Dames cause a stir


August 30, 2012

An all-woman collaborative channel is putting feminism back on the radar as they tackle the big issues plaguing young women today.

UK-based Those Pesky Dames post daily videos on YouTube, each focusing on a different feminist or cultural topic.

The group of five young women joined YouTube nine months ago, with the aim to create a safe space for feminist voices.

Group member Becca says several online platforms were explored but YouTube’s video capability worked best.

Celebrating females. Photo: Becca Rothwell

“The personal and intimate nature of the video [as a medium] made me realise the potential a YouTube channel could have as a consciousness raising and accessible feminist space, where women could visibly share and discuss their lived experiences,” Becca says.

The social networking revolution is not only being used to viralise videos of laughing babies, and to give celebrities another stage to publicise, but also to provide audiences – new and old – information relating to feminism.

Perhaps even more significantly, the message is reaching young women who in their regular lives may not come across such strong pro-feminist people and situations.

University of Melbourne social and political sciences professor Sheila Jeffreys says social media is a good way to spread the message but can also be a good platform for attacks.

“Feminists need a whole new armoury of toughness these days, and usually anonymity, to be able to develop a feminist movement,” Professor Jeffreys says.

She says the participants’ youth suggests a new wave of feminism is emerging, and refers to one of the videos, featured below, on hair removal.

“Their rejection of depilation is particularly heartening,” Jeffery says.

“That is a very hard thing for young women to do and rejection of depilation is a good sign of reawakening feminism.

“It is a firm sign of resistance.”

The group, which includes Becca, Em, Jenn, Subi and Holly-Rae, describes itself as “five women challenging sexism, discussing feminism, and generally annoying misogynists.”

In addition to the YouTube channel they have a Facebook page, a Tumblr blog, and a Twitter account.

They have rounded up more then 100,000 video views and had a role in Cherry Healey’s BBC3 documentary, How To Get A Life: Can Looks Change Your Life?

Author and media commentator Melinda Tankard Reist says the use of social media is on the increase for activist groups.

“I think it’s just another tool that we can harvest to our advantage,” Tankard Reist says.

“We would not be able to run the types of campaigns that we do.”

She says what Those Pesky Dames is doing is great.

“I think they’re the ones that will turn it around,” she says.

Jenn says that using the internet has been vital in reaching a younger and broader audience.

“Feminism has become a really dirty word and popular support for the movement has really dropped off in recent years,” she says.

“There’s no better way to re-introduce feminism to a majority audience than through these huge, global networking sites.”

Curtin University internet studies lecturer Tama Leaver says the internet has made it much easier for people to become connected over activism, but it may result in a lack of real change.

“When an issue pops up, people will click ‘Like’, forward an e-mail, share a photo; but it tends to stop there,” Dr Leaver says.

“Social media can play a huge role in an effective campaign, but for it to really work there needs to be immediate goals that people can meet.”

Becca says it was important that they gave everyone the chance to have their say on issues impacting women today.

“It’s about trying to present feminist issues in a way that’s informal and accessible to a new audience – showing that feminism is still incredibly relevant, and that it needn’t be the preserve of academia or an elite few,” she says.

“That’s why it’s so important to us to invite our community to submit guest videos.

“We want to create a space for a wide range of feminist voices to discuss the issues that they care about and share their lived experiences.”

Curtin University health sciences lecturer Angela Barns says this interaction with the community through social media is what makes the work of Those Pesky Dames so effective.

“A quick glance at the work of Those Pesky Dames demonstrates the power of women speaking personally, of women sharing their ideas and experiences in the public sphere,” Dr Barns says.

“Feminism is about people, about women and as such it is responding to women.

“Being ‘online’ allows for the spontaneity and thoughtfulness that is missed in a rehearsed or scripted communication.”

In a world where feminism is as much about changing the mentality of society as it is about making women feel empowered and strong, it seems that the work of women such as Those Pesky Dames is making a real change.

This story was written and produced by the team at Western Independent.

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