Trending #RepealThe8th: an Exploration of the Opportunities and Limitations of Digital Feminist Activism
This thesis explores the potential and pitfalls of digital feminism through the lens of the recently successful Irish campaign, #Repealthe8th. As social movements intersect with digital technologies, there is a theoretical and practical imperative to address the implications digital activism has on mobilising actors and the wider feminist movement. Grounded within paradigms of feminist approaches to knowledge-production, this qualitative study employs feminist standpoint theory to explore the perspectives of four prominent figures within the campaign, as a means to understand the emergent field of digital feminism. The findings demonstrate how Irish feminists successfully purposed digital tools to mobilise transnational networks, to promulgate a counter-hegemonic narrative surrounding abortion, to mainstream a feminist consciousness and to manage the gendered experience of online harassment. The findings also raise concerns about the all-consuming nature of digital labour, the online manifestation of power dynamics, the unequal distribution of access and visibility within social networks and question the sustainability of platforms governed by patriarchal capitalist logic. Finally, this thesis complicates our understanding of practicing digital feminism and suggests that more research is needed to investigate how the heterogeneous architecture of social-networking-sites can shape digital advocacy. This research broadens our understanding of abortion activism and digital feminism in general by tracking the critical interplay and co- evolution of feminism and digital space, and analyses the changing dynamics of feminist politics in contemporary society. By conceptualising digital feminism as both ally and enemy, it highlights the urgent need to expand our repertoire and understanding of online mobilisation resources in order to leverage the power of socio-technical practices while mitigating the risks and challenges of engaging with such technologies. In this way, this research could guide the digital strategies of other feminist agendas or pro-choice movements in the bid to achieve reproductive justice.