The rise of online feminism and empowered influencers.

 | Reading time : 6 min

Each year on March 8, we celebrate International Women’s Rights Day. This day puts focus on the fight for women’s rights, in particular for the reduction of inequalities compared to men. Social media, especially Instagram and Twitter, are voice holders of feminist struggles and turn content creators into influencers who liberate voices and encourage debate.

The rise of online feminism

The success of the hashtags #bodypositive or #feminismforall, whose reach is global, shows the interest in feminist mobilizations on the Internet, particularly on social media. These hashtags encourage and revive discussions about gender relations in our society. The hashtag #feminism gathers more than 11 million posts on Instagram.

Social media, the new stage for claims and debates

The democratization and accessibility of the internet has led to the emergence of the collaborative web, which is seen as a fertile ground for debate, questioning and carrying forward women’s emancipation and fights for equality.  The increase in the use of social media is accompanied by an increase in interest in feminist issues and has given more voice to feminist ideas.

Mainly present on Instagram and Twitter, activism has taken a new form with a significant influence. The denunciation of sexism, and inequalities in everyday interactions between men and women is then one of the new backbone of feminism.

The latest phenomenon is the #BalanceTonBar movement, launched in October 2021 in Brussels and that caused a real earthquake in the nightlife world. Following the assault of several women by a waiter in a Brussels bar, an Instagram account was launched to collect testimonies and denounce the responsibility of bars: @BalanceTonBar. Quickly, dozens of similar testimonies followed and involved several other bars. The story became a social phenomenon: the Instagram publications were massively reposted and the traditional media (press, television) picked up the information.


The inequality between men and women is highlighted through the concept of mental workload. The account @taspensea created by the TPA collective includes women’s testimonies so that men, and the whole society, open their eyes to the fact that the functioning of most households weighs more heavily on women, which is a stress generator. This group has 170K followers and already 555 posts of testimonials. The concept of mental workload entered the dictionary Larousse in 2019.

 

 

The major themes discussed on social media:

Within the feminist movement, many themes are taken up on social media. Among the most popular ones are:

  • Sexuality
  • Gender equality
  • The mental workload
  • Body positivism and self-acceptance

Here are some examples of accounts:

@feminist

This account has more than 6 million followers and was created to encourage change and give voice to issues such as gender equality, racism and sexuality.

 

Voir cette publication sur Instagram

 

Une publication partagée par Feminist (@feminist)


@jameelajamil – 3,5M followers

Actress Jameela Jamil advocates, in interviews and on social media, for more representation, inclusivity and body positivism. She created the Instagram account @I-weigh which gathers a community and invites anonymous people and some celebrities to talk about what matters to them, in opposition to body shaming and the cult of thinness.

 

Voir cette publication sur Instagram

 

Une publication partagée par Jameela Jamil (@jameelajamil)


@coucoulesgirls – 639K followers

Through her Instagram account and her Youtube channel, with humor and honesty, Juliette Katz aka @coucoulesgirls advocates self-acceptance and empowerment. Now a mom, she doesn’t hesitate to share her experience, her doubts and fears and frees up the word around topics like postpartum.

 

Voir cette publication sur Instagram

 

Une publication partagée par Coucou Les Girls (@coucoulesgirls)


@MyBetterSelf – 513K followers

On YouTube, Instagram, and on her podcast, Louise has succeeded in building a rich and safe space of exchange and rallying a community around the concept of #onveutduvrai, which advocates body positivism, self-acceptance, and pushes women to break down the barriers that block them and put an end to the diktats exercised on women and their bodies. The hashtags #onveutduvrai gathers more than 66K posts.

 

Voir cette publication sur Instagram

 

Une publication partagée par Louise 🍒 (@mybetterself)

Women are not the only actors in this movement

Men are also committed to the feminist movement and gender equality. The Instagram accounts become spaces of exchange around issues such as social pressure to be masculine and virile, violence against women but also men, consent, etc.

@lesgarconsparlent – 12K followers

This Instagram account liberates speech and offers a space where men can testify and express themselves on their fears, their weaknesses, on violence of which they were victims.


@guillaumefroun – 39,5K followers

In 2018, Guillaume created the instagram account @Tubandes, 141K followers, which addresses prejudices about masculinity and lets men speak, anonymously, in order to emancipate themselves and dare to talk about their emotions, a subject still highly taboo among many men. Through testimonies, Guillaume has led to reflect on the relationship to masculinity and the behavior of men towards women, in order to fight against violence.

He continued his project on a new account @guillaumefroun, always with the aim of creating an open space for discussions in which he deals with the concept of “toxic masculinity” and the social pressure felt by men.

 

Voir cette publication sur Instagram

 

Une publication partagée par Guillaume Froun (@guillaumefroun)

 

The importance of drawing on Instagram as a medium for feminism 

It is impossible to discuss feminism on social media without talking about drawings or comics, especially on Instagram. Many accounts illustrate the daily life of female creators that many women can identify with. Other accounts use drawings to spread committed messages.

The most striking example is Emma Clit (@emmaclit – 78K followers). Emma is a cartoonist who has greatly contributed to popularize the concept of mental workload in France. Her drawings have spread on the web and on social media at great speed. Indeed, her drawings came to life on paper and in 2017, she published a comic book called “Un autre regard”, which illustrates the daily life of millions of women and moms who, in addition to taking care of household chores, have to coordinate the entire management of the house. Emma then explains with accuracy and in drawings the concept of “mental workload” to raise awareness.

The potential of collaborations for institutions and brands

Feminism finds an alternative space on social media and at the same time takes a critical look at the traditional media. Institutions as well as brands have a role to play in favor of feminist claims. Campaigns around major causes, such as professional equality or mental workload, can be supported together by feminist influencers, institutions and companies.

Influence is not only used for commercial purposes; it must also serve social purposes, to raise awareness on social issues such as sustainable development, cyber harassment, but also gender equality issues.

Influencers are sources of inspiration and information, especially for the 18-35 age group. Their ability to inspire and their role in the global perception of society are no longer in question.

Integrating feminist influencers in influencer marketing strategies offers many opportunities:

  • Influencers have an audience already receptive to their ideas and recommendations. Their communities trust them.
  • The links they forge with their communities are favorable for institutions and brands to communicate their values and commitments.
  • Corporate engagement is a winning bet to improve brand image: consumers support and consume brands that carry the same values as them.

Exemple of Dove & CoucouLesGirls :

 

Voir cette publication sur Instagram

 

Une publication partagée par Coucou Les Girls (@coucoulesgirls)


In its communications, Dove advocates self-acceptance at the heart of the body positivism wave. The brand, through its partnerships with influencers, calls on women to accept themselves as they are by putting in the spotlight new silhouettes. The brand has been committed to this message since 2013. These are values in which the influencer CoucouLesGirls totally finds herself: so their partnership makes sense and works perfectly, proof with the 75,000 likes of the publication.

 

Voir cette publication sur Instagram

 

Une publication partagée par Elena (sans H) (@elenasansh)


The influencer Elenasansh shares a promo code for the underwear brand Mina Storm that designs responsible, comfortable lingerie collections thought for all body types. The brand does not edit any of its photographs.

Partnerships between brands and feminist influencers are not only revolving around the concept of body positivism but involve also a wide range of sectors. The feminist magazine Madmoizelle regularly publishes contests in partnership with brands on its Instagram account. Here a few examples with the skincare brand Patyka Paris and with the brands Canon and Pampa on Mother’s Day :

Mastering your engaged communication on Instagram

Any form of engaged communication on Instagram (ecology, feminism, …) has many qualities and positive impacts. But you have to be careful. Indeed, the influencer’s audience expects a behavior and a brand commitment that are totally in line with the supported values. We must not fall into the trap of “washing” whether it is green washing, feminism washing… When a brand feigns its commitments, it appears as an opportunist who communicates on a strong subject only to convey a good image and for its own economic interests.

Despite the risk of “bad buzz”, cooperating with committed influencers, especially for the feminist movement, is on the contrary a great opportunity to promote strong values (self-acceptance, diversity, equal opportunities between men and women etc…). For these collaborations to have the best chance to work, it is necessary to inform and bring proof of the brand’s commitments on social media: through posts, campaigns, but also exchanges in comments or private messages.

Content creators are taking full advantage of the tools offered by social media to spread their voices: posts, sharing of content, creating a community. They also raise the voices of women and men who are not activists but who are aware and committed to the defense of women’s rights.

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