SOCIAL MEDIA AND YOUTH PERCEPTION OF FEMINISM IN KENYA: THE CASE OF YOUTH AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NAIROBI

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ABSTRACT
This study sought to investigate how far social networking services have gone in trying to shape the overall perception of the feminist movement among the youth at the University of Nairobi. The study sought to find out the following: the existing perceptions of feminism among Kenyan youth on social media; the frames that have been used in the online coverage of feminist issues in Kenya; and the effects these frames have on the perception of feminist movement among the youth in Kenya. For its theoretical framework, the study relied on the cultivation theory and the feminist theory. This study employed a qualitative research design, which allowed the researcher to interact with the respondents in regard to how they felt social media played a role in shaping the perceptions of the feminist movement in Kenya. Data collection methods used were focus group discussions, an online textual analysis and a key informant interview. The study was conducted at the University of Nairobi, which accepts a diverse number of diverse students from all over the country. The diversity in the members of the student body served as a generalized representation of the country. As such, the findings from the students alone would reflect diverse viewpoints even though the findings and conclusions would not be generalizable. After triangulation (focus groups, textual analysis and key informant interview) the findings and conclusions became generalizable. For the mixed focus group, a convenience method was used to sample the fourth year Broadcast Journalism Class at the School of Journalism. In order to recruit the respondents of the focus group from the class, a systematic sample of the students in the class was done, where every fifth student was invited to participate in the focus group. Respondents for the all-female and all male focus group discussions were chosen through convenience samples of a second year Political Science Class and a fourth year Journalism Class respectively. Only one key informant interview was conducted because two respondents declined to participate in the study, while the other two were unavailable for the interview. Because of this low number, the researcher conducted a textual analysis to achieve a higher level of validity and reliability of the findings. The textual analysis was conducted in order to examine what frames were used in the coverage of the feminist movement online. 36 articles drawn from popular Facebook sites with many followers were analyzed. Data from the focus groups was analyzed through assigning them to thematic areas drawn from the two main frames used in the coverage of feminist issues. For the textual analysis, coding was done by taking the key words, which in this case would be ‗feminism‘ and ‗feminists‘ and looking at how often these words were associated with negative descriptors, such as ‗radical‘, ‗militant‘, ‗crazy‘ and ‗man-hating‘. Data collected from the key informant interview would be analyzed in relation to the frames used in the focus group discussions. This would serve to either affirm or negate the findings from the focus group discussions. One of the key findings of the study was that despite the acceptance that feminism seemed to have gained in Kenyan society, there was still an abundance of negative sentiment online, which in turn could still have an impact on how the movement was viewed. Another interesting observation was the fact that there were more men willing to identify as feminists, but who still felt compelled to conform to societal ideals of masculinity, which more often than not resulted into sexist behaviour, hurting the potential gains that would have otherwise been made by having more feminists-male or female- actively involved in the movement. A major recommendation of the study was that for future feminist engagements, online action should be adequately supported by offline action.

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