The modern feminism has more and more being shifting from vigorous protests and active turnouts – today, feminism is a weird buzzword in marketing, and many brands incorporate feminism in their campaigns and make it the central idea to challenge gender norms and empower women. 

The last several years have transcended women-empowering ativism into digital landscape, as feminist became increasingly skilled at creating movements and conversations online. As a result, we have seen many digital feminist campaigns that literally changed the world for the better. Here is a look at ten inspiring feminist campaigns from the past five years that show that there is still work to be done, but they are on the right way, and their achievements are worth celebrating.


1. UltraViolet Makes Reebok Drop Rick Ross

After Rick Ross blatantly bragged about drugging a woman and raping her in his song “U.O.E.N.O” in 2013, it has caught attention of UltraViolet, a rapidly growing community that fights sexism and works on expanding women’s rights together with some most urgent issues – violence, reproductive health, racial justice and the rights of LGBTQ women.

No surprise that their response to Rick Ross’s provocative lyrics was not long in coming. The company began spreading an online petition asking Reebok to terminate its endorsement contract with the celebrity, as continuing to have Ross as their brand ambassador would only mean that the sports brand is okay with promoting rape culture, despite their broad women-focused marketing efforts. UltraViolet did not stop on solely distributing the petition: they also organized a protest at Reebok flagship store, and created digital ads on Facebook and online ads for the search engines, all aimed for people who “liked” or searched Reebok on social media and Google.

“This is not a hip-hop problem, this is an American problem,” said Nita Chaudhary, the founder of UltraViolet. “For Reebok, you are rewarding financially a man who is glorifying rape — and not only do you market and influence young men and boys but invest a great deal of energy marketing to women and investing a lot in women’s athletics. And that’s wrong.”

This active protest led Rick Ross to publicly apologize to UltraViolet and all other women who took the lyrics personally: “For me to suggest in any way that harm and violation be brought to a woman is one of my biggest mistakes,” – Ross said. “Before I am an artist, I am a father, a son, and a brother to some of the most cherished women in the world.”


2. GoldieBlox Advertises Feminist Ad on Super Bowl

Women underrepresentation is an issue many organizations have been fighting with, but there are still those who insist that some jobs are only made for men. Take Volkswagen, for example, and their advertisement on Super Bowl, where a father put forward an idea to his daughter that only men can be engineers. Sounds pretty sexist, right? A toy company GoldieBlox, which focuses on promoting girls’ interest in STEM spheres, has reacted to this by launching a campaign, and eventually becoming the first small business to advertise during Super Bowl.

Who run the world? Girls. The 90-second spot showed girls turning their typical ‘girly’ hobbies into something that is associated with boys – ballet shoes are getting spiked to a skateboard, teddy bear gets special motorcycle glasses – for safety reasons, of course, and to have a cool look when riding a bicycle – and later a group of girls is breaking into a toy shop and  “disrupting the pink isle”, while showing protest in slow motion. The spot was worth $4 million during the National Football League game and has brought much of the desired attention to the company.

“It’s such a refreshing change to see empowered, active, fierce little girls – a departure from the representation of women in general during the Super Bowl,”- said Rachel Sklar, a media critic. “It offsets GoDaddy and the like. And relaxing the strict framework in which the media depicts women feels like a vacation.”


3. Crowd-Sourcing Tech To Track Rape Assaults

The civil war in Syria is such a chaos that it created a perfect environment for many women to be sexually assaulted. These issues are rarely brought to light, and fighting them is even harder. A non-profit organization, The Women’s Media Center, has recently introduced their project called Women Under Siege, which uses crowd-sourced map to help track every rape incident. The program primarily aims at showing at a map where exactly a crime happens and draw attention to them, and later build a documentation base that could serve as evidence in case of legal trials.

There are several ways, in which the company receives reports about the assaults:  people can use the submission form on the official website, and email reports on Twitter using hashtag #RapeinSyria; however the greater part of the job is done by the organization itself – findings are pulled out through news and articles on BBC and Al Jazeera, and from organizations like Human Rights Watch, International Rescue Committee, and United Nations.

