I set out to assess the extent to which the echo chamber brings toxicity to contemporary society, using the context of the feminist movement, through social media. The echo chamber is the claim that “certain ideas, beliefs or data points are reinforced through repetition of a closed system that does not allow for the free movement of alternative or competing ideas or concepts” thus there is an amplification on the idea or belief in the echo chamber as there is nothing to compete with it (Technopedia, 2018). I think there will be significant evidence to show that the echo chamber is having a large effect on the toxicity in today’s society, especially within the feminist movement. I researched a variety of secondary sources to find all different kinds of explanations to establish my own ideas and line of argument in order to conclude; I did several things in order to make them sure they were valid. The conclusions I have made is that there is not enough significant evidence to claim that the echo chamber is the only factor that brings toxicity to contemporary society. For my literature, I used a variety of different secondary sources in order to get all angles of the issue and reduce any bias in the report to be able to create accurate assessments; the type of sources I have used consist of scientific journals and websites. The journals I have used were scientific thus they were not published without other specialists reading it and checking if it is correct thus reinforcing the validity of the source. However, some of these websites were articles without verification from other specialists which means that the information that was claimed may not be true but this was fixed by ensuring information was correct and reading other unrelated articles to check no bias available. Furthermore, I made sure that I used contemporary journals and articles to match the time period I was looking at because if I did not I could get outdated information which could lead to me to the wrong conclusions and wrong information; I checked this by looking at the dates for each of the sources by either looking at their copyright to check if their website is still being updated or by checking the date the article or journal was posted.
There are many theories that currently look at what starts social movements and how they expand and reach their goals; in this contemporary society there are now many new ways for social movements to spread mainly being through contemporary technology however how technology works to do it is still debated by many and whether technology makes this acceleration of social movements positive or negative is can still be debated. Although there are many theories, the theory I want to focus on in this essay is the theory of the echo chamber which claims that “certain ideas, beliefs or data points are reinforced through repetition of a closed system that does not allow for the free movement of alternative or competing ideas or concepts” therefore creating an overall view that is amplified as there is no one to contest it (Technopedia, 2018); however, assuming this theory is correct, it could cause many problems within society as communities could reach high levels of toxicity with no other ideas to contest them which means that people can suggest ideas to those who have similar ideals and they will reinforce them and may even take it further. Therefore, the content in this essay will be an assessment of the extent to which the echo chamber brings toxicity to contemporary society, using the context of the feminist movement, through social media. There are many factors which could affect toxicity in society thus I will need to look at the extent this goes to. In order to look at what extent this issue goes to there will be several subtitles in this essay which will present both the arguments for and against to be able to accurately assess the extent this issue reaches.
“Feminism is the belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes” (Reisenwitz, 2018). Feminism consists of four waves which has all have occurred in different time periods with different significant figures to start each one. There was a pre-wave known as protofeminism as it did not start into a movement until the 19th century (Hall, 2018) thus demonstrating that the battle against the patriarchy had started a long time before the first wave. In Ancient Greece the poet Sappho had celebrated milestones that females had, consisting from puberty to childbirth; also, there was a nun named Hildegard of Bingen that rejected the oppressing representations of women in Christianity (Hall, 2018). These are just a few names that were the first seeds to sow in the social movement of feminism. The need for first wave feminism came about due to the way women were being treated; in 1800, women had hardly any control of their life and had a pre-determination to be a participating member in the patriarchy that conformed to gender roles which meant that the married female had to provide the husband with children making it the only job the woman could ever have due to the denial of higher education (Conger, 2009). The feminine ideals were beginning to be contested in the 19th century due to the Victorian image of the roles of women and their domestic sphere; these ideals were based on poems such as the ‘Angel in the House’ by Coventry Patmore (Saylor, 2012) which stated that to please a man is a woman’s pleasure (Patmore, 1887) thus conveying the fact that a dutiful wife is the ideal one.
It began properly when the realisation of the need for equality became a clear movement and it focused on women’s battle for the vote by suffragists (peaceful campaign) and suffragettes (direct action campaign) as they thought that “women must enter the political sphere in order to make change” (Hall, 2018). In this first movement, abolition was also discussed in which Sojourner Truth made the famous 1851 speech “Ain’t I a Woman” where she argued the rights of women of colour but this was seen as a problem rather than something to include in the social movement (Hall, 2018). Another significant figure of the first wave of feminism is Elizabeth Cady Stanton who was credited for being one of the first to fight for women’s rights and started the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 (DeFonza, 2018); this was “a convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman” (Dick, 2015). The movement ended up being successful and saw women in the UK granted the right to vote in 1918 and 1920 for the women in the US.
