As the # stops trending, what will be the impact of the latest social media phenomenon? Women’s lives depend on it.
It’s been two weeks since the start of the worldwide viral trend of #MeToo, but it’s already fallen off the ‘Top Trends’ on Twitter, having been replaced by #NationalPumpkinDay and Kim Kardashian. Though women came forward in their thousands following the Alyssa Milano tweet, it’s time to question how much impact a hashtag can have and if raising awareness in this way will bring about substantial change to our daily experiences as women. By looking at previous trends such as #StopTheViolence and #MenAreTrash, we might find that these social media trends spark up engagement with the topic but it’s up to individuals to continue the movement.
The Australian 2015 #StopTheViolence and South African #MenAreTrash earlier this year, went viral as a response to the high number of cases of gender based violence that the media finally decided to report. And we all know that #MeToo was prompted by a Hollywood scandal and subsequent celebrity endorsement. But this process is all too familiar. There’s media frenzy, similar allegations follow in their numbers, This Morning question guest speakers on the topic and Channel 4 do a documentary.
However, #MeToo is a phenomenon to which women globally can relate. We are seeing that sexual harassment and abuse is the experience of the majority. Most probably, girls everywhere are confident to speak out at this time not only because of the recent exposure that proves they are not alone but also because we are living in a time when it is socially acceptable to call ourselves feminists (thank you Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Queen B and Emma Watson!). The fact that women have been shamed and silenced until this point demonstrates the extent to which patriarchy is still as strong as ever, even with girls running the world.
Yet, once the hashtag had gotten a few days old, the viral trend quickly became old news and the epidemic, we can call it, peaked enough to spark attention but the virus very much lives among us and continues to thrive. Action after the ‘trend’ is vital. Because how much do these hashtags make men and women question their behaviour? How much do they change the gendered relationships in our societies? What a viral hashtag can do is spark the conversation, get people engaged. But does it do anything more?
Fortune have recommended 7 Actions That Could Actually Stop Sexual Harassment and Lady Gaga has teamed up with Joe Biden to promote the hashtag #ItsOnUs, encouraging people to be proactive in reporting and putting an end to sexual abuse. This is encouraging but what is needed is localised discussions, much like the student led ‘Unpacking Trash’ that followed #MenAreTrash in South Africa. So, please, keep talking about #MeToo with your friends, your parents, your colleagues. Own the narrative and don’t let this trend fade away before we have seen some much needed change.