Lauren Wolfe, the director of Women Under Siege, says that they have seen reports on truly horrifying stories of women being raped and killed in Syria, so their program works hard on pinpointing the abuses and ensuring that the women receive all necessary help and psychological support.


4. Petition To Examine The Judge Who Denied Abortion For A 16-Year Old

Abortion rights of women are becoming a subject of hot discussions and even attempts to shut down companies that provide reproductive health services, like Planned Parenthood. However, some events happen on a local basis – like the one in Nebraska. The state’s judge Peter Bataillon has received national attention after he rejected the right for abortion of a 16-year old girl, primarily because of his personal beliefs. Bataillon considered the young girl to be not mature enough to make decision about abortion. His opinion was seemingly ambiguous, because how a 16-year old teen may not be old enough to get an abortion, but be old enough to raise a child?

Three companies – NARAL Pro-Choice America, RH Reality Check and CREDO – united in their aim to have some influence on Nebraska Commission to investigate the judge and possibly litigate the decision. The companies have spread the petition, which received more than 89,000 signatures, however even this was not enough to make the Commission make an investigation on the judge.

“This judge, like so many others around the country, blatantly chose to put his personal ideology above the rule of law. This unethical behavior should send a chill down every American’s spine who relies on the courts to uphold our basic freedoms,” – said Ilyse Hogue, NARAL president. Although the petition did not succeed in bringing justice to the issue, the activism brought by those companies is a great deal to bring events like this to public awareness.


5. UN Women Takes Upon Gender Inequality In Google Searches

Greatly alarmed by the amount of digital representations of gender inequality found in such simple places as Google search engine, UN Women decided to take action and created a series of ads, which use genuine Google searches to reveal how widespread and prevailing the sexism and women discrimination are. Basing the campaigns on the searches of 2013, UN Women shows how much women are exposed to negative stereotypes and open denial of women’s rights.

“When we came across these searches, we were shocked by how negative they were and decided we had to do something with them,” – said Christopher Hunt, Art Director of the creative team.

For the UN Women it became clear that the need to empower women’s rights and equality has never been more urgent. The idea campaign called “The Autocomplete Truth” was rather simple: four women from different areas of the world were photographed with Google autocomplete phrases placed on their mouths – representing how women’s voices are silenced all around the globe. The campaign was spread through various news websites and blogs under the hashtag #womenshould, and eventually became a huge success, creating numerous headlines across most popular magazines and websites, and received 755 million views globally.

“The ads are shocking because they show just how far we still have to go to achieve gender equality. They are a wake up call, and we hope that the message will travel far,” – added Kareem Shuhaibar, copywriter of “The Autocomplete Truth”.


6. Harrods Pulled Out Children Sexist Books From Shelves

Would you ever expect two innocent books for children to be a threat for women’s rights and a representation of sexism? We did not, until we found out about the ‘incident’ that happened in Harrods store, in London. The two books, for girls and for boys, are called “How to be gorgeous” and “How to be clever”. One Thursday, in 2013, Krystina Meens drew attention to this unfairness and asked her Twitter followers to spread a word about this gender stereotyping.

In a matter of several hours, the #NotBuyingIt hashtag along with other tweets discouraging the sexist books was spread all around Twitter, and transferred to many other social media channels, with the major part of the online conversation being brought by Representation Project. Harrods, however, was rather quick at reacting to massive complaints – within a day, the store removed the books from the shelves, and sent its consumers a respectful message next day: “Good Morning! Please be advised that the children’s books that many of you have tweeted us about have been removed from our shelves …”


7. Planned Parenthood Fights Komen About Being Defunded

Planned Parenthood, a renowned American organization that provides reproductive healthcare and wellbeing services, is quite adapted to facing different assaults and threats from politicians and other organization towards themselves, and couple of years ago Planned Parenthood again saw a decision addressed to defunding them completely.

Susan G. Komen, the best-funded breast cancer organization in the U.S., announced that it will not continue to financially support the organization because “has adopted new guidelines that bar it from funding organizations under congressional investigation”. This decision to stop the funding would mean that around 170,000 women would not be able to get screenings and early detections of breast cancer.


