The Power of a Hashtag
Twitter has always been praised as a communications platform offering real-time conversation; whether that be about sport matches (did you see Carlton beat Adelaide? Go Blues!), celebrities *Yawn* Kimye’s wedding, and the latest Game of Thrones Episode #GOT #Joffreydead. However Twitter also delves into more complicated topics such as politics, sexual abuse, gun control and gender equality.
The recent incident of a 22 year old man (I am not even going to write his name as he doesn’t deserve any publicity) who killed 6 people in order to get back at ALL women because he had been rejected sexually despite him being the “perfect guy”, sparked a debate on whether his motives were driven by misogynist views or mental illness. From this emerged an interesting movement among women and men around the world – #YesAllWomen
This trending hashtag was a response not only to this killer’s warped beliefs and hatred for all women, not only to “not all men” (argument as an attempt by men to shift blame and thereby excuse themselves from conversation about harassment or gender-based violence), but to inform and demonstrate to people all around the world that yes, all women live in fear because there are men who discriminate against them, who are violent against them and who sexually assault them.
The benefits of a powerful hashtag:
Social media can be a powerful tool for change. A public is not created just because everyone individually holds an opinion but because there is multi-level awareness of other people’s views leading to a spiral of action and protest (Tufekci 2011). Social media is a place to share, raise awareness and reunite with these beliefs, and a hashtag is one way of achieving this.
The pitfalls of a powerful hashtag:
For the last couple of hours, I have been reading through these tweets and their responses (I recommend you all do), and whilst I see great power and strength, I also see a lot of horrible comments and many men and women (fearing to be labelled feminist) jumping on the defense, failing to understand and just listen to the overall message. A trending hashtag can become a symbol attracting lurking trolls to take advantage of the situation, particularly an emotional one.
It is my hope #YesAllWomen doesn’t turn into another trending topic/ viral internet campaign for awareness and change that fizzles out by the end of the week. However, the fact that Twitter and this hashtags has allowed thousands of women all around the world to speak freely, some even about their own personal experiences, will have the ability to deeply resonate with someone reading. There is power in discussion and if that’s what we can take away from this, its better than nothing.