tour. We’re glad we’re having this chance to learn.”
If that's not effective feminist campaigning, I'm not sure what is.
Thanks to Soraya Chemaly, Jaclyn Friedman (Women, Action, and the Media) and Laura Bates (The Everyday Sexism Project), Facebook was forced to take its woman problem seriously. After the group of women realized that Facebook wasn’t taking gender-based hate speech seriously, they wrote an open-letter (co-signed by Equality Now, Hollaback!, Fem 2.0 and many other anti-violence organizations) and started an online campaign. More than 60,000 tweets and 5,000 emails later, the efforts paid off. Facebook issued a statement and vowed to be implement stricter rules when it came to content promoting violence against women.
Nebraska judge Peter Bataillon gained national attention after he denied a young woman's right to terminate a pregnancy because of his anti-choice beliefs. He deemed that a 16-year-old was "not sufficiently mature" to make a decision that would "kill the child inside" her. Apparently, she wasn't old enough to get an abortion, but she was old enough to carry a child.
After his decision, NARAL Pro-Choice America, RH Reality Check and CREDO came together to pressure the Nebraska Commission on judicial qualifications to investigate the judge. After the groups filled a petition that gathered more than 89,000 signatures, the Nebraska Commission on judicial qualifications refused to investigate the judge.
In a press release, NARAL president Ilyse Hogue expressed her disbelief:
"This judge, like so many others around the country, blatantly chose to put his personal ideology above the rule of law. This unethical behavior should send a chill down every American’s spine who relies on the courts to uphold our basic freedoms," she said.
Although the Judge didn't get sanctioned, the fact that pro-choice activism was able to garner enough traction to get him hauled before an ethics committee is a huge deal and would have never happened without these organizations putting a spotlight on the issue.
What began as an email thread between four women from Western Canada blossomed into a movement that would make international headlines. Back in October 2012, Jessica Gordon, Sylvia McAdam, Nina Wilson and Sheelah McLean originally wanted to bring attention to Canadian Bill C-45, a budget deal that (amongst other things) would make significant changes to the Native Protection Act with no consultation of indigenous populations. Although the bill was passed in December 2012, their movement got the media's attention when Theresa Spence, a chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario, went on a six-week hunger strike until January 24 of last year. Although she never got to meet with the prime minister, Stephen Harper did meet with an Assembly of First Nations delegation on Jan. 11 as per her request.
The movement is still the focus of mainstream media and has gained considerable traction on social media. On Nov. 4, the #IdleNoMore originated on Twitter and within a couple of weeks, it was trending. The group's Facebook page has 147,000 likes, and support for the group is spreading beyond Canada.
Remember when Twitter got rid of the block button?
If the answer is no, that's because of Zerlina Maxwell and the feminist Twitterati who ironically took to Twitter to voice their concern about the company's decision to remove the button altogether. Like many other women online, Zerlina Mawell had been the target of aggressive death and rape threats especially following a heated segment where she called on men to take responsibility for sexual violence. Within a few hours of her creating a Change.org petition demanding that Twitter bring back the block button, the social networking site reversed its decision. Thanks to online activism, the block button isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
You may know that the ACLU won the case to overturn DOMA in summer 2013, but did you know that a lot of their campaigning for the rights of LGBT people happens online? Their most recent campaign is paying for five gay weddings in states where same-sex unions are still illegal. Check out their contest and vote for your favorite couple.
UN Women's Google auto-complete campaign will go down as one of the most effective representations of gender inequality in the digital world. Even though the online world has been used by many feminists to effect change, it is still a hostile place for women. The illustrations created by UN Women made that very clear.
Christopher Hunt, the Art Director of the project says he was shocked by how much hatred there still is in the world. "When we came across these searches, we were shocked by how negative they were and decided we had to do something with them.”
You can check out the full collection of images here.