And here is when online feminism becomes a true force. The flare-up traversed across email, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and over 1.3 million tweet posted within a matter of a week. The online resistance was too hard to handle, and eventually Komen’s vice president for public policy Karen Handel has resigned. The massive backlash worked: former supporters of Komen said they will not keep donating to Komen and would rather do this to Planned Parenthood.

The #standwithpp hashtag, which was used in this digital activism, is still alive today and is used to call out people to support Planned Parenthood in their various programs.


8. #ItsOnUs – Barak Obama’s National Initiative Against Sexual Assaults

In 2014, the now former president of the U.S. Barack Obama launched an “It’s On Us” initiative – a campaign that is aimed to bring awareness to the events of sexual assault across America and put an end to it. “An estimated one in five women has been sexually assaulted during her college years — one in five,”  – Obama noted. “Of those assaults, only 12 percent are reported, and of those reported assaults, only a fraction of the offenders are punished.” The initiative asks everyone to make commitment and become a part of the national fight against the sexual assault.

The campaign has four goals to achieve: to recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault, to identify situations in which sexual assault may occur, to intervene in those kind of situations, and to create an environment in which sexual assault in unacceptable and its survivors are supported. People willing to support the campaign can involve in different ways: take a pledge, take action on local campus, share ideas using hashtag #ItsOnUs, or share the National Sexual Assault hotline with a friend or a loved one.

Obama’s administration has taken steps to put the sexual assault events to an end by establishing guidance to every district of an educational institution, creating special working practices to inform and talk about sexual assaults, and ensuring that the existing laws adequately protect the victims. “It is on all of us to reject the quiet tolerance of sexual assault and to refuse to accept what’s unacceptable,” – said Obama.


9. #WhyIStayed Campaign Draws Attention To Domestic Violence

After a surveillance video of Ray Rice hitting his then-fiancée and knocking her down was released, the motives of his now-wife to stay were immediately questioned. In response to that, Beverly Gooden, the author of Confessions of a Church Girl, introduced the campaign under hashtag #WhyIStayed, which empowered women to share their stories of why they stayed with their men despite domestic abuse.

Within next twenty four hours from campaign launch, thousands of people on used the hashtag to share their stories – sometimes truly heartbreaking – on Twitter. Many renowned online publications have discussed the stories and the impact that this digital activism has. The hashtag #WhyIStayed was even expanded to another one – #WhyILeft, and women were actively posting the two-sided stories, explaining reasons they stayed and left with their abusive men.

The campaign did not end in the digital landscape, it also transcended to other platforms – the hashtag was the driving force to create a community education event in Harper College, and TV daytime talks were organized on the issue. The campaign created a whole community of victims who were brave to share their stories, and those who never encountered the situation but genuinely sympathized the abused.


10. #YouOkSis Movement Addresses Street Harassment Cases

Street harassment – this is what many women get exposed to fairly often, and in short, it is any unwanted attention that makes a person uncomfortable. According to the national report provided by advocacy group Stop Street Harassment, 48% of blacks, 45% Hispanics and 36% of whites have experienced some forms of verbal abuse, and the numbers for physical assaults on the streets are slightly below but still say that street harassment is an issue to be solved.

Feminista Jones, an activist, social worker and blogger, has created a digital campaign to tackle the problem under hashtag #YouOkSis to center the conversation around women of color who often feel like their experiences are not highlighted much. The idea for the hashtag came to Jones when one day she saw a young mother pushing a stroller with a newborn, and asked her “Are you ok, sis?” From that point on, the movement has received many supporters across social media channels, and especially Twitter.

 “The voices of black women are very censored. The voices of black women who navigate low-income areas and the voices of black women who experience street harassment from men of all different races were missing,” – Jones says. “I felt that rather than having other people speak for us, we should speak for ourselves.”

As Jones adds, she has seen a lot of men saying that the campaign opened their eyes to what women go through, and how they could have done something. Some even said they would do better, which means, to Jones’ pleasure, that the movement is working.

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