The shift in consciousness-raising initiatives within the feminism movement has sparked massive change across the country and how we view sex and relationships. This unapologetic conversation around sex that is occurring out in the open is a defining feature of the fourth wave of feminism. This conversation can be brutal and uncomfortable, as is the case when discussing the abuse of sexual power in the context of workplace sexual harassment, domestic violence, and sexual assault on college campuses. However, this conversation can also be empowering and beneficial to the women that it affects. For instance, the #MeToo movement gave women the opportunity to speak up about their abuse and take down those who had been deemed untouchable by society. All components of this website combine together to portray this ongoing unapologetic conversation.
We began our project with an introduction to consciousness-raising. We learned what it was, how it was used in past movements, and how we see it today. In the age of social media, consciousness-raising is taking a different form and can have a different impact than what we’ve seen in the past. But the uniqueness of modern consciousness-raising is essential to the conversation surrounding sex, and one that we should not only appreciate, but actively participate in.
In the first subsection of this exhibit, we explained how Title IX is being used by young college women to fight against sexual assault and harassment on college campuses. Title IX, while not perfect, has been an effective tool for holding abusers accountable and allowing victims to come forward, no doubt assisted by the widespread representation featured in social media campaigns today. The implementation of Title IX and the current conversation about sexual violence on college campuses has also led to greater education to students by their colleges and universities about sexual assault policies and consent definitions. These young women are changing the opinions of students and faculty about how to everyone from sexual violence on college campuses, and the importance of this protection.
The second subsection of “Sex: An Unapologetic Conversation" analyzed how professional working women experience sexual harassment and the power differentials that exist within the workplace. We found that sexual harassment is all about dominance and exertion of power over a victim, and males are most often performing and proving their masculinity. Through power and dominance, racialized sexual harassment has also become widely prevalent in the workplace. This subsection found that women of color are disproportionately sexually harassed in the workplace at higher rates than white women due to the intersection of their gender and their race. With all that being said, sexual harassment is still a legal and ethical issue. Through the #MeToo movement women were able to find their voice which empowered them to speak up against their perpetrators. Sexual harassment has been reported more in the last five years than it ever has before because women feel protected and women feel heard. Therefore, this section found that power does not always mean authority, but dominance, women of color experience higher levels of sexual harassment than white women, and the #MeToo movement was the driving power that helped women be able to come forward about their sexual violence.
In the third subsection of this exhibit, we explore how domestic violence is being redefined in the fourth wave of feminism. Through consciousness-raising movements like #WhyIStayed/#WhyILeft, survivors spread awareness by sharing their stories of domestic violence outside the traditional narrative, as well as providing victims the support they need to leave their abuser. Domestic abuse is also being redefined in a legal setting, on both a Federal and State level. The definition of domestic violence has been changed back and forth to include more or fewer types of domestic abuse, lacking consistency and clarity for victims to understand if what they are experiencing is abuse. This section will highlight the different ways that domestic violence and the narratives of survivors are redefined as well as how these actions will affect abusers and survivors.
Progress is held back when we avoid uncomfortable conversations. This website and our project sought to unveil the often taboo conversations that have shaped modern feminism as we know it today. These topics have affected women in all corners of the world which is why this conversation is so necessary. The onset of social media and our ability to connect with each other over the Internet has brought this conversation that traditionally only occurred behind closed doors out and into the open, allowing its impact to boom. Conversations that previously would be held around a dozen people can now reach millions. The amplification of these conversations is groundbreaking but does not shelter us from the horrific consequences of the power abuse present surrounding sex. We can often feel frustrated, disgusted, or distressed hearing the negative impact of sex in society, but it is imperative to continue these uncomfortable conversations for the progress of the feminist movement. The power we hold to make real change in our society through conversations about sex is imperative to our societal development. We must utilize this opportunity to revolutionize how we view sex in our lives and society.