As I drive down to the Women’s Museum of California in San Diego, I can’t help but think about the connection between the virtual world and the real one. For the past few weeks, I have been conducting interviews through Zoom trying to understand how social media could both be a force of positive and negative contributions to the feminist movement. Listening to the experiences of such a range of advocates for women’s rights, I continue to realize just how complex the human experience is. We all too often try to place things into neat little categories or label something as either “good or bad,” but, in actuality, it seems that quite often there is a middle ground that reflects the true nuances of reality.
As I come upon the Women’s Museum, I am reminded of the challenges I experienced in reporting on a topic such as this one. It was incredibly difficult to find sources who would be willing to talk about their experiences with body image issues and how social media played a role, which was my original project topic. This is completely understandable as having one’s own story out in the world to be scrutinized would be an especially vulnerable experience.
While I had to adjust my story topic in response to this challenge, I found that this unplanned change actually allowed me to discuss a significantly wider range of topics within the realm of social media and the feminist movement than I had originally anticipated. Through social media, I found potential sources willing to discuss their experiences with how they use their social media pages to advance feminism, and, because the human experience is so complex, I discovered that these same sources had examples of how social media undermines the movement as well.
I had the pleasure of witnessing how each of these sources move beyond remaining in the virtual world to host events and initiate calls-to-action to create change in the real one. Listening to my characters and experts discuss how social media has been influencing the ability for society to think, I am deeply concerned for future generations and my own. Especially from a psychological standpoint, it is unsettling to think that people will become more absorbed and obsessed with their appearance and sense of approval rather than actually trying to learn and becoming a force of good for society. As Melissa Jones, director of marketing at the Women’s Museum, mentioned, I too am concerned that people will believe that simply sending a post or adding a hashtag is enough to make the changes that will ultimately better the world.
Entering the Women’s Museum, I find myself in the back of their Craftivism Class attempting to take pictures that capture how the museum’s mission is present in their in-person and social media work. Watching artist Diana Benavidez teach these women how to fight against societal beauty standards and expectations for women through crafting piñatas and staring at wall after wall of exhibits that have an incredible sense of history and power, I can’t help but think that no matter how advanced technology becomes, we must never forget the importance of human connection and action that occurs in the real world.
After all, if the suffragists never took to the streets to protest for the right to vote, where would we be today?