Online petitions are changing the world. They are axing tampon tax and fighting sexism, challenging perceptions of homelessness and inequalities, and tackling injustices across the board. Interestingly, all of this is mainly thanks to women.
Women support, create and lead online activism. They have become the pioneers of virtual politics, according to some pretty interesting statistics released by the online activist powerhouse 'Change.org'. These figures show that while men start more petitions than women (53%), the majority of successful online campaigns have been launched, organised and led fiercely by woman. But it doesn't stop there. Women go a step further. They support the smashing of class ceilings and promote their activist sisters by accounting for 70% of online signatories.
That legacy is not only impressive. It's important. Here's why:
Men dominate the political world. While our Prime Minister may well be female, the very foundation of Parliament remains male-centric, as the vast majority of MPs are, and always have been, men. I'm talking a solid 71%. A record low. No, that wasn't a typo. That's worrying. What this means is that women have never been sufficiently represented in parliament and that they have consequently consistently risked becoming side-lined, alienated and deeply disengaged in the entire political system.
But here's the wonderful part. We aren't. To ensure female political underrepresentation does not result in women pretty much becoming invisible, women haven't simply sat back or given up on politics altogether. Oh no. We have done something much cleverer than that. We have created a new political landscape to utilise, one within which gender discrimination is much more difficult, and that space is online. Our ability to dominate the online political scene has nothing to do with our tendency to listen to others, as some have suggested. That in itself is pretty offensive. It's a reflection of female disregard throughout the entire political system and our determination to fight against that, to be heard and to win on behalf of marginalised women.
Internet activism offers many, many benefits to females. For starters, it simply doesn't share Parliament's androcentric history. Consequently, it doesn't uphold the same sexist ideals that favour men, expect female political stars to undergo activism as 'honorary men', or automatically ridicule them if they fail. Online politics isn't perfect. Don't get me wrong. But it is historically and culturally light years ahead of the sexist dogmatisms that haunt Westminster. Ultimately, this has made it a hell of a lot more straightforward for women to succeed online, make significant changes and kick some serious ass.
The impressive legacy of female online activism is a double edged sword. On the one hand, it is obviously fantastic for the millions of people that the changes they secure effects, and for creating a generally representative and progressive world. All good things. But on the other hand, it proves just how much women have been held back and let down by Parliament and traditional politics. If we can make this many breakthroughs online, imagine what we could do with traditional power. Imagine what we could do with a Parliament that allows us to thrive in a similar way. Essentially, what we need to do is learn from these statistics, which prove the harms of sexism to the progression of our world, and change.
So, how do we do that? Well, it's actually kind of simple. Women, keep kicking ass. Ignore trolls. They prove that what you're doing is necessary. Parliament, stop penalising women for being women and acknowledge that you have a discriminatory problem. It's awesome being a woman. You don't have to pretend otherwise. From online petitions, we are slowly creating physical communities, led largely by women, which share goals, campaign on the streets and make significant changes. This is important. It proves that by challenging the world online we are seriously disrupting the very nature of politics. We are slowly infiltrating the traditional political world and changing its elitist and discriminatory undertones so that ultimately, anyone can kick ass whenever necessary. I'm talking, actually all of the time. In person, as well as online. Imagine how awesome that is going to be.
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