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The Big Story  Feminism young girls, in a country where any discussion of sex is still deeply taboo.

While these new forms of misogyny have sprouted and taken root, a generation that rejected feminism has lost the means to talk about it. Sociologist Philip N Cohen tracked the use of words ‘sexism’ and ‘sexist’, in books over time. He relates how, after rising to prominence in the 1970s, they peaked in the 1990s, ‘and then, once again became less common than, say, the word “bacon”.’7

The need for a new analysis could be what is driving this renaissance. A generation of women are finding that reality doesn’t live up to the equality enshrined in law. A jolt If earlier expressions of feminism dug deep into the root causes of oppression, this chapter majors on deeds; it is pragmatic, brand savvy – and taking aim at the many-headed hydra of patriarchy wherever it rears its ugly head.

‘In the past couple of months,’ recalls Canadian blogger Jarrah Hodge, ‘I’ve been to rallies against the closure of an abortion clinic in New Brunswick, campaigned for justice for missing and murdered indigenous women, and critiqued media reporting on sexual assault and the representation of women in Star Trek.’

The internet is choked full of feminist blogs and bloggers of all stripes, political persuasions class and race. Hodge’s diary of events is also symptomatic of another powerful thread of early 21st-century grassroots feminism: the need to act for all women, not just privileged white ones. ‘A real achievement of the feminist movement now is that we have connected up across class and cultures; including LGBTI people and straight men,’ reports 26-year-old Ecuadorean activist Adriana Garrido.

The new activism is also united in a powerful rejection of violence. The most dramatic protests have taken place in India, where the brutal rape and murder of a student in Delhi sparked outrage on an unprecedented scale. The activist Kavita Khrishnan has spoken of a new wave of ‘deep introspection about how we end up sustaining violence and discrimination against women’.

‘It may be the first time in decades,’ commented the author Nilanjana Roy, ‘that we are exploring those fault lines – of caste, class and gender – in such a mainstream fashion.’8

Feminist groups in the Global South will often be fighting different battles compared with those in the North. Many pursue ‘strategic litigation’ – ways to enforce laws and set precedents around rights and protections – showing great courage and perseverance in troubled, violent places such as Colombia or Afghanistan. They are increasingly globally connected – internet activism has forged a powerful new solidarity.

Take the case of Liz, a 16-year-old Kenyan girl with learning difficulties who was left physically disabled and incontinent after being gang-raped and dumped in a pit latrine.

When Kenyan women’s rights groups heard that the perpetrators’ punishment was to cut the lawn of the local police station they started a protest petition on campaign site Avaaz. It went

‘Do we want to be the Barbarians at the gate or the people in the boardroom? I say both’

QAHERA – THE HIJABI SUPERHEROINE Deena Mohamed, a 19-yearold Egyptian graphic designer, created the veiled webcomic superheroine Qahera (‘conqueror’ in Arabic) in 2013. She combats misogyny and Islamophobia in equal measure.

One comic strip targets the topless Ukrainian ‘sextremists’ of Femen. ‘They stereotype, dehumanize and exclude Muslim women from their version of feminism and liberation,’ explains Mohamed on her Tumblr blog. ‘It has little to do with their nudity – I don’t care about that and neither does Qahera.’

Qahera also metes out retribution to Egyptian men who sexually harass women, foiling attacks and suspending perpetrators from lamp-posts.

Street harassment is growing in postrevolution Egypt, and is an enduring focus for women. Harassmap uses online tools to record incidents; Graffiti Jarami reclaim women’s right to occupy public space by spraypainting powerful women on to walls, while female and male members of Bassma (‘Imprint’, founded in 2012) patrol Cairo’s metro and city streets in high-visibility jackets to deter attacks and raise awareness. qahera.tumblr.com // harassmap.org //

facebook.com/imprint.movement.eg

TAKE BACK THE TECH (TBTT) What would a feminist internet look like? There would possibly be more pictures of cute, angry cats, with slogans such as ‘patriarchal interwebs, I’m coming for you’ and, according to one Janet Gunter, ‘we’d be able to maintain / hack / mod[ify] our devices, protect privacy. A machine of one’s own.’ She was tweeting in response to the question put out to techie women the world over by TBTT, a campaign to ‘take control of technology to end violence against women.’

A global network routed in the Global South, TBTT has spawned the EROTICS research project, which explores whether the internet enables greater sexual diversity or just more ways to police it. Key figures include Malaysian internet rights activist Jac Sm Kee, who works to bring a feminist politics into internet governance debates. She tells researcher Jessica Horn she is optimistic about what engagement will bring: ‘We still have a lot of power and capacity to be able to decide what kind of space we want it to be.’

takebackthetech.net

16 ● N e w I n t e r n at i o n a liST ● july/au gust 2 014

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