Does ‘Tumblr Feminism’ Damage Feminism?

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Tumblr is a blogging website which is well known for its memes and its users (which are predominantly young girls) being engaged in social justice. While Tumblr is a great starting point for those who wish to learn about feminism, and the social network itself may not be damaging, it is often riddled with misinformation.

The term ‘Tumblr feminist” is usually aimed at people who enthusiastically engage with feminism; but lack the flexibility/knowledge to be open to other perspectives; a lack of intersectionality, a failure to acknowledge that class, race and gender are not separate entities but rather overlap. “Tumblr feminism” is characterised as angry and static; unmoving in the face of new ideas and seen as a negative portrayal of what feminism really is. This aggressiveness often turns into targeted bullying; but there is a culture of this on most social networks; users will shame anyone who disagrees with them and rather than trying to educate the genuinely ignorant; users will bandwagon together to harass and target one person.

Although, one could argue that the idea that for your opinions to be valid you must be calm and composed; that you must treat your oppressors with respect, is short-sighted. No revolution occurred through calmly expressing your feelings, women didn’t get the vote by calmly explaining how unfair it was, they had to protest and fight for even the tiniest bit of equality. There is however, a difference between aiming your anger at your oppressor (e.g. the patriarchy) and aiming your anger at someone who merely disagrees with you, especially at someone who is unmalicious in their ignorance. This trait is not unique to ‘Tumblr feminists’, it appears in all movements, even in apolitical ones, as social network enables the easy mass bullying of the ignorant (rightfully or wrongfully).

The majority of people who use the term “Tumblr feminism”, use it as a blanket term to belittle and undermine those who care about social issues and want to promote change, regardless of how they interact or go about protesting/spreading awareness. Its negative connotations mean it is a perfect weapon for ‘anti-feminists’, many of these opposers often use the cover of Tumblr feminism’s aggressiveness to spread ridiculous posts of extreme views in order to damage feminism, but again, this is the case in all social movements, people who disagree will try their hardest to sabotage movements, this is not unique to Tumblr.

The main target audience of Tumblr is the younger generation. Ultimately, everyone starts learning somewhere, no-one has ‘perfected’ being a feminist, the ability to be called out on your mistakes and accept you are wrong is a valuable skill and is one we aren’t born with, rather we learn it. Many seem to forgot that even as feminists, we are continuously learning and adapting to the new challenges that arise. For example, even feminists have used the term ‘Tumblr feminist’ to dismiss, in particular the younger generations engagement and have tried to distant themselves from the term, out of fear of being lumped together in what they view as a ‘negative’ and ‘vapid’ portrayal of feminism.

Previous waves of feminism were characterised by anger and unapologetic protests, their main goal was equality. Whereas, feminism in 2016 can often be seen to have a softer tone; even within “Tumblr feminism”, it focuses more on self-care and body positivity; enforcing a sense of community where mental health awareness and battling the narrow beauty ideals are at its forefront. However, this gentler and less in-your-face approach has received a lot of criticism both from feminists themselves and those who fail to grasp feminism completely.

While it’s not unfair to question a lack of intersectionality and how many “Tumblr feminists” focus on “white feminist” issues such as body hair and period pain.

Rowan Blanchard sums up the political motivations of “Tumblr feminism”, as “make-up, pink, selfies, iPhones; all the things we use to undermine teenage girls and make them feel embarrassed. Girls are saying, ‘Well, if that’s what you’re going to use against me, then I’m going to use them for me.”

Just because fourth wave activists priority may not be protesting and screaming their rights. Learning to embrace and shamelessly enjoy the things that the media tells us is characteristically gendered as female, the sense of community and safety derived from these soft approaches should not dismissed as unimportant in the face of feminism.

Tumblr is a breeding ground for young feminists. Feminist artists and poets use Tumblr to spread their creativity, meaning that many young girls who start off in Tumblr are more than likely to stumble onto some sort of catalyst for realising that equality for the genders isn’t a shameful thing like the media told them but rather a basic human right. So while ‘Tumblr Feminists’, may be the radical or inexperienced younger ones, they are often the starting point for all Feminists, they shouldn’t be seen as harmful or dismissed, they should be welcomed.

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