Generation Z, or Gen Z, are individuals born between 1997 and 2012. This group has grown up with technology and social media, making their thoughts and ideas easier to share with the world. Social media has become a powerful tool for activism and social justice, and Gen Z feminists have been at the forefront of using it to effect change. Advocates are reshaping the feminist movement for future generations. The feminist movement faces a new frontier on social media, battling far-right misinformation and hate through social media activism.
Social media has the potential to promote the feminist movement by increasing awareness of women’s rights issues, enabling efficient communication, assisting with organization, providing education on women’s history and current events, and motivating people to become advocates for greater equality.
The shift from traditional feminism to modern feminism has been a significant one. Historically, traditional feminism focused on women’s rights and gender equality through legislative and policy changes. Activists used protests, picketing, and lobbying strategies to make their voices heard. However, with the advent of social media and influencer culture, modern feminism has taken a more visible and accessible approach.
Today, feminists use traditional messaging and social media platforms to spread awareness about gender inequality and to advocate for change. Living by example, advocates across online platforms exemplify contacting local representatives and accessing critical information, which helps individuals get involved where the inaccessibility of organizations and groups may miss potential supporters. Furthermore, with far-right voices on social media, the feminists utilizing social media today are at the forefront of the battle between disinformation, fear-mongering, and hate—these present serious challenges to effective feminist messaging.
Dylan Mulvaney, a trans feminist TikToker, fights against disinformation and hate speech as she works to acquire almost 11 million followers. Through her videos, Dylan educates her followers on trans and feminist issues, including the importance of using correct pronouns and the struggles both communities face. She also advocates for intersectionality and the inclusion of marginalized communities in the feminist movement. Dylan’s videos have been praised for their informative and empowering nature, and she has become an important voice for the trans and feminist community. In October 2022, Dylan was invited to the White House to interview President Biden on the critical issues facing the trans and feminist community. Breaking stereotypes, Bud Light has chosen Dylan to be their 2023 spokesperson. Not surprisingly, the far-right community has found Dylan’s presence on social media and company sponsorships problematic. In response to Dylan’s success, the GOP has taken this opportunity to slander the transgender movement. With loud voices such as Marjorie Taylor Greene and James O’Keefe manipulating the entire transgender movement messaging, it is critical to have individuals like Dylan stand firm in her positive and informational messaging.
Another Gen Z feminist making waves on social media is Ziwe. Ziwe is a writer, comedian, and host of her talk show, ‘Ziwe.’ Through her character on her show and her identity as a Black American, she promotes intersectional feminism and discusses issues related to race, gender, and sexuality from the perspective of an ignorant individual. Ziwe uses humor to bring attention to serious matters and encourages her audience to think critically about the world around them. Her unique approach to activism has gained her a large following and helped make feminism more accessible to a broader audience. In an interview with Gloria Steinem and her inspiration, Fran Lebowitz, she used her platform to challenge the traditional feminist movement we grew up with to push the move to new levels of intersectionality. Progressing the feminist movement beyond the confines of conventional feminist messaging for the movement is a step toward bridging the gap between traditional and contemporary age feminism.
Malala Yousafzai needs no introduction. As a champion of feminism and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate, she has continued her work and become a prominent voice for women’s rights worldwide. Malala uses social media to continue her activism and to promote education for girls globally. Her foundation, The Malala Fund, has helped to provide educational opportunities for girls in developing countries. Simultaneously, her social media presence has transformed the messaging of her foundation. Replying to individual videos, tweets, and other media content, her pro-feminist messaging continues her mission of promoting educational opportunities for women internationally. Sparked by her conversations with the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education in Mexico City, Malala has emphasized the dangers of discrimination, disinformation, and hate speech on social media. Fighting against this hateful rhetoric is a top priority for feminists across social media platforms.
While traditional feminism laid the foundation for gender equality, modern feminism has adapted to the changing times and embraced new ways of fighting for women’s rights. Social media has given women a platform to share their stories and experiences, connect with like-minded individuals, and organize protests and movements. Online platforms have the potential to promote the feminist movement by increasing awareness of women’s rights issues, enabling efficient communication, assisting with organization, providing education on women’s history and current events, and motivating people to become advocates for greater equality. Additionally, modern feminists are more intersectional due to the influx of voices available within the movement on social media. Recognizing the intersection of race, gender, class, and other factors that affect women’s experiences across the country and globe whose voices are empowered by one another. However, social media also has the potential to hinder the feminist movement through online harassment and the spread of false information by far-right movements. Despite this, feminism has succeeded on social media due to the work of Gen Z advocates across platforms.
By promoting feminism across social media platforms through humor, informational campaigns, and positive messaging, these women, and countless others, have changed the pace and narrative of hate speech on social media. Social media provides individuals across the globe with a platform to speak their minds. With far-right voices prominent on social media, the efforts of modern-day feminism to spread information and promote gender equality are critical to the movement. The work of Gen Z feminists on social media is important and impactful. Through their activism and advocacy, they are making the world a more equitable and just place. Dylan Mulvaney, Ziwe, and Malala Yousafzai are just a few examples of the influential voices in the Gen Z feminist movement, and their work inspires others. By continuing to use social media as a tool for change, these feminists are creating a brighter future for the new era of the feminist movement.
Genevieve Thompson, NOW Government Relations Intern