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Invisible Feminists. Social Media and Young Womens Political Participation

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    http://pnz.sagepub.com/  Political Science  http://pnz.sagepub.com/content/65/1/8The online version of this article can be found at: DOI: 10.1177/0032318713486474 2013 65: 8 Political Science  Julia Schuster Invisible feminists? Social media and young women's political participation  Published by:  http://www.sagepublications.com On behalf of:  University of WellingtonSchool of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations at the Victoria  can be found at: Political Science  Additional services and information for http://pnz.sagepub.com/cgi/alerts Email Alerts:  http://pnz.sagepub.com/subscriptions Subscriptions:  http://www.sagepub.com/journalsReprints.nav Reprints:  http://www.sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav Permissions: What is This? - May 31, 2013Version of Record >>  at National School of Political on October 7, 2013pnz.sagepub.comDownloaded from at National School of Political on October 7, 2013pnz.sagepub.comDownloaded from at National School of Political on October 7, 2013pnz.sagepub.comDownloaded from at National School of Political on October 7, 2013pnz.sagepub.comDownloaded from at National School of Political on October 7, 2013pnz.sagepub.comDownloaded from at National School of Political on October 7, 2013pnz.sagepub.comDownloaded from at National School of Political on October 7, 2013pnz.sagepub.comDownloaded from at National School of Political on October 7, 2013pnz.sagepub.comDownloaded from at National School of Political on October 7, 2013pnz.sagepub.comDownloaded from at National School of Political on October 7, 2013pnz.sagepub.comDownloaded from at National School of Political on October 7, 2013pnz.sagepub.comDownloaded from at National School of Political on October 7, 2013pnz.sagepub.comDownloaded from at National School of Political on October 7, 2013pnz.sagepub.comDownloaded from at National School of Political on October 7, 2013pnz.sagepub.comDownloaded from at National School of Political on October 7, 2013pnz.sagepub.comDownloaded from at National School of Political on October 7, 2013pnz.sagepub.comDownloaded from at National School of Political on October 7, 2013pnz.sagepub.comDownloaded from at National School of Political on October 7, 2013pnz.sagepub.comDownloaded from    Article Invisible feminists? Socialmedia and young women’spolitical participation  Julia Schuster  Abstract Considering insights from ‘third-wave’ literature, this paper examines the impact of young women’sonlineactivismonthevisibilityoffeministengagementinNewZealand.Drawingon40interviewswithwomen of all ages who are concerned with women’s political issues in New Zealand, I identify agenerational divide in the ways these women participated in feminist activities and I argue that onlineactivism is a key form of participation for many young women. Since online activism is only visible tothosewhouseit,thisformofparticipationhidesmanyyoungwomen’sactivitiesfromthewiderpublicandfrom politically active women of older generations.Many ofmyolderinterviewparticipantswerenot aware of the political energy young women put into online communities such as blogs and Face-book. Thus they expressed concern that there would not be enough young women to pick up theirworkoncetheyretired.However,theyoungwomeninmystudyusednewmediatoconnectwithandsupporteach other, to have politicaldiscussions and toorganize events inthe ‘real world’. The youngwomen valued new media for its flexibility, accessibility and ability to reach large groups of people.Moreover, theyappreciated its easyand low-costuse. The paperconcludes that political online work offers many opportunities for feminist participation, but it excludes people not using new media, andthus contributes to the enhancement of a generational divide among women engaging with feminism. Keywords feminist generations, online activism, New Zealand, third-wave feminism, women’s movement Introduction Young women are often said to only rarely engage with traditional political activities 1 and to distance themselves from feminism. 2 Such criticism often comes from feminists 1. Anita Harris, ‘Young Women, Late Modern Politics, and the Participatory Possibilities of Online Cultures’,  Journal of Youth Studies , Vol. 11, No. 5 (2008), pp. 481  495.2. For a literature review, see Christina Scharff,  Repudiating Feminism: Young Women in a Neoliberal World   (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012). Corresponding author:  Julia Schuster, University of Auckland, 10 Symonds Street, Level 9, Auckland, 1010, New Zealand.Email: jsch136@aucklanduni.ac.nz Political Science65(1) 8–24 ª The Author(s) 2013Reprints and permissions:sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.navDOI: 10.1177/0032318713486474pnz.sagepub.com  of previous generations who tend to express concern that young women lack commit-ment to feminism, do not appreciate the gains of previous generations and will not pick up their work once they have retired.However, the international feminist ‘third-wave’ literature has argued for over adecade that the face of feminism is not fading but rather changing. 3 This articleaddresses one specific aspect of such change: it investigates how the relatively newform of online activism affects the relationship between generations of feminists,and asks whether the alleged disappearance of young feminists is at least partly dueto this shift from offline to online methods of feminist work. With the case study of  New Zealand, I argue that there are a large number of young women who do actively participate in feminist work and activism. However, many of them choose onlineactivism as their main form of political participation and thus put their politicalenergy into a space that excludes people who are not familiar with this form of organizing. Consequently, the use of online tools contributes to making young fem-inists ‘invisible’ – not only to the wider public but also to their political peers of older generations.The focus on New Zealand derives from this country’s paradigmatic shift towardsneoliberalism since 1984, 4 which shaped the characteristics of social justice movements by enhancing certain social developments such as individualization. 