Feminist digital participation, activism, and clicktivism on Twitter

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis makes an original contribution to knowledge by demonstrating why it is important to widen our understanding of contemporary political participation to incorporate digital activism and clicktivism, particularly with regard to access and inclusion of a wider range of voices and opinions outside of those who already have access to mainstream political platforms of communication. Existing debates within political science on alternative forms of political participation are limited by comparing them to traditional politics, organisations and processes and ranking them accordingly as legitimate or illegitimate forms of political participation. What is not considered in these debates is that women, particularly feminists, are marginalised from male-dominated political structures, which delimit participation within the bounds of traditional politics. In this thesis, I evidence the significance of feminist digital activism and clicktivism as a means of lowering the barriers to create an inclusive definition of political participation. By taking an interdisciplinary approach, this thesis draws on debates within literature from three fields: web science, political participation and feminist activism. The intersection of these literatures reveals a new perspective on the contested concept of political participation, the motivations for and impact of, labelling digital activism as a form of contemporary political participation, unconstrained by borders, boundaries and citizenship. Accordingly, Twitter is the object of analysis for this qualitative investigation and the specific characteristics and practices that are unique to this platform merit a study of its own, which is currently missing in the literature. Digital feminist activism is explored as a form of political participation through an ethnographic study of feminist activists’ use of Twitter, which demonstrates that instances such as the #MeToo moment in 2017 can raise societal awareness about pertinent issues, which affects political and social change. Drawing concepts from the literature on digital activism, political participation and feminist activism creates the conceptual lens for analysing the empirical data gathered through undertaking a range of semi-structured interviews with feminist activists from Australia, Aoteroa New Zealand, Europe and the United States. The feminist Twitter community was observed as part of the ethnographic study during the year-long interview window, which allowed the researcher to examine feminist activists’ communication, action and connection practices. Further, interview respondents were identified and recruited on Twitter during this observation process. Feminist activists are inherently political; the actions they take, who they communicate with and connect to, are practices shaped by Twitter’s distinct characteristics, which enable feminist activists to interact and connect with geographically dispersed feminists, broadening access to information, resources, and knowledge. A tweet can challenge and critique a sexist headline when it directly addresses the journalist who penned the article and mentions the mainstream media company that published it: I evidence that it is not merely easy, disposable and inconsequential. I argue that clicktivism is a form of digital activism, which enables an individual to be political and to participate. Further, clicktivist practices, such as using a hashtag to contribute to large-scale action are easily replicated, which essentially is what makes this form of digital activism so significant.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Southampton
Award date22 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2021


  • Feminism
  • activism
  • social media
  • Twitter


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