Hashtag Activism

Hashtags are used all over the web, it began when San Francisco techie and former Google developer Chris Messina posted a tweet on Twitter using the hashtag #barcamp. He was inspired by flickr tags. As a short form of communication, tags/hashtags seemed like a good way of organizing brief exchanges and sharing. This took off and has become the easiest way to navigate Twitter and see what topics are trending across the globe.

Hashtags are used on Instagram as a means of describing the content of the photo posted. Facebook has recently jumped on this band wagon with people using hashtags in posts. Hashtags allow you to click on them and search the web for wherever and everywhere they were mentioned and used. In the Arab Spring, hashtags were used to filter the most recent updates from protests and conflict.

Hashtags have been used for charity campaigns and to raise awareness of certain topics for example the ALS #IceBucketChallenge. Bellow I have listed some of the most popular female made hashtags that promote activism for the topics that relate to.


Is a hashtag developed by plus size model Tess Holliday in 2015 to be proud of your curves and body. And challenging the idea that being skinny is the only way to be beautiful.



Was developed for all women to relate and find stories of times they have felt sexism towards them. To open up this issue and make people feel less isolated and like more of a group to be-rid sexism. The theory behind it is that all women experience sexism, but not all men are sexist.

A hashtag that was developed from #yesallwomen was:


Which was developed to prove that all men can be masculine without misogyny, chivalrous without demeaning, and feminists without fear. That equality benefits us all.



After Boko Haram militants kidnapped hundreds of girls from a Nigerian boarding school on April 15, an international campaign was raised to pressure the Nigerian government to “Bring Back Our Girls.” Hundreds of celebrities and big figureheads used this hashtag to put pressure further on the Nigerian government. Michelle Obama being one of the most prominent.


This hashtag was and is used to express the absurdity and disgust of the events that led unarmed black men who were shot and killed by either white police officers or local vigilantes. To erase black people that they do matter and that everyone is there for support. Also to criminalise and bring to a stop those who are racist and carrying out racist hate crimes.


Is a hashtag used to share stories women have about abusive relationships and explaining why they stayed with the person for so long. Explaining it to those who don’t understand or who can’t relate to why someone who is being abused by a partner would stay with them. Removing the idea that the victim is partially at fault for staying with them.


This hashtag is to raise awareness of catcalling and how it is undermining and insulting for women. And inevitably stop it from happening. Its a funny hashtag that uses the concept of: men catcalling each other to prove its not flattering, and that men wouldn’t like it either so why would women.


Was a gender equality campaign named after Lina Esco’s 2014 film Free the Nipple. The campaign argues that women should be allowed to show their nipples in public. She believes that ‘normalising’ the nipple will desexualise women’s breasts. People cringe or find breasts disgusting in public places for example breast feeding a child, which shouldn’t be the case as this is one of the most natural things a woman will do when raising a child.


This was to advocate for the stereotyping and the idea that certain jobs are for certain sex’s. Also to help address the issue of stereotyping women based on their looks. A woman can be an engineer, just like a female can be any other job that stereotypically seems like a male role.


Is a hashtag run by Emma Watson. HeForShe is a solidarity campaign for gender equality initiated by UN Women. Its goal is to engage men and boys as agents of change for the achievement of gender equality and women’s rights, by encouraging them to take action against inequalities faced by women and girls.


Elona Kastrati started this campaign which is an unconventional movement where powerful gender equality messages are attached to sanitary towels which are stuck on lamp posts and landmarks in the streets of her city. It began in Germany, but this activism is seen all over the world. Indian women have used this campaign very successful to raise awareness in regards to rape culture and gender equality.




Is used like the above hashtag to campaign against sexual abuse and victim blaming. The victim is not in the wrong because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, or because of the clothes she was wearing.


Is a form of support for abortion, it not something you need to hide or whisper about. It is a hashtag that is used to normalise the idea of abortion and that is ok to have one if you need to. You don’t need to feel guilty or bad, its your body.


A hashtag for those who take mental illness medication. There is no need to hide that you need medical help when it comes to mental health. Mental health needs to be spoken about and normalised.


Is a hashtag to empower those living with addiction, inspire ownership and pride in recovery, and encourage suffering addicts to seek treatment.


Is a hashtag developed to reinforce the idea that Asian-american’s are not like the stereotypes and generalisations that have been passed down by the media. Everyone is different. Stereotypes don’t define a race.



