Thu, Jun 06, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Online feminist activists of the digital age

Celebrities are championing female empowerment, ‘Spare Rib’ is to relaunch and Facebook has had to respond to pressure to tackle misogyny: The F-word seems to be making a timely comeback

By Tracy McVeigh  /  The Observer, LONDON

Nimco Ali, 29, feminist blogger and co-founder of the Daughters of Eve, a support and campaign group for victims of female genital mutilation (FGM)

About 30,000 girls in the UK are at risk of having the abusive and illegal practice of female genital mutilation carried out here or abroad. Ali was a victim of FGM aged seven, when her mother took her to Somalia.

“As a form of violence against women, FGM takes place because of structural inequalities in society — particularly gender inequality,” she says. “We need to empower and protect those at risk to make sure that it is eliminated. Any approach to end FGM which does not address these inequalities will only leave a vacuum for another form of violence against women — or for those who carry out FGM to say that it does not exist.”

“Progress is definitely being made. In Bristol [southwest England], we have hundreds of young people who are not only standing up and speaking out about FGM, but questioning the role of women within their communities. They are being empowered with language that has not just changed their lives, but also those of their mothers. As one woman said: ‘If it is OK to cut a girl because she is a girl, then what you will do to her as a woman will be worse.’ This change has not come easily for those of us that have stood up against FGM. We face death threats on a regular basis, we have been attacked on the street and lost people we once believed to be friends,” she says.

Lili Evans, 15, one of the young women behind the Twitter Youth Feminist Army, a growing band of bloggers and young activists

“I guess I became a feminist when I actually looked at the world and saw how unfair it was,” she says. “Women. People of color. LGBT people, who have much harder lives for no good reason. I set up the Twitter Young Feminist Army with two other girls who are sadly no longer on Twitter because of the misogynist abuse directed at them.”

“But mostly there’s a great community online. Quite a lot of young girls are isolated, maybe their friends aren’t interested in feminism and they are a bit scared of joining groups of older women, so we help them connect. At our age you get told not to wear short skirts to school and then you get shouted at by men in cars on the way home anyway, and realizing that it’s wrong and that there are other people out there who share your views is great. The thing I’d really like to see happen is equal pay, and access to better sex education and contraception advice for younger people,” she says.

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