How Social Media Changed Election Politics for Young Women

It’s still fun to see your name in print. From an article examining how the ways young feminists view Hillary Clinton changed after social media became the norm:

In the early and mid-2000s, after she left the White House and took up residence in the U.S. Senate, Clinton largely shifted away from a women-centered agenda as she worked to bolster her presidential résumé. At the same time, young bloggers like Lauren Bruce (Feministe) and Jessica Valenti (Feministing) were bringing feminist theory out of the Ivory Tower. “Each month seemed to bring a new site with feminist content,” Rebecca Traister writes in her 2010 book, Big Girls Don’t Cry. “At various points there were about six sites calling themselvesThe F-Word.”

Social media changed the landscape of feminism. Young women who might not learn about feminism in their schools or communities could find primers on Tumblr blogs with names like intersectional feminism 101. Their feminist awakenings thus involved, from the start, debates about second-wave feminism’s perceived failures of inclusivity. “Anyone who entered the feminist conversation in the Internet age has immediate access to not only research about those failures, but also to a lot of the conversations about them,” says feminist organizer and writer Shelby Knox, who’s 28. “The barriers are a lot lower for participation in the movement.”

Young women could now do more than read about feminist issues and discuss them in class; they could find communities of women on Twitter or Tumblr whose experiences they could relate to—or who could open up new vistas for them on what other women’s lives are like. They could participate in the creation of a new feminism—one that would be a far cry from Friedan’s. By 2011, the writer Flavia Dzodan was famously declaring on her blog: “My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.” Her words became a rallying cry.

As young women’s notions of feminism evolved and broadened, so did their idea of what constitutes “women’s issues” in the political arena. “If you’re taking intersectionality as the foundation of this kind of feminism, you wouldn’t just be concerned with how any particular policy issue is affecting women,” says Gwendolyn Beetham, director of the Global Village at Douglass Residential College, the women’s residential college affiliated with Rutgers University. “But you would be asking, ‘Which women, and how?’ And you would be asking this whether or not you are a member of one of those groups.”

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