Accepted paper:

Social media and the power of digital feminism in South Africa


Gavaza Maluleke (HSRC/UvA)
Amarone Nomdo (Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC))

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the shift in power dynamics that have emerged with the popularity of online hashtags for feminist action both on and offline with a focus on the implication of this development on feminist solidarity.

Paper long abstract:

In October 2018, the trial of Televangelist and religious leader Timothy Omotoso, accused of trafficking more than 30 girls and women, began. During the court proceedings, #CherylZondi's questioning sparked public outrage resulting in an attack on the defense lawyer by her supporters. At the same time, a couple of women took to Facebook to victim shame Omotoso's accusers, prompting others on social media to respond by calling for the two women to be fired. Globally women are using digital activism to galvanize debates around gender-based violence. In South Africa, these kinds of debates are not novel and have often occurred offline i.e. the Jacob Zuma trial. However, the popularity of online movements such as #beingfemaleinnigeria, #rapeatazania, and #metoo are increasingly changing the terrain by showing the power such spaces have for feminists to stand as the mainstream affirming certain voices while silencing others. In this paper, we explore this shift in power dynamics by analyzing Twitter data from #Menaretrash vs #Notallmen debate that took place in May 2017, after the death of Karabo Mokoena at the hands of her boyfriend. Focusing on the power that digital feminist's hold in the South African context, our paper explores the different forms of silencing that occur amongst women given that sexual violence is generally silenced or hidden, while examining the implications this has on feminist solidarity or what Desiree Lewis calls "solidarity on the basis of crafted politics".

panel Anth23
Sexual and reproductive rights: conflicting narratives and the future of gender in Africa