A recent NPR story exemplifies the process of Digitally Enabled Social Change (DESC), per Kevin Matthews’ post from Dec. 12. Frustrated by a sexist slogan on a girls’ sweatshirt at a major clothing retailer, some “moms,” the story says, utilized the powers of the Web to take matters into their own hands.
When New York resident Lauren Todd saw a photo of the “I’m Too Pretty To Do Homework” shirt on Facebook last August, she was annoyed. So she started a petition on the social action website Change.org… Her petition urged shoppers to boycott J.C. Penney until it stopped selling shirts with what she called sexist messaging. Five hours later, Shelby Knox started tweeting about the petition.
“From the time that Lauren started the petition on Change.org and J.C. Penney pulled the shirt,” Knox says, “it was about 10 hours, in which it got over 2,000 signatures, and at one point was generating over 400 tweets a minute.”
Now, it’s not clear to me that the signers of the J.C. Penney petition were all mothers, or even all women, for that matter. But that aside, the article raises some interesting questions about the varying power of Internet activism. The J.C. Penney campaign was successful, but a similar Target petition was not. DESC is clearly a useful, tactical tool for activists, allowing them to utilize the power of their social networks in an innovative way. But when it comes to issues of economic justice, perhaps it is best coupled with more old-fashioned forms of protest. What do you think?