Is a campaign that people are using to insure muslims that there are people there for them and that everyone knows that they aren’t bad people and can’t be defined by the criminals who happen to be muslim. To remove isolation of muslims and bring people back together, remove Islamophobia.






Women in Arab Spring Cyberactivism

Women in the Arab world are often seen as repressed and less than their male counterparts due to religion and unequal male dominated views. But the Arab Spring challenged this. As we have seen in my last post, social media and the internet dominated the way in which we share news. Mainstream media had taken the back burner. This just shows how socially the world is changing, emphasising the progress of the world towards becoming a better place and more forward thinking. Social media and the internet has given everyone a voice, be it anonymous or not, we are more protected when we speak up over the internet as we have the support from a larger group of people. Making it hard for opposition to mistreat a person because of their views and opinions.

The women of the internet came together to report and express their opinions towards the conflict and protests online. Not just the women of the western world, who in majority share equal rights and power as their male peers, but the women of the Arab Middle East shared and expressed their opinions online also. Who would in a traditional opinion be repressed and lack freedom of speech due to their social and political situation. These women were instrumental activists in organising protests and reform in their countries thanks to social media.


As the protests spread, blogger Lina Ben Mhenni reported from the rural areas where the protests started, including covering the security forces’ attack on protesters in Kasserine. Her work provided vital information to other Tunisian activists and brought the events there to the world’s attention.


In Egypt, activist Asmaa Mahfouz posted a video urging Egyptians to protest the regime of Hosni Mubarak in Tahrir Square on 25 January 2011, which is National Police Day. Her video went viral and the 25 January protests drew a large crowd, setting off the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.


Yemeni activist Tawakkol Karman organized protests and student rallies against the rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh, which culminated in the 2011 Yemeni revolution and the abdication of President Saleh. Yemenis referred to her as the “Mother of the Revolution” and she was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2011.


Libyan human rights lawyer Salwa Bugaighis helped organize the “Day of Rage” protests on 17 February 2011. Those protests drove the Libyan army out of Benghazi, which marked a turning point in the Libyan Revolution.

These women of the Arab Spring are great examples of how our digital culture is greatly effecting female activism and bringing more women to the forefront of protecting our human rights.



The Arab Spring | Cyber-fueled Activism


The Arab Spring:

A collective term to describe the wave of revolutions and uprisings within the Arab Middle East since 2011. 

The Arab Spring essentially began in 2010 when Tunisian man Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in protest of unemployment. Mohamed was a fruit and vegetable street vendor who had been publicly humiliated by a municipal officer who confiscated his scales and cart, leaving him job less. Bouazizi angered and humiliated went to the governors office to complain and get his property back. But the governor refused to see him, which Bouazizi responded with “If you don’t see me, I’ll burn myself.” Bouazizi then acquired a can of gasoline from a nearby gas station and returned to the governor’s office. While standing in the middle of traffic, he shouted, “How do you expect me to make a living?”. He then doused himself with the gasoline and set himself alight with a match at 11:30 a.m. local time, less than an hour after the altercation.

Outraged by the events that led to Bouazizi’s self-immolation, protests in Sidi Bouzid within hours which brewed for two weeks, while police tried to calm them down. The protests became more wide spread and violent. Not only were these protests local and violent, but the events led to a huge social media blow up with hashtags and live reports and footage from the protests being spread on Twitter and Facebook. The hashtag #sidibouzid had been used thousands upon thousands of times all over the globe.

As the message went viral, protests across the globe broke out showing solidarity for Tunisia. The social revolution had begun for the Arab Spring, with mainstream media being tossed to the curb and social media covering the news most efficiently.


The Tunisia government began hacking Facebook accounts to spy on social media users that were deemed by the government as enemies, censoring free speech and controlling what its people were posting. Online hacking organisation Anonymous didn’t like this so they launched Operation Tunisia which included a series of DDoS attacks against government websites. Additionally, Anonymous provided protesters with documents required to take down the incumbent government as well as distributing a care package, among other things and a greasemonkey script to avoid proxy interception by the government. Also allowing the passing of information in and out of the country. But the world was so involved in these series of events thanks to the internet, that social media successful allowed for the advocation of human rights in Tunisia with the support of the world. Whilst main stream media had the story, social media was still by far the best form of instant communication.

