The New Networked Feminism: Limbaugh’s Spectacular Social Media Defeat
“Forbes contributor on the confluence of social ventures, media, and change.”
So much for post-feminism.
The world of networked hurt that descended on the spiteful media enterprise that is Rush Limbaugh revealed a tenacious, super-wired coalition of active feminists prepared at a moment’s notice to blow the lid off sexist attacks or regressive health policy. When Limbaugh called Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a ‘slut’ and ‘prostitute’ in response to her testimony before Congress on contraception costs, he may well been have surprised by the strength of the response. But he shouldn’t have been.
At latest count, nine advertisers have pulled the plug on Limbaugh. Each was effectively targeted on Facebook and Twitter by an angry and vocal storm of thousands of people calling for direct action. The campaign was almost instantaneous, coordinated by no individual or organization, and entirely free of cost. Prominent feminist organizers told Forbes that it was social media’s terrible swift sword, led once again by Twitter and Facebook-savvy women, that dealt Limbaugh the worst humiliation of his controversial career, and in many ways, revealed the most potent ‘non-organized’ organization to take the field on the social commons in the age of Occupy Wall Street and Anonymous.
‘Given that much of the increased vocabulary and awareness about gender in the national discussion comes through social media and from young people, I think that instances like this one should give those who claim that young people don’t care about feminism pause!’ says Rebecca Traister, a contributor to Salon and author the important feminist history of the 2008 Presidential race, Big Girls Don’t Cry. ‘Young people are the ones who know how to use social media in this way, and look at the kind of impact it’s having.’
I think the feminists were always out there, but often isolated from one another or overwhelmed by the amount of work to be done and lack of time in a day,’ says feminist writer Kate Harding. ‘Social media allows us to work together quickly and publicly for something like a boycott or twitter campaign–(mostly) without the distractions of in-group politics or disagreement on any number of other issues–and that creates an energy that makes it feel so much more like a unified movement, even when people are still quite loosely connected.’