The second wave of feminism came after the two world wars in which women had shown their skills outside of the domestic sphere thus realising many things so they assembled in the 1960s which was around the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam protests (Hall, 2018). These women had important roles in organisations that protested for Civil Rights such as the Student National Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) (Elliot, 2017). Eventually, these women noticed that although these organisations were fighting for something that was needed they might have been influenced by the patriarchy. Therefore, second wave feminists challenged many patriarchal ideas and claimed that sex and gender were different – “the former being biological and the latter a social construct that varies culture to culture” (Rampton, 2015). Due to the second wave occurring alongside other protests such as the anti-Vietnam protest, Black Power and Civil Rights protests, there was an attempt to bring the issue further into the light by using women-only groups in which they published “in publications like ‘The BITCH Manifesto’ and ‘Sisterhood is Powerful’” (Rampton, 2015). The Civil Rights Movement affected the feminist movement as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination when employing against ethnicity, colour and religion and also did the same against sex. (Elliot, 2017). At first, this idea was trying to be prevented by a congressman in Virginia as he thought that the idea that “women deserved equality would be far too radical” compared to the rights of an African American however the act still went through (Elliot, 2017).
Feminist Bretty Friedan published a non-fiction book in 1963 which stated that it was not a woman’s duty to marry and provide children which was a large catalyst for the movement as it put this idea into “the consciousness of many women” who felt like these roles removed them from their individualism (Elliot, 2017). In 1960, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the birth control pill and after 5 years of the pill’s approval an estimate of six million women were using it (Elliot, 2017). This meant that women were allowed to have sex without the risk of pregnancy and bearing a child; this meant that women could be more sexually promiscuous. However, by the early 1960s 30 states had made it a crime to sell contraceptive devices (Elliot, 2017).The third wave of feminism began in the mid-90s and continued to decompose many social constructs “including the notions of ‘universal womanhood’” (Rampton, 2015) which meant that all women regardless of whether they are a person of colour or LGBTQ+ and “instead promoting a feminism defined by the individual” (Hall, 2018). It was defined as ‘breaking the boundaries and conceptions of gender’. The definition of beauty was changed completely from “patriarchal oppression and embraced push up bras and high heels to prove that femininity and intelligence were not mutually exclusive” and these ideas were further reinforced by several popstars (Hall, 2018). Riot Grrrls took back words which were usually used in a negative connotation towards females and made it their own. (Hall, 2018).
They appeared self-empowered and tough yet some refused to call themselves feminists as many found the term to be exclusive rather than including everyone regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, viewing them as ‘artificial categories’ and celebrated being inclusive; “third wave feminism breaks boundaries” (Rampton, 2015) in which it means that it destroys what is provided and builds new structures which are fairer and more equal; these structures seem to not only be equality for gender but also equality for race and sexual orientation. A term that came alongside the third wave was intersectionality which is defined by “Oxford English Dictionary as the interconnected nature of social categorisations such as a race, class and gender as they apply to a given individual or group regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage” (Thompson, 2016) which is considered to be completely different from the first wave because the first wave consisted of mainly white middle-class women who excluded those based on their race or sexual orientation thus this idea of “intersectionality” was a brand new concept that defined the third wave as not only was it looking at equality for women but also looking at equality for race and sexual orientation. Sex positivity was also a part of the third wave, although it was 10 years prior, it still continued into it; it looked into sexual freedom yet also reproductive rights which meant the choice to choose what they want to do with their own body without having anyone else involved (Demarco, 2018). Moreover, a concept of the glass ceiling was also introduced into the wave as it was still common to think women as the weaker sex of the two, especially in jobs where women were commonly not at the top according to statistics which say that 18 out of 500 Fortune CEOs are female and 22 out of 197 global heads of state are women (Demarco, 2018).
The fourth wave of feminism is considered to be the modern wave, beginning from 2011 to the present (Hall, 2018); it looks at several different themes such as rape culture and treatment in certain jobs such as being an actress in Hollywood. This wave has been accelerating the idea of feminism due to the fuelling by social media (Hall, 2018). Rape culture is a “complex of beliefs that encourage male sexual aggression and supports violence against women [and girls], a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent, and a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women [and girls] and presents it as the norm” (Presley, 2015) Contemporary feminism has spawned many new ideas and cultures through hashtag activism; hashtag activism is the “act of fighting for or supporting a cause that people are advocating through social media like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other networking websites; this is the kind of activism that does not require any action from the person other than sharing or liking a post.