Video of men that went viral online after stealing Tunisian Presidents Porsche

Social media was also used by many people to organise protests and events. Due to the success of the Tunisian revolt, other Arab countries were inspired to revolt against what they felt was injustice. The revolutions that swept all corners of the Arab Middle East were characterized by the instrumental use of social media, especially Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube, and text messaging by protesters, to achieve a number of pragmatic goals, such as group networking, on-the-ground organizing, and offering practical advice on how to confront police brutality or how to avoid arrest. Arab cyberactivists created online platforms that served as important venues for the exchange of ideas and the formulation of collective public opinion. This sort of cyberactivism aloud for citizen journalism, giving people who didn’t have a voice, a voice.

Social media allowed for citizens to show the underlying causes for eruption of the Arab Spring such as governmental brutality, limitations on freedom of expression, flaws in the political system, official corruption, and violations of human rights, as well as allowing them to disseminate words and images to each other, and, most importantly, to the outside world.




Contemporary Activists | Pakistan

Malala Yousafzai | Children’s & Women’s Rights Activist  


The Story of Malala Youssafzai is no doubt familiar to us all. Malala lived in Mingora, Pakistan. When the Taliban attempted to take over they enforced their sexist views on the country, one rule being the exclusion of women from education after the age of 8. Malala attended a school that her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, had founded. Her father was an anti-Taliban activist. Malala was a strong advocate for women rights to education at the young age of 11, after the Taliban attacked schools in Mingora she was fruited even more and pushed even further for equality and education.

In 2008 at age 11 she gave a speech in Peshawar titled, “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?”. In early 2009 she began blogging under a hidden identity for the BBC about living under the Taliban’s threats of denying her education and basic rights as a human. But in December of that year her cover was blown.


With a growing public platform, she continued to speak out about her right, and the right of all women, to an education. Her activism resulted in a nomination for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011. That same year, she was awarded Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize.

With the growth of her public identity the family learned that death threats were issued against her. Her family didn’t think that the Taliban would hurt a child, but Malala  worried for the safety of her parents. On October 9, 2012 Malala was riding the bus to school when a masked gunman entered her school bus requesting for Malala. Her friends looked at her which gave away her identity. The gunman shot Malala in the side of her head and he also injured other passengers. Malala was left in critical condition, so she was flown to a military hospital in Peshawar. A portion of her skull was removed to treat her swelling brain. To receive further care, she was transferred to Birmingham, England.

Since the attack Malala now lives in England with her family and is back to health. She continues to advocate for women’s rights to education across the globe. Malala won the Noble Peace Prize in 2014 at age 17 being the youngest person to ever receive the prize. Malala has run campaigns such as the #BooksNotBullets , where she tries to enlighten people to act against violence to persuade the governments to filter money away from military budgets and focus all that money on education.

The teenage activist wrote: “The shocking truth is that world leaders have the money to fully fund primary AND secondary education around the world – but they are choosing to spend it on other things, like their military budgets. In fact, if the whole world stopped spending money on the military for just 8 days, we could have the $39 billion still needed to provide 12 years of free, quality education to every child on the planet.”

Malala is one of the most prominent activists of the 21st century who proves that our digital culture can be effectively used to promote change and justice in the world. And that the female voice is just as strong as anyone else voice.


Contemporary Activists | China, Iran & Afghanistan

Women have been fighting for the most fundamental human issues for hundreds of years. In the 21 years of my life, I have lived through the work of many inspiring and successful female activists. Here are a few who I feel have really made a dent on the face of the earth in regards to change and awareness of basic human rights.


Nanfu Wang & Free Speech Enemies of the State


Nanfu Wang is a film maker and advocate who created the enlightening documentary, Hooligan Sparrow. Which followed Chinese sexual violence activist Ye Haiyan (a.k.a Hooligan Sparrow) and her colleagues to a province in Southern China to protest the case of six elementary school girls who were sexually abused by their principal. Marked as enemies of the state, the activists are under constant government surveillance and face interrogation, harassment, and imprisonment. Sparrow gained notoriety due to her dedicated advocacy work for sex workers’ rights, and girls’ and women’s rights using the power and reach of social media. Nanfu Wang found herself a target along with Sparrow and the other activists, fearing for her safety as she filmed her documentary. Wang had her camera’s destroyed, memories cards wiped, was followed by plain-clothes secret police, attacked by angry mobs, and interrogated by national security officers.

