Despite living in a society where it seems feminism is progressing steadily, every now and then there’s a rude awakening reminding women why it is so important to keep fighting.
Self-proclaimed “pick-up artist” Julien Blanc was brought to the attention of millions worldwide in October 2014 by Washington-activist, Jennifer Li, who began a Change.org campaign to put an end to his world tour.
A member of Los Angeles-based company Real Social Dynamics, Blanc claims to teach men how to get women to have sex with them. Asserting his position as an “International Dating Expert”, he demonstrates methods that included choking women and forcing their heads into his crotch. One of his now banned Tweets reads: “Dear Girls, could you please save me the effort and roofie your own drink?”
Disgusted by the sexually abusive tactics used to lure women, promoted by Blanc, Li furthered the reach of her petition by creating the hashtag #TakeDownJulienBlanc. Within three days it had been used over 15,000 times.
Digital and online media is playing an increasingly important role in feminist activism. Deemed “Hashtag Feminism”, campaigns such as #YesAllWomen and #AskHerMore, have demonstrated a new kind of activism open to anyone with a Twitter account with a desire to fight the patriarchy. Removing barriers such as distance and geography means creating change is easier for women than ever before.
Melbourne-based comedian, Kirsty Mac came across Julien Blanc on social media, and similarly to Li, was appalled by his preachings.
“He made it so obvious that it was a total disrespect of women and that there were men on mass that wanted to go to these seminars made really clear just how big this problem is.”
“These guys are so used to getting away with it and so used to a system that encourages this kind of behavior. They don’t think they’re going to come undone,” she said.
Already having given one seminar in Sydney, Blanc travelled to Melbourne. Despite Hotel Como swiftly reacting to the online outrage and cancelling the meeting, this did little to deter Blanc and his followers who simply moved the seminar to an undisclosed venue.
Using the influence of social media, Kirsty Mac ignited action in Melbourne against Julien Blanc.
“I’m friends with over 3,000 feminists on Facebook. I went out of my way to make friends with every feminist I could, particularly those interested in campaigning,” she said.
With the help of a “mole”, Mac and her feminist army took their protest to the Yarra River, preventing the secret boat venue from leaving Southbank, ending the seminar. Julien Blanc’s Australian visa was revoked on November 6, 2014.
In a statement, Victoria’s then-Police Commissioner Ken Lay said, “I’m proud that Victoria has taken this stance against violence. It gives me confidence that we are moving in the right direction.”
Mac sees the take down of Julien Blanc as a hugely important development for feminism in Australia. “It was the first time that many men who were sitting on the fence, still rolling their eyes at feminism were kind of like ‘Oh, I get what this guy is doing is fucked and I get what you guys are banging on about now’.”
Mac has since turned her experience into Douche Bomb, a stand-up show at the 2015 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. The description of her show reads: “Douche Bombers have had a long run of getting away with WTF behaviour. Well, not anymore! There’s a new kid in town and they go by the name of Everybody on Social Media”.
Trending globally on Twitter, the hashtag #TakeDownJulienBlanc, meant the events in Melbourne gained worldwide attention, spurring action beyond Australian borders.
“All these marketing companies spend hours trying to work out how to make things go viral when really it’s out of their control. It’s really about people sharing a similar thought.”
“We took him down globally. In 24 hours the whole world knew who he was. That’s massively powerful,” said Mac.
Petitions to stop Blanc from touring were launched in Canada, Netherlands, Argentina, Iceland, Ireland, Germany, Denmark and Sweden his visa was revoked in Singapore and the United Kingdom.
In Japan, one such petition gained more than one million signatures in three days, with Japanese activists using Twitter to ask major banks to shut down Blanc’s accounts.
“It’s the biggest feminist campaign to ever happen in history,” Mac said.
With women finding strength online, Mac says this is pointing to a bright future for feminism, “I think we are at tipping point.”
Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!