August 2013 has been an intense month for social media, women’s rights, feminism and race. Twitter has come under fire for dragging its heels over abuse on its site after the high profile trolling of bank note campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez. But it is the #SolidarityisforWhiteWomen hashtag which has crystallised the benefits of Twitter by sparking an overdue debate on the white middle class nature of feminism, one that Words of Colour Productions has been championing for the last few years. That’s why the planned launch of Digital Women UK is so timely.
The hashtag #SolidarityisforWhiteWomen, orginated by blogger Mikki Kendall, is still trending and has raised serious questions about the inclusiveness of feminism, a topic that has been on Words of Colour’s agenda for some time.
Women from all over the world have posted their observations about how white middle class women dominate the feminist agenda, including a belated response to a New York Times article that, without any irony, discussed “The new shades of feminism” alongside an image of four young well-groomed white, middle class women, actors from the US smash hit comedy Girls.
Mikki Kendall, the originator of the #SolidarityisforWhiteWomen hashtag in response to controversial comments by self proclaimed white male feminist Hugo Schwyzer.
The British media that has picked up this story is not without its faults, however. Only recently the Observer published an article discussing the future of Britain’s “new wave” of feminism with an all-white cast, and last year the Daily Telegraph’s publicity image for its new Wonder Women column featured eight white women.
This apparent “blind spot”, which operates within the media, is reflected in all aspects of life. At a recent event at the Tate Modern looking back at the history of the women’s movement in the UK, there was a distinct lack of diversity among the older women (over 60) who gathered to talk about their experiences.
As #SolidarityisforWhiteWomen has shown, social media is a powerful tool, potentially providing all women with an opportunity to ensure their voices and perspectives are heard.
This comment by Bitchmedia.org is just one example of the hundreds inspired by the #SolidarityisforWhiteWomen hastag.
Helping women to use these tools effectively was part of the reason behind Words of Colour’s decision to launch Digital Women UK for female creative practitioners. Over the past 18 months we became aware that a lot of women writers and artists were interested in using digital technology, but were unsure of how to launch themselves into the digital world or build on their existing online presence.
Digital Women UK, which launches on Wednesday 25 September at City Hall with support from Assembly Member Jennette Arnold, will provide advice, training and mentoring to women who want to use social media, and also engage with the issues to do with gender, race and class that have been thrown up in recent months.
A Words of Colour event last May on Twitter clout was prompted by concerns that so few women featured on a number of so-called influence lists, including the Independent’s Twitter 100, which only had 18 women.
It’s clear that social media also mirrors what is going on in the traditional media. Research by City University has shown that women are less likely to be included in shows as experts and are more likely to be talking emotively or speaking as case studies.
Developing clout is one that Digital Women UK wants to explore. Our new blog platform is one way we will be doing this, along with interviews, podcasts and events. With a diverse and engaging team of contributors we hope the blog will develop as a space where a wide variety of perspectives can be shared.
As the threats made to bank note campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez have shown, something needs to be done about online abuse if more women are to be encouraged to engage in social media.
This article first appeared on Words of Colour Productions website.