With #MeToo displaying the widespread prevalence of sexual abuse in recent months, Lyndsay Morgan blogs on the hashtag’s ability to inspire change
In recent weeks we’ve seen a lot of weird, wonderful and not so wonderful (bravo, Donald Trump, for your toe-curlingly racist ‘shit-hole’ comment this week), hashtags trending on social media.
From #BigCats – the BBC’s latest epic documentary that seems to have most of the nation’s eight million domestic cats gripped – to #PlasticFree, Theresa May’s pledge to stop Britain producing all unnecessary plastic by 2040.
For 10 years now, Twitter hashtags have been a barometer for what the world’s collective minds care about, if only at that particular moment. Or at least for those with a smartphone in their hands.
Some are frivolous. Some are serious. Some are hilarious for all the wrong reasons.
Remember the epic social media fail that was #susanalbumparty, when what should have been a soiree to promote Susan Boyle’s 2012 album, looked to the world like an invitation to Britain’s kinkiest sex party?
I bet her PR team can.
Criticism and blunders aside, social media can quickly become a catalyst for something so earth-shatteringly powerful that it hits the world like an oncoming train – and then takes on a pace of its own to challenge the status quo, to incite change, and to make sure nothing is ever the same again.
The power of digital as an ‘outer’ has always been stark, and when used as a force for good, it’s mind-blowing. A prime example – close to my heart – being women’s rights.
On one Thursday in early October, the New York Times published an article, which revealed allegations of decades of sexual harassment against American film producer Harvey Weinstein.
It sent seismic shock waves through the industry, and, thanks to social media, the rest of the World.
Actresses Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd were among the first to come forward. By the time Brie Larson and Lena Dunham spoke up the next day, praising the bravery of those women who had spoken out, a new movement was born.
In less than a week, #MeToo had become a digital snowball across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Millions of women – and men – from A-list stars to students, MPs to carers, CEOs to stay-at-home mums joined the campaign, united by one hashtag which quickly began to unravel the enormity of the problem.
In an age before social media, this would have been unthinkable. But thanks to those platforms, the snowball continues to roll, growing in size and stature, leaving the entertainment industry, and British and US politics in its wake.
In December, a joint investigation by Channel 5 News and Edinburgh International TV Festival revealed sexual harassment was rife in the TV industry.
It found the vast majority – a massive 84% – of those who experienced sexual harassment did not report it due to an ingrained “culture of fear” in the media world.
That culture of fear might not have been eradicated, but thanks to the digital avalanche of #MeToo, light has been shone on those dark corners. And it’s not going to go away any time soon.
Oprah Winfrey electrified the 75th Golden Globes last week, with a game-changing feminist battle cry.
There to accept the Cecil B. de Mille Lifetime Achievement Award, she turned the awards show into a “newly minted platform for women’s rights and social justice”, as the Guardian attested.
The audience rose to their feet – women and men alike with tears in their eyes, replicated, in no doubt, by onlookers at home.
“I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue,” she told them.
“I want all of the girls watching here now to know that a new day is on the horizon.
“And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say, ‘me too’, again.”
One hashtag. One cause. One world. Digital: it’s a force for change like no other.
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