Getting new perspectives online; listening to the 'majority world'

13 April 2014

Summary: I'm on the hunt for examples of feminism and gender equality from the majority world, AKA low-income countries. I'm collecting them in this custom timeline, and tagging the stories with #mwfem. Join me! 

At the end of last year, I wrote about how, to my annoyance, most of the end of year 'feminist roundups' covered only achievements happening in the US, or in Europe. To counter this, I did my own round up of examples of feminism that happened in the 'majority world' in 2013- a term referring to what's also known as the developing world, or low-income countries, which also serves as a good reminder that the majority of people in the world live in these conditions. 

While I was doing this research, I found it harder than I had thought to come across these events. This is an excuse often used by, for example, men organising conferences with a poor showing of women speakers - “I looked, but I couldn't find any!”; - and I hate that excuse. You're looking in the wrong places, or looking in the wrong way. So instead of searching for (clearly geographically focused) hashtags related to feminism campaigns that I had come across (#fem2, #twitterfeminism, for example) - I looked for activities related to gender equality, or 'strong women', or other ways of describing what I was looking for, and in different languages, too. 

This was a lot more fruitful, but still, unsurprisingly, difficult. While the majority of the world is living in conditions of poverty, the majority of the internet is clearly not.

So, since the beginning of 2014, I've been keeping a 'custom Twitter timeline' of Majority World feminism: tweets that I've come across that relate to brilliant activities on gender equality in the majority world. I'm entirely sure that I've missed so many great activities (and all this in the certain knowledge that the majority of shows of strength and inspiration by women across the world don't make it on to the internet) but that said, there's some interesting stuff in there.

I've also made a conscious effort to try focus my online habits to material that is written by people who have different perspectives in life to me, from the majority world (ie. outside of the US + Europe). In practice, this has meant looking up international news stories in the local or national news outlets of the countries where this is happening to read (in theory) the perspective of someone who knows the culture and the country, and following people on Twitter who are based in other countries, living in different situations to me, with very different priorities and interests.

While, of course, this is nowhere near as good as being able to spend time, or visit, these countries, cultures and people, I'm learning a lot. It's one of my favourite things about Twitter; while it's a good way of keeping up to speed with topics I work on or I'm interested in, from experts in the field, it's also an incredible way of getting insights from people who have been left out of 'mainstream' media, or who are experiencing things that I don't come across in my everyday life. 

Finding out what is important to people from a wide range of backgrounds is, for me, a great way of getting perspective on what's important to me, in literally real time. Curating the examples that I come across online of women doing amazing things under the most difficult of circumstances into this custom timeline is another way of getting that perspective. 

It surprised me how much I've had to think about my habits in doing this, and how clearly geographically, and topically, focused I've been in my choices. I realised I had been focusing on material from institutions or outlets based in the UK, the US, or most likely somewhere in Europe; articles written by well-renowned experts or people with established online profiles; links tweeted by people I'd met, or whose work I'd come across (through one of the above sources, most likely), or people who had been recommended to me (eg. I'd seen online interactions between) - others I already knew. These methods were excluding so many perspectives from 'my' internet.

Now, I'm learning an incredible amount from people I've never met, about things I've never heard of, and coming across all sorts of interesting, and important, perspectives. I have a long way to go in changing my habits, (and suggestion of how to do this more are so welcome) and a whole lot more to learn, but it's been so much fun; thank you, internet! 

(If there are topics or tweets you think I should add to the custom Majority World Feminism timeline, tweet me @zararah. Thank you!) 


You might also like: