With social media steering revolutions across the world, finger-tip activism has now become a vital part of the feminist movement. Activist Nivedita Menon’s response, to an internal committee ruling by Ambedkar University, Delhi (AUD) on sexual harassment, has brought a jarring gap in approach to social media activism to light.
The renowned activist shares a professional association with Liang, who was found guilty of sexual harassment by AUD committee. She says, “We learnt from media reports that a duly constituted committee of AUD has found Lawrence Liang guilty of sexual harassment. We did not know about this earlier, as some characteristically self-righteous and ill-informed Twitterati assume we did.Those whose social concerns and activism is limited to busy fingertips, obviously have no idea about the processes that have been carefully put in place in sexual harassment policies in universities, which protect confidentiality primarily to protect the complainant”.
Here, Menon refers to the list of sexual harassment accused, which was shared extensively over social media by women. It has led the debate over taking matters into one’s hands and waiting for “due process” to deliver justice among feminists themselves. I, however, cannot get over the trivialisation of the contribution of finger-tip activism to our quest for gender equality. Several people, feminists and otherwise time and again question the relevance of finger-tip or social media activism.
For many, finger-tip activism is lazy and irresponsible. But modern feminism is incomplete without finger-tip activism as it is without street activism.
Modern Times, modern ways
It’s impossible to imagine modern-day activism without what Menon calls finger-tip activism. I have unparalleled and utmost respect for street activism or physical labor, which goes into sustaining revolutions. Women in India and abroad have come a long way from being labelled domestic, to fighting for equal pay and rights, because generations of women put in hard physical work in the struggle. Till the rise of social media, the streets were the only way we could connect and start a conversation.
Feminism in modern times has upgraded to modern ways. Social media is now as valid a platform for dissemination of information as traditional media. Menon says that #MeToo campaign came out of decades of feminist politics that in the US has struggled to establish sexual harassment as a crime. But a major part of the credit for the success of #MeToo goes to finger-tip activism.
It catapulted #MeToo from being a tussle for power and rights in Hollywood, to worldwide feminist revolution.
Finger-tip activism connected films stars, producers, politicians, activists to common population and they exchanged their grievances. Had it not been for finger-tip activism, this famous hashtag would never have come into existence. It would have been something which we would read in the papers or watch on TV. Finger-tip activism made support systems accessible. For many of us, it was possible to participate in this cause from homes because it was just a touch away.
Thus, the massive momentum it has gained across countries, gender and socio-economic strata, in such a short time is because women clicked and swiped and let their fingers do the talking.
Finger-tip activism isn’t lazy, aggressive and erratic, it is quite the opposite. It takes a huge amount of effort to coordinate and sustain such digital activist movements. In fact, these days people are using social media to organise marches and street movements. This only goes on to prove that now finger-tip activism and street activism have merged at the margins.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.