Online feminism is taking over the world! It’s latest stop: TED talks.
Earlier this month, Kat Lazo, of Thee Kat’s Meoww talked to TEDxNavesink about how online feminism was the gateway to her activism, and helped her start her own Youtube channel. She argues that feminism hasn’t died, it’s simply moved. Lazo’s feminist “click moment” came after she immersed herself in blogs like Racialicious, Crunk Feminist Collective, FBomb and (you guessed it) Feministing.
“The tactics that feminists used before me–like protests, sit-ins and pickets? They’re still being used. But now, anyone with an internet connection can be a part of the conversation.”
A truly intersectionalist feminist, Lazo discusses gender, immigration, culture and machismo.
transcript under the video
Hey I’m Kat. I’m a YouTube vlogger by the name TheeKatsMeoww and today I’m going to talk about online feminism. Growing up I had never heard of the word “feminist” or “feminism.” I had no clue those words even existed. In fact, I never even knew who Gloria Steinem was until I was 20 years old.
I come from a traditional South American family; my mother from Colombia and my father from Peru. My parents brought with them their diverse and beautiful culture and made sure to embed it into our household but they also brought along with it something called machismo. Meaning that when guests came over for dinner, only the women were expected to pick up and wash dirty dishes. Or as my grandfather would like to remind me, a woman’s’ place is to take care of her husband.
I might have been only a little girl at the time but I knew this was a load of crap. And it wasn’t only my family that was suffering from machismo, the whole world was. But that’s just the way things are and who was I to change it?
So like any adolescent would, I turned to the Internet to vent my frustrations. I may have not been in a large lecture room reading The Feminine Mystic but I was on sites like Tumblr, where discussions of the injustices of the world were taking place.
I started sharing my own experiences and contributing to this online community without even knowing it was feminist dialogue. From there it was a domino effect. I started reading Raciouliscious, Feministing, F-Bomb, Crunk Feminist Collective, Rookie and watching YouTubers like Chescaleigh, Laci Green and Anita Sarkeesian.
These people were not only articulating what I felt was wrong with the world into eloquent yet relatable language but them doing so, also made me realize that my voice was not alone and that the injustices between genders didn’t have to be accepted as a way of life. The Internet was my “Feminine Mystique” and this, was my “feminist click” moment.
I started to see things differently, and as I did, I began to notice how the media’s sexualization and objectification of women hurt the development of young girls like my younger sister and myself. So last year, I came out to my best friend Sara as a feminist and also revealed to her that I wanted to start a YouTube channel. She not only loved the idea but wanted to edit the videos herself.
And so Thee Kats Meoww was born. A vlog that speaks to young girls so they too, can feel confident in questioning and challenging the media and social norms. A youtube channel that let the Kat out the bag (pun intended). I make videos that raise awareness about certain topics such as Street Harassment or the sexualization and exploitation of Latinas in the media. With the internet, we now have tools and platforms that previous generations of feminists could only have dreamed of.
I want to share with you 3 specific examples of young women reclaiming their power in this way, using the internet as their weapon of choice.
14-year-old Julia Bluhm from Maine used the site Change.org to create the petition- “Seventeen Magazine: Give Girls Images Of Real Girls!” Julia and millions of other girls around the world look at these images of gorgeous young women with perfect bodies, leaving them wishing that they no longer looked like themselves. Sadly, these images are not real. Because they are put through a tedious routine in Photoshop. With the help of Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter, Julia’s petition collected 86,000 signatures. Julia and other teen activists protested outside Seventeen’s headquarters in New York City demanding them to listen to the petition. And what happened? Ann Shoket, editor-in-chief of Seventeen Magazine published a “body peace treaty,” stating they would never again change a girls’ body or face shape.
Another example: in rapper Rick Ross’ song U.O.E.N.O., he includes the lyric: “Put Molly [Ecstasy] all in the champagne. She ain’t even know it. I took her home and I enjoy that. She ain’t even know it.” This song came after the Steubenville rape trial, and many feminists felt that Ross was helping to perpetuate a culture where rape is acceptable. UltraViolet, a year old feminist group created a petition demanding that Reebok drop Ross as a spokesperson. Images like these (IMAGE) were made and shared on platforms such as instagram. Blogs were written and videos were made and shared. The result? Reebok listened and ended their partnership with Ross.
Sixteen-year-olds Emma Axelrod, Elena Tsemberis and Sammi Siegel from Montclair, New Jersey were floored when they discovered that there hadn’t been a female moderator for the presidential debates in 20 years. Together they started a petition on Change.org to make sure that within their lifetime they could see a woman in such an authoritative position. They gathered 122,000 signatures and as a result, 2 out of the last presidential debates were moderated by female journalists; Candy Crowley of CNN and Martha Raddatz of ABC News.
Online feminism is the future of feminism. The tactics that feminists used before me such as protests, sit-ins and petitions are still useful, but now anyone with an internet connection can be a part of the conversation.
So if there’s something out there in the world that you feel is wrong, that you want to change but don’t think you can, I’m here to tell you that you can. Your voice, your opinion matters. But only if you share it. Who knows, you may influence the way our next president is interviewed. You might bring attention to misogynist lyrics, or
you might cause a popular teen magazine to change its photo policy.
Change begins with one person being brave enough to believe that change is possible. And online feminism gave me the courage to believe it was. I can be the change I want to see in the world. And if I can do it, so can you.
Juliana probably dresses up like Frida Kahlo a little too often.