A Feminist Approach to Social Media

Alexandra Hidalgo and Katie Grimes

NOTE: We created this piece as a video essay because we feel the visuals, narration, and soundtrack help us make our points in a more effective and nuanced fashion. The summary text below is a short guide that people can turn to after watching the video; it is not intended to replace the video.

Read the transcript.

Kristine Blair (2012) argued that “[t]echnofeminist theory must translate into technofeminist practice” (p. 67). She invited readers “to make online spaces hospitable to women’s social, professional, and political goals” (p. 65). In this video essay, we aim to answer that call by developing social media guidelines rooted in feminism. We believe feminism provides key insight on how to create online communication styles that foster positive and productive interactions. The six guidelines we discuss here were created as a result of our yearlong collaboration developing a social media presence for agnès films, a website that supports the work of women and feminist filmmakers through reviews, interviews, essays, and filmmaking narratives. As we did so, we realized that the principles of collaboration and support that shape the content we publish translate to social media in ways that have not only helped us grow our number of followers but also resulted in our creating deep connections with filmmakers, activists, and scholars. By adhering to the following guidelines, we were able to create a feminist social media space that was productive instead of agonistic while promoting the kind of content that fosters equality and justice.

1. Collaboration

In her foreword to Jacqueline Jones Royster and Gesa Kirsch’s (2012) Feminist Rhetorical Practices, Patricia Bizzell (2012) stated that “collaborative projects became normative, first perhaps in feminist work and soon in the field of rhetoric, composition, and literacy” (p. x). Following this feminist tradition, we propose a collaborative approach to social media at various levels, such as having more than one person involved in developing social media strategies and collaborating with organizations and individuals working toward similar goals on Twitter chats and campaigns.

2. Reciprocity

Royster and Kirsch (2012) called for reciprocity in the way feminist scholars relate to participants and to each other (p. 34). We believe reciprocity is also vital to social media practices, a key component of which is developing relationships with others, known and unknown to us. Acts of reciprocity range from following those who follow you on Twitter to supporting and promoting those who do the same for you.

3. Non-Competitiveness

We are interested in increasing the number of women behind the camera. The mutually meaningful content we want shared is the one that helps achieve that goal whether or not it was produced by us. We are all working toward the same goals, and it doesn’t matter whose content is used to achieve those goals.

4. Respect

Roxane Gay argued that in the feminist community, "We need to listen as much as we speak up. We need to talk to each other instead of over each other. We need to be able to disagree without completely dismissing the ideas with which we disagree" (Kaba, Smith, Adelman, & Gay, 2014). Gay called for an environment of respect, one that can be hard to find in the social media universe. A feminist online space, however, seeks to be as constructive and inclusive as possible.

5. Community Building

As Royster explained, “Having a community of people who are expert in what you’re expert in gives you a thinking platform” (cited in Hidalgo, 2015). Like Royster, we see community building as a way to enrich our ability to create strong, nuanced content.

6. Patience

We won't see the results of some of the techniques we are implementing on social media for years to come. Social media community building, especially on Twitter, is about maintenance, the benefits of which may be far in the future. Understanding that it takes time to reach our goals is a foundational skill for any feminist: it takes time to change the world, and it takes time to build an ethos and a community around a cause.


Blair, Kristine L. (2012). A complicated geometry: Triangulating feminism, activism, and technological literacy. In Lee Nickoson & Mary P. Sheridan (Eds.), Writing studies research in practice: Methods and methodologies (pp. 63–72). Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Bizzell, Patricia. (2012). Forward. In Jacqueline Jones Royster & Gesa E. Kirsch (Eds.), Feminist rhetorical practices: New horizons for rhetoric, composition, and literacy studies (pp. ix–xii). Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Cochrane, Kira. (2013). All the rebel women: The rise of the fourth wave of feminism [Kindle edition]. Guardian Books.

Fowler, Ruth [fowlerruth]. (2015, August 5). @jessicalevick @FFFilmmaking @Raine_Dropz @mediaparents @agnesfilms have never spent an hour on twitter and not been called a cunt b4 today! [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/fowlerruth/status/629019912455892992

Goldberg, Michelle. (2014, January 29). Feminism's toxic Twitter wars. The Nation. Retrieved November 12, 2016, from https://www.thenation.com/article/feminisms-toxic-twitter-wars/

Hidalgo, Alexandra. (2015). Lifting as we climb: The coalition of women in the history of rhetoric and composition 25 years and beyond [Documentary]. Peitho 18(1). Retrieved November 12, 2016, from http://peitho.cwshrc.org/lifting-as-we-climb-the-coalition-of-women-scholars-in-the-history-of-rhetoric-and-composition-25-years-and-beyond-2/

Jenkins, Henry. (2009, February 13). If it doesn't spread, it's dead (part two): Sticky and spreadable—two paradigms [Blog post]. Confessions of an aca-fan: The offical weblog of Henry Jenkins. Retrieved November 12, 2016, from http://henryjenkins.org/2009/02/if_it_doesnt_spread_its_dead_p_1.html

Kaba, Meriame; Smith, Andrea; Adelman, Lori; & Gay, Roxane. (2014, April 17). Where Twitter and feminism meet. The Nation. Retrieved November 12, 2016, from https://www.thenation.com/article/where-twitter-and-feminism-meet/

Royster, Jacqueline Jones, & Kirsch, Gesa E. (Eds.). (2012). Feminist rhetorical practices: New horizons for rhetoric, composition, and literacy studies. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Schuster, Julia. (2013). Invisible feminists? Social media and young women's political participation. Political Science, 65(1), 8–24.

Films & Videos

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences [Oscars]. (2015, May 13). The new audience: Henry Jenkins [Video file]. YouTube. Retrieved November 12, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjkyvlBCqmU

BBC Newsnight. (2013, October 29). BBC Newsnight: The rise of digital feminism [Video file]. YouTube. Retrieved November 12, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxC5XN6VMIw

Becker, Alan. (2014, October 2). Animator vs animation IV (original) [Video file]. YouTube. Retrieved November 12, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VufDd-QL1c0

BlackSpaceBlog. (2012, October 12). Roxane Gay reading Michigan State University October 4, 2012 [Video file]. YouTube. Retrieved November 12, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JdBv4Box9o

Edgar, Robin. (2015, March 30). Feminist anti P20 protest Sunday 29 March 2015 00009 [Video file]. YouTube. Retrieved November 12, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2FytZI9-vo

Thekinolibrary. (2014, July 7). Early 1970s women's liberation march, London, UK. Archive footage [Video file]. YouTube. Retrieved November 20, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKy6X1D-w_o

WHEC Rochester. (2015, April 14). Activist rally for equal pay for women on 'Equal Pay Day' [Video file]. YouTube. Retrieved July 8, 2016. File no longer available.