The Global Importance of Web 2.0
Amina, a 19-year-old Tunisian woman, sent two photos of herself to the radical women’s rights organization FEMEN recently. In one of these photos, Amina had written in English “F*** your morals” across her bare chest, as FEMEN encourages women to break down what the organization perceives as male chauvinism by protesting topless. In Amina’s second photo, she wrote in Arabic “My body belongs to me, and is not the source of anyone’s honor.” Amina subsequently posted these photos to facebook at the beginning of April, at which point she lost contact with FEMEN.
In response, FEMEN held protests throughout the world to bring attention to Amina’s disappearance. Because of one woman in Tunisia’s expression of frustration, women in Paris and Milan and San Francisco used the FEMEN website and facebook pages to rally themselves and organize what FEMEN dubbed International Topless Jihad Day in order to rally support for Amina.
And yet, shocked by this extreme form of exposure, Muslim women took to facebook themselves to protest what they felt was FEMEN’s inappropriate portrayal of Muslim women. The facebook group Muslim Women Against FEMEN held an impromptu Muslimah Pride Day, encouraging Muslim women to “post pictures of your beautiful selves, whether you wear hijaab, nikaab or not.” They turned to twitter, tagging tweets with #MuslimahPride to show that covering themselves was their own choice, not something born out of oppression.
This is what Web 2.0 is about, why it’s important, fascinating, and defining for our generation. Amina would not have connected with women in Europe in a way she chose, and those women would not have been able to rally to bring attention to her plight, without a platform like facebook. And other Muslim women - who disagreed with what they felt was a condescending assumption, that because they cover their heads, they must be oppressed - would not have the opportunity to voice their opinions on a world stage without facebook and twitter. A global conversation about the way women present themselves was started by one woman in Tunisia.
Here in Israel, during Operation Pillar of Defense last November, I also turned to twitter to express myself and hear what others were saying. I tweeted back and forth with people in Gaza. We didn’t agree politically, but we talked, and were able to acknowledge that the reality of living under rocket fire or through aerial bombarding was difficult for anyone, and that we hoped for a day when they would stop.
Web 2.0 is the 21st century’s soapbox, its public forum. It creates our global town square and allows for a truly world-wide discussion. Even when that conversation is heated, having the conversation is the first step to real change. Web 2.0 gives us the freedom to have our voices heard, and to interact directly with those who agree, disagree, or are just curious. It empowers everyone to become her own journalist and creates communities of like-minded individuals, whether those individuals live in another country, or another continent.