Women’s Activism -
insights for empowering women
from global women activists
Dr Diann Rodgers-Healey
From the Introduction:
It is well established that in the 21st Century, activism has broken through the traditional barriers to incorporate the internet (Peters, 2011) using increasingly creative means to enable faster, wider and digitally enabled communication for informing, organising, lobbying and increasing participation. Social networking avenues such as Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, blogs and Wiki have enabled individuals to cut out the ‘middle person’ for example, the media, to communicate and ignite a response from the world at large, motivating masses to effect change.
A patchwork history of the evolution of activism shows that different factors have emerged to shape it and be shaped by it. Although, it could be said that the media has been a significant catalyst for activism in bringing awareness to the masses, there have been other significant factors shaping not just the actions of individuals, but also those of large groups and nations. Throughout history, events themselves have led individuals, groups, and nations to rise and demand change. As such, activism has been influenced by social, political, religious and economic conditions of the time, changing values and global declarations of human rights standards and advancing mediums to communicate it. The account below attempts to give a glimpse of this interwoven journey.
Activism has paralleled our growing sense of individualism, our rights and place in the community, work and family, and our awareness of how we are treated by powerful institutions and organisations. Choosing to engage to change the world in the 21st century has also been influenced by our economic well-being and levels of stress from increasing demands of productivity. As such, our sense of individualism has predominantly overridden collective concerns for others and their well-being and even for the planet as a whole. Having said this, collectivism has been seen to drive activism as was evident in global events such as the Arab Spring in 2011 when masses fought bitter battles to secure the right to live in a free, safe and democratic country. Collectivism has also enabled the women’s movement to band together and strive for gender equality and women’s rights, the gay and lesbian community to fight for equal rights, and this is similar to many other marginalised groups who continue to do the same.
Moving beyond this sense-making of activism through the centuries, an added appreciation of activism might be gained from considering how it is discussed in the research literature, particularly in relation to women, and how it is applied, as the next chapter explores.