Young feminists online: political and social participation, social action and feminist activism

Janet Batsleer, Manchester Metropolitan University (presenting) and Grainne McMahon, University of Huddersfield

The Partispace project ( is researching young people’s participation in 8 European cities, using mixed methods. One of the critical questions we are investigating is the link between social and political spaces and in this regard the question of the significance of online spaces has emerged.

Well-established historical trends that show that new and emerging forms of media are able to disrupt and then transform political and social opinion and discourse and have the capacity to break down social hierarchies in order to challenge dominant socio-cultural and political norms. Social media or “new digital media” are part of this trend and influence a reshape of socio-cultural and political norms, practices and discourses through awareness-raising, activism, and debate.

Recent research has found that social media have considerable potential to engage, empower and activate young women in particular. These online spaces are often women-only and explicitly feminist (‘safe spaces’) and central to political and social activism in terms of women’s rights. The question remains, however, about how that effect evolves, and intersects with more traditional forms of activism and ‘how and under what conditions these new digital platforms relate to citizen activism and protest politics’ (Valenzuela, 2013, p. 921).

This paper will consider evidence from the Partispace research concerning the links between online and offline young feminist activism and the ways this is or is not framed as ‘social action’, especially in the local UK case study.


Janet Batsleer will present on this occasion. She is Principal Lecturer in Youth and Community Work and Reader in Informal Education at MMU. She has published widely on the practice and development of youth and community work and is one of the UK leads of the Partispace project

Presented at