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Understanding the 'Fourth Wave of Feminism'

 

With the revolution brought by the deep infusion of information and Technology in the world, every aspect of life has been affected or changed. The same is true in the case of feminist movements.

In the past, the feminists in the persuasion of their agenda, demands or cause, chose the path of strikes, street march or public demonstration. However, today feminists are widely employing the internet tool to further their demands en masse, and that too with a deep impact on their movement.

Thus, with the advancement of the internet and social media, the feminist movement has entered into a new phase or wave, commonly known as the Fourth Wave of Feminism. This wave is believed to have started in the year 2012 till and still in the continuation.

To understand how the fourth wave actually works; it is the daily based observation that today a campaign starts with ‘hashtag #’ on social media and takes a moment in becoming a headline in news channels and newspapers following a swift response by the authorities. Many such examples can be quoted and will be quoted later in the article.

In the past, not all women were able to participate in street walk, public demonstrations, or protests to speak against injustices they face, due to multitudinous socioeconomic barriers. However, today women of every stratum are able to conveniently participate and raise voice against their issues through social media.

In other words, women have become more vocal in highlighting injustices and inequalities and other social issues like domestic violence, sexual harassment, threats, and bullying, rape, etc.

In recent years, a powerful #Metoo campaign had started that resulted in highlighting a plethora of cases of sexual harassment and domestic violence in Pakistan. To understand the effectiveness of feminist campaigns via social media, it is pertinent to mention that every highlighted case on social media was followed by swift action by relevant authorities.

In this fresh wave of feminism, apart from women issues, the issues related to other genders i.e. LGBT are also highlighted.

In the fourth wave of feminism, the feminists largely focus on the areas and issues like domestic violence, sexual harassment, acid attacks, oppression and subjugation of women, unequal pay, unequal representation in the work field and in various private and public sectors, unequal political representation, forced marriages, women reproductive rights, economic independence, freedom of thought and expression, freedom of choice, and personal identity.

Like in the previous waves of feminism, the feminists in the fourth wave also challenge the traditionally held beliefs and norms that women are the property of men and they have to seek permission in every matter from their male counterparts. Moreover, the traditional view that women place is in the domestic sphere only is also challenged.

Among other positive results of the fourth wave and its relevance to the internet and social media, one good aspect is that it has created a general awareness in the girls of all the socioeconomic tiers about their rights. Girls are becoming more confident, courageous, and vocal.

The cases that are highlighted on social media gain swift momentum impressing upon the government to take action and do required legislation. Criminalizing acid attacks and bills protecting women against sexual harassment in public are prominent examples in this regard.

As we have already discussed the role of social media in highlighting the women issues, it is pertinent to shed light on some recent practical examples.

In Pakistan, child abuse cases have been rising and are frequently highlighted on social media. When 6 years old Zainab’s body was found, the case gained strong momentum impressing upon the incumbent government to take action. Under public pressure, the authorities had swiftly taken action, identified the criminal, and hanged him to death. Moreover, the government did legislation and made a new law ‘Zainab Alert Law’ for the protection and rescue of the minor girls. Furthermore, the ‘Zainab Alert App’s reporting system' was also introduced to help recover missing children.

More recently, in September 2020, Fatima Amir Sheikh and Ibsham Zahid Case surfaced on social media. In the videos, Ibsham Zahid was harassing Fatima Amir with rape and death threats. Soon after, social media was flooded with hashtag #IbshamZahidbehindthebars that forced the government for swift action and Ibsham was arrested.

Even a fresher case in point is of a Faysal Bank manager Usman Gohar whose video has surfaced on the internet. In the video, he was seen harassing a female subordinate colleague. Consequently, he was apprehended and dismissed from the job.

Thus, the dire consequences of rape and sexual harassment cases are setting precedents for everyone in society. Without the internet and social media, such cases would have altogether gone unreported and would have given way to further rise in such horrendous acts.

Thus, the fourth wave of feminism is proving to be successful in highlighting women issues and bringing much-demanded gender equality in society.  

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