Wang had to use hidden cameras and smuggle her footage out of the country. Since the filming of Hooligan Sparrow some of the activists and their families have been imprisoned and prevented from leaving the country. One activist who appeared in her film is currently near death on a hunger strike in prison. Wang had no idea how ruthless the Chinese government were in regards to crushing their perceived enemies, until the filming of Hooligan Sparrow. Her film and advocacy has shed light and exposed the unjust treatment of women and free speech in China and the choking grip the government has on its people.


Asieh Amini & The Honour Killings

In Iran women are regularly stoned to death for partaking in sex outside of marriage, even if they have been raped. Asieh Amini has fought tiredly against these honour killings in Iran. She first learned of this practice when reporting for a regional newspaper on the case of a 16 year old girl called Leyla who had a mental age of 8. Layla was raped repeatedly by family members and was going to be stoned to death for the act. Amini was horrified of this unjust sentence for the innocent girl so she jumped in and pressured the judge to release the girl. The girl was subsequently killed, and Amin’s newspaper did not dare print her story. Amini found herself, her actions, e-mails and phone calls being monitored by the authorities, and in 2007 she was arrested and imprisoned. After being released from prison, she fled the country in 2009. Since then she has dedicated her life to advocating and fighting this horrific practice, even when authorities and people in power have heavily threatened her. By raising awareness throughout the country and the world, Amini has saved the lives of many women. Amini now lives in Norway as the threats against her in Iran were too intesne. She continues her powerful advocacy from her new home.

Sonita Alizadeh & Child Marriage 


Sonita Alizadeh was born in Afghanistan and grew up in Tehran as her and her family had to flee due to afghan war. In Tehran she listening to and fell very found of rap music with the likes of Eminem and Iranian rapper Yas. Sonita released “Brides for Sale,” a video in which she raps about daughters being sold into marriage by their families after almost being sold herself.

According to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission as many as 80% of Afghan marriages are forced. 57% of girls are child brides and marry most commonly at the ages of 15 and 16. When Sonita was 16 her parents tried to sell her off into marriage for the price of $9000, so they could pay for her brothers wife. Before her mother could finalise the deal Sonita filmed and shared her rap song “Brides for Sale” expressing her opinions on the forced marriage and successful escaping her fate.

Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami a filmmaker created a documentary on Sonita and paid Sonita’s mother $2000 to give the girl more time before marriage. This allowed Sonita to create that music video, which allowed her to successful escape the marriage that was planned for her. The film by Rokhsareh called Sonita won awards in the Sundance Film festival. Sonita drew attention to the unjust treatment of women in Afghanistan and the absurdity of arranged marriage. She is a modern day example of how our digital culture has allowed for powerful advocacy of current human rights issues.










The history of female activism



Womens rights have been fought for from as early as the late 1700’s. Mary Wollstonecraft being one of the earliest and most prevalent feminists. A great chunk of female activism is based around the fight for equal rights among women and men as this cause was and is the most important for women globally. The rights of females are still being fought for up to this day. The western world is probably the most forward thinking in regards to equal rights.

I can safely say that I feel that I have the same and equal rights as any male, and have felt like this all my life. I feel very lucky and am so thankful for the women who have fought for my freedom and equality before me. This is the perspective of a middle class young woman living in the western world, but this perspective may not be shared with other females of my age in different parts of the world.

I dont mean to brush over the Women’s Rights movement, it was and still is probably the most important cause woman across the globe unitedly are fighting for, but it is known that a woman is going to fight for her rights for equality. I want to focus on other sucessful areas of activism that have been carried out by females in history and up to the present.

Slavery is of course unjust, there have been many women in history who have fought for the rights of slaves and the banishment of the term. While these women may have been subjected to unequal rights themselves, they sought to fight for what they felt was morally wrong and most important, the end of forced labour and entrapment of human slaves. Susan B. Anthony campaigned for the rights of slaves, women and workers rights. She one of the earliest compassionate human rights activist who made a dent in history for something more than just the rights of women.

Rosa Parks is probably one of the most influential women of the civil rights movement. Rosa Parks fought for equal rights, when she refused to give her seat up to a white person on a bus. Parks started the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. She became a prominent spokesperson and figurehead for the American civil rights movement.

Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded a Noble Peace Prize for her opposition to military rule in Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest for many years due to her opposition and advocation of nonviolent resistance.


Shirin Ebadi is an Iranian judge and lawyer. She fought for the right for women to purse a legal career in Iran. Helen Keller who was deaf-blind from early childhood, campaigned tirelessly on behalf of deaf and blind people. Elizabeth Fry was a prison reform campaigner. