New Media Activism and Feminism in Zimbabwe

Just like new media activism has contributed to a change in the discussion about equality in the global North, its impact on societies where these issues seem to be ignored by the society, media and policy-makers may be even bigger. Internet can give people the possibility to have a voice and create communities, which as a combination can help renegotiate identities in a structured social system (Mitra, 2001, p. 30). In Zimbabwe. Internet has given a voice to both women and their situation as well as to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual and intersexual and Queer (LGBTIQ) citizens. The dominant homophobic patriarchal culture in the country has made it nearly impossible for the people to discuss human rights for marginalized groups. New media is offering alternative space of information, debate and discussion (Nhamo, Sithandazile, 2016 & Mpofu, 2016).

In the discussion about gender equality and LGBTIQ-rights in Zimbabwe, internet has empowered women to discuss and advance a feminist agenda in a setting that has for long time been favourable to patriarchal configurations where politics, activism and engagements in the technological era have continually been gendered and imagined as male spaces (Mpofu, 2016, p. 272). The organization ‘Her Zimbabwe’ was created to empower women as citizens, giving them platform to speak on issues otherwise ignored in mainstream media (Mpofu, 2016, p. 271). Through materials from citizen journalists, that is bloggers and comments from readers, as well as their Twitter @HerZimbabwe and their Facebook page, women can discuss topics regarding their lives in Zimbabwe.

However, this forum for conversation in Zimbabwe only allows from a small group of women to speak. Due to the digital divide in Zimbabwe, most women are excluded from the conversation, women that the female bloggers attempt to speak for in generalized ways (Mpofu, 2016, p. 290). Mpofu further argues that while bloggers challenge the operations for society under patriarchal dominance, they help to reinforce ‘contemporary notions of masculinity, femininity, heterosexuality and power’. Lievrouw argues that the goal with this type of citizen journalism (blogging, commenting) should be to create a diverse media space in which all voices can be heard, and where anyone may contribute reporting or opinion with a minimum of prior editorial gatekeeping, reflecting a commitment to speech and participation as the cornerstone of “radical democracy” (2011, p. 133). The problem is similar to the problems in American feminist movements that has struggled to include women with different perspectives. Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham described the issues for American feminist movements as compelling challenge to historians of women and gender: all scholarships-not just that primarily focused on African American women-must take into account the ways in which race defines gender and how race serves as a key language for other hierarchical social relations, including class and sexuality (Carrol, T, W, 2017).

New media is important in the process of social and political change. This process has just started in Zimbabwe, but it still has a long way to go in providing conditions for participation, which is an essential element of alternative and activist new media.

References

Brooks Higginbotham, E (1992). African American Women’s History and the Metalanguage of Race. Signs 17(2): 251-74.

Carrol, T, W. (2017) Intersectionality and Identity Politics:Cross-Identity Coalitions for Progressive social change. Journal of Women in Culture and Society 2017, vol. 42, no. 3. The University of Chicago.

Lievrouw, L. (2011). Alternative and Activist New Media. Polity Press, Cambridge. United Kingdom

Mitra, A. (2001). Marginal voices in cyberspace. New Media and Society, 3(1), 29 – 48.

Mpofu, S (2016).  Blogging, Feminism and the Politics of Participation: The Case of Her Zimbabwe. In Mutsavairo, B. (2016) Digital Activism in the Social Media Era. Northumbria University. United Kingdom. (pp. 271 – 294)

Chamo, A. M., Sithandazile B. M., (2016). A Resilient Unwanted Civil Society: The Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe Use of Facebook as Alternative Public Sphere in a Dominant Homophobic Society. In Mutsavairo, B. (2016) Digital Activism in the Social Media Era. Northumbria University. United Kingdom.(pp. 249 – 270).

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