The Rise of Fourth-Wave Feminism in the Arab region? Cyberfeminism and Women’s Activism at the Crossroads of the Arab Spring

Author(s) Maha Tazi, Kenza Oumlil
Contact Maha Tazi, Concordia University, 7141 Sherbrooke St W, Montreal, Canada. E-mail: maha.tazi91@gmail.com
Issue CyberOrient, Vol. 14, Iss. 1, 2020, pp. 44-71
Published June 30, 2020
Type Article
Abstract This article explores the emergence of fourth-wave feminism in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region in the context of the Arab Spring, which was a series of uprisings that followed the self-immolation of Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi in December 2010 and spread through several countries in the MENA region. The uprisings protested authoritarian regimes and called for democracy, freedom, and social justice. Fourth-wave feminism finds its origins in the new Web 2.0 technologies which give users the power to shape their own content, and is characterized by a mass of tech-savvy and young feminists who harness the power of the Internet and the Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to advocate for social justice and gender equality (Baumgardner 2011; Licudine 2015; Martin and Valentin 2013). Despite the enduring digital gap in the MENA region, feminists contributed significantly in the context of the Arab Spring to the public debates and discussions online to call for mass mobilization as well as raise awareness about gender issues and discrimination. Taking as objects of analysis three case studies of feminist interventions from Egypt, Tunisia, and Lebanon, the article examines the ways in which the selected activists in the region respond to their contemporary context by advocating for gender equality at the same time that they seek to promote a wider social justice agenda for their respective countries. The case studies were selected on the basis of the artists self-identifying as feminists who attempt to harness the power of ICTs to end authoritarian rule and promote human rights, with specific attention to achieving societal gender equality. In addition, the selected case studies are particularly relevant because their online platforms received significant media coverage and also benefit from a significant online following and fan-base (ranging from 2,400 fans to 12,660 followers for the Facebook pages). The analysis is based on conducted structured interviews with the three feminist activists, and is complemented with a textual analysis of their own online platforms, which include a feminist blog and Facebook pages, as well as relevant contextual information found in the public domain.
Keywords Arab Spring, Social Justice, Gender Equality, Authoritarianism, Cyberfeminism, Fourth-Wave Feminism, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), Middle East and North Africa