Decades after the first wave of the movement, the need for feminism is just as pressing as ever, and this week, nothing demonstrated this better than the "I Am A Feminist" hashtag on Twitter. Although it's certainly been used before — a quick Twitter search shows that the hashtag made an appearance as early as 2009 — "I Am A Feminist" began trending in the UK and United States early Thursday morning in response to a powerful blog post by journalist and author Holly Bourne.
Launched in advance of her new book, What's a Girl Gotta Do?, which comes out on Aug. 1, this iteration of the "I Am A Feminist" campaign began on Bourne's Tumblr. In the post, Bourne listed her many reasons for being a feminist, touching on everything from the wage gap to toxic masculinity. "I am a feminist. ... I am saying that because I believe every human being should have an equal shot at a healthy and happy life, no matter what body they are born into," she wrote. "And that’s not going to happen unless we fight, unless we speak up, unless we occasionally make people feel uncomfortable, unless we – at the very freaking least – TRY."
She concluded the post by urging her readers to describe their own reasons for being a feminist using #IAmAFeminist on Twitter. Once the post was published, Bourne tells Bustle over email that she left for a trip to the beach, but in the online world, the hashtag was taking off — especially after several of her fellow young adult authors joined in on the campaign. In less than a day, "I Am A Feminist" became the number one trending hashtag in the UK, with thousands of users discussing the ongoing need for feminism.
When asked whether she expected "I Am A Feminist" to garner such a massive reaction, Bourne replied, "Not at all! ... But it's been amazing to see how it's struck a chord."
Despite the growing number of public figures supporting gender equality, it remains stigmatized in many ways; detractors often argue that feminism advocates for the superiority of women and subjugation of men. Needless to say, this is blatantly untrue — feminism is grounded in the belief that people of all genders deserve the same rights — but the image of the radical, man-hating feminist persists to this day. Accordingly, many people have used "I Am A Feminist" to clear up misconceptions of what feminism is truly about.
Much like the similar hashtags "Why I Need Feminism" and "Yes All Women," "I Am A Feminist" highlights why feminism is just as important today as it always has been. Unfortunately, just like its predecessors, it's also seen enormous pushback from "equalists" and trolls attempting to co-opt the hashtag, and the irony of their actions hasn't gone unnoticed.
Women may have come far in the fight for gender equality, but as "I Am A Feminist" shows, there's still a long way to go. However, Bourne chooses to focus on the positives. "I'm just focusing on the incredible bravery, insight, humou, knowledge and general kick-assery of the vast majority of positive people using the hashtag," she wrote. "And I always think that kind of backlash is just a sign you're picking at the right scabs."
Check out more from the hashtag below.