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

Comments

I Believe feminism is a way of ones own belief, I don't think there should be something against it because its just the view of how someone feels. I also very much do feel that feminism has helped encourage and give people the strength to make such decisions, such as abortion, pregnancy, sex, and etc.

First of all, great work. Your article was very informative on the importance to fight for the protection of women’s rights and the new power model that embraces the many rather than the few. Furthermore, I like how you engage in the topic of women’s empowerment as an initiative to carve a path that will help end women’s vulnerability to injustice. However, I find that only talking about the suffering of the female sex is not enough and that it would be interesting to integrate the culprit into this discussion. Thus, identifying the cause is a good way to learn about the problem and I would argue that the devaluation of women results from a patriarchal society.

Often, we talk about the patriarchy present in Western history and forget that we live in one even today. Men are expected to lead projects, make the decisions, and control; it is seen as good and natural. Our society attributes men the right to possession of power while women’s power is seen as something granted to them by men whether it is social, familial, political, economic or religious. Even though under the law, men and women should receive equal treatment but I wish to point out that the standards of equality are set under a system that is not gender neutral but male-oriented. Therefore, in a society that favors men, the general economic, political, social status of women reflect men’s view of fair treatment for women.

As a final note, it was a good article. I hope my comment helped to improve and not undermine it. Here are some articles that elaborate the concept I mentioned above:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriarchy
https://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2012/11/america-is-still-a-pat...
http://organizingchange.org/patriarchy-persists-can-change/
http://imaginenoborders.org/pdf/zines/UnderstandingPatriarchy.pdf

This was a very interesting article, especially in that it framed feminist issues in the context of contemporary world events. I appreciate how you drew a distinction between traditional power structures and so-called new power, and how you elaborated on how both can be helpful in their own ways.

It is important to note however that the new power granted by tools such as social media is simply an evolution of a long trend of non-institutional power working to advance feminist goals. Going back even to the first wave of feminism, which was centered in the UK and North America in the early 20th century, tools such as public marches and demonstrations, as well as civil disobedience, have been useful in advancing feminist goals. A good summary of that wave's ties to public protest can be found here:
http://www.jofreeman.com/feminism/suffrage.htm

I think the article could be furthered by examining how social media has helped or perhaps hindered feminism since its inception. It would be interesting to look at how people who might not be otherwise implicated in the feminist movement have come into contact with it through social media. As well, you could look at how the use public protests and demonstrations have evolved throughout the history of the feminist project.

All in all, a very interesting article.

Citations:

"From Suffrage to Women's Liberation." http://www.jofreeman.com/feminism/suffrage.htm

About the author

Small town girl (livin' in a lonely world) passionate about music, peace, human rights and universal love. People that surround me sometimes say that I should not talk about certain "controversial" issues, but I am stubborn and persuasive.