The Voice of the Many: New Power & Feminism
by Laura-Camille on March 19, 2017 - 11:09pm
From March 13 to March 24, the United Nations is holding a commission meeting, in which this year’s theme is women’s economic empowerment. An article by Edith M. Lederer for the Associated Press in TIME reported that last week, the U.N. chief Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that women’s rights are under heavy attack worldwide. In fact, Guterres stated that women are “suffering new assaults on their safety and dignity around the world”, especially when it comes to extremist movements oppressing women’s rights and governments taking initiatives depriving women of human rights, such as their safety because of their vulnerability to domestic violence. Russia has indeed recently decriminalized certain forms of domestic abuse. According to the U.N. chief, it is important for there to be more women leaders in the world, and that more men in power stand up for women’ rights. This Commission on the Status of Women is also reminding people that women suffer from more subtle injustices than violence-based inequalities, such as the fact that they are paid on average 23% less than men, for the same work.
Another article in the Pacific Standard points out and analyzes the feminist strikes that have occurred in the past months in the United States, and the history of women’s strikes. Melisssa Gira Grant, author and journalist, stresses that these strikes have as an objective to shed light on the importance and value women have in society. The March 8th “A Day without a Woman” strike was about “breaking with routine and stopping everyday time”, and to remind people that even in the United States of America, women are not treated and regarded the same way men are. These feminist strikes have increased in occurrence since the inauguration of Donald Trump as the President of USA, who faced severe criticism for sexist and racist statements he has made. Additionally, President Trump has recently set in place a ban on federal aid to international organizations that provide abortions or abortion information.
The two previous news stories relate about different ways in which the feminist movement has been helped and encouraged; One initiative is based on an old power model, while the second story is an example of new power. In short, new power can be defined as “made by many, open, participatory, and peer-driven”, while old power is “held by a few, closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven”. In other words, new power encourages collaboration and offers the opportunity for almost anyone to participate and collaborate in the organization. Examples of companies and organizations that have embraced a new power model are the Huffington Post, Airbnb and Wikipedia. Therefore, the emergence of new power has enabled individuals to participate and voice their opinions supporting the feminist movement, which could have substantial impacts on public opinion and governments. The United Nations is not a new power organization, as it tries to resolve social issues in the context of formal state action or bureaucracy. The UN has a great deal of influence and decision-making power, making it very necessary for the respect of humans’ rights around the world, and more precisely women’s rights. Yet, it does not allow for everyday individuals to get involved, which is where the usefulness of new power comes in. The recent strikes in the US are a good example of the result of the influence of new power. Women, and men, decided to stand up by initially voicing their opinion on the Internet. The Women’s March (January 21 and 22, 2017) was simply started by Teresa Shook, a retiree from Hawaii, who created a Facebook page inviting friends to march on Washington in protest to President Trump. Quickly, other similar Facebook pages were created by Evvie Harmon, Fontaine Pearson and Bob Bland. These three individuals decided to consolidate their pages, which officially began the Women’s March Movement on Washington. This movement got so much attention that marches were held in 81 other countries in the world, with an estimated participation number of 4.8 million, in which many well-known activists and celebrities were part of. This shows how technology can be an important factor in new power, as it can unite people with the same values and beliefs from anywhere around the world. Social media is now a medium in which people can also discover and learn about organizations that promote and defend women’s rights. Planned Parenthood is one of the organizations that had partnered with the Women’s March, and which provides different actions anyone can do to participate in the defence of women’s health and rights on their website. They are also very interactive on social media (Twitter: @PPact) and work within communities to engage them into “changing the discourse around sexual and reproductive health”. Hence, new power promotes collaboration and the participation of the many, which has enabled people to become more aware of the status of women’s rights. While old power models, like the United Nations Commissions, are still necessary, new power models give people a way into taking immediate action and concretely participating for a cause they believe in.
For the complete TIME article by Lederer, consult the following link: http://time.com/4700482/united-nations-womens-rights-guterres/ .
For the article by Grant for the Pacific Standard, click on this link: https://psmag.com/a-womens-right-to-refuse-bb1ba5aa95ec#.i3t206fy9 .
For a detailed explanation of new power, read this article: https://hbr.org/2014/12/understanding-new-power .
For more information on Planned Parenthood, consult their website: https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/communities/planned-parenthood-black-community.