5 Many(dominantly)Western societies adopted neoliberal governance during the same time period, althoughnot usually as rapidly as New Zealand. Thus, findings are relevant for women’smovements in other Western countries where the influences of neoliberalism are present but possibly less perceptible.Women’s use of the internet for political purposes has been researched by variousscholars. Morahan-Martin and Sutton and Pollok have discussed gender-specificinequalities within internet-based political activism. 6,7 Keller has studied youngwomen’s blogs and explored how this medium provides a space to express politicaland feminist views. 8 Harris has identified that online spaces provide less intimidat-ing opportunities for young women to act as citizens than traditional media forms, 3. Shelley Budgeon,  Third Wave Feminism and the Politics of Gender in Late Modernity (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), pp. 156  181.4. Wendy Larner and Maria Butler, ‘Governmentalities of Local Partnerships: The Rise of a‘‘Partnering State’’ in New Zealand’,  Studies in Political Economy , Vol. 75 (2005), pp. 85  108.5. Sarah Maddison and Greg Martin, ‘Introduction to ‘‘Surviving Neoliberalism: The Persis-tence of Australian Social Movements’’’,  Social Movement Studies , Vol. 9, No. 2 (2010), pp. 101  120.6. Janet Morahan-Martin, ‘Women and the Internet: Promise and Perils’,  Cyber Psychology and  Behavior  , Vol. 3, No. 5 (2000), pp. 683  691.7. Jo Sutton and Scarlet Pollok, ‘Online Activism for Women’s Rights’,  Cyber Psychology and  Behavior,  Vol. 3, No. 5 (2000), pp. 699  706.8. Jessalynn Marie Keller, ‘Virtual Feminisms’,  Information, Communication and Society, Vol. 15, No. 3 (2011), pp. 429  447. Schuster   9  and Garrison has highlighted the internet’s advantage for feminist girls to use aspace that is not controlled by adults. 9,10 Overall, the importance and potential of the internet for active citizenship and  political engagement has attracted increasing academic attention over the last 15 yearsand generated much interest on two issues in particular. First, authors have discussed how far online activism can reach into the ‘real world’, and thus count as political participation. 11 Some authors described online activism as ‘slacktivism’, which has littleimpact on political decisions and potentially distracts from more effective forms of  participation. 12 Others have argued the opposite, stating that activities such as managinga Facebook account have wrongly been neglected by traditional research on political participation. 13 Second, much research has investigated with differing results how political offline and online activities relate to each other and how internet use enhancesor hinders traditional political participation (e.g. voting, attending street protests). 14 Disagreements on these questions are often accompanied by differing definitions of  political participation as well as incoherencies regarding what forms of activities areaddressed as online activism. 15 Regarding this last issue, Theocharis has offered a usefuldifferentiation between online tools of the pre- and post-Web 2.0 era. 16 He has described Web 2.0 as ‘a web platform that can accommodate interactive information sharing,interoperability, user-centred design and collaboration on the World Wide Web, and is characterized by applications such as video-sharing sites, wikis, blogs and SNS(e.g. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter)’. The pre-Web 2.0 era involved fewer interactive 9. Anita Harris, ‘Mind the Gap: Attitudes and Emergent Feminist Politics since the Third Wave’,  Australian Feminist Studies , Vol. 25, No. 66 (2010), pp. 475  484.10. Ednie Kaeh Garrison, ‘US Feminism   Grrrl Style !  Youth (Sub)Cultures and the Techno-logics of the Third Wave’,  Feminist Studies , Vol. 26, No. 1 (2000), pp. 141  170.11. Sonja Livingstone, Magdalena Bober and Ellen J. Helsper, ‘Active Participation or JustMore Information?’,  Information, Communication and Society , Vol. 8, No. 3 (2005), pp. 287  314; W. Lance Bennett, ‘Changing Citizenship in the Digital Age’, in W. LanceBennett (ed.),  Civic Life Online: Learning How Digital Media Can Engage Youth (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007).12. Henrik S. Christensen, ‘Political Activities on the Internet: Slacktivism or Political Partic-ipation by Other Means?’,  First Monday , Vol. 16, Nos 2  7 (2011). Available at:firstmonday.org.13. Kristoffer Holt, Adam Shehata, Jesper Stro¨mba¨ck and Elisabet Ljungberg, ‘Age and theEffect of News Media Attention and Social Media Use on Political Interest and Participa-tion: Do Social Media Function as Leveller?’,  European Journal of Communication ,Vol. 28, No. 1 (2013), p. 31.14. M. Kent Jennings and Vicki Zeitner, ‘Internet Use and Civic Engagement: A LongitudinalAnalysis’,  Public Opinion Quarterly , Vol. 67, No. 3 (2003), pp. 311  334; Dietram A.Scheufele and Matthew C. Nisbet, ‘Being a Citizen Online: New Opportunities and Dead Ends’,  Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics , Vol. 7, No. 3 (2002), pp. 55  75.15. Jose´ Marichal, ‘Political Facebook Groups: Micro-Activism and the Digital Front Stage’, presented at the ‘Internet, Politics, Policy 2010’ Conference, Oxford, September 2010.16. Yannis Theocharis, ‘Cuts, Tweets, Solidarity and Mobilisation: How the Internet Shaped theStudent Occupations’  , Parliamentary Affairs , Vol. 65, No. 1 (2012), p. 167. 10  Political Science 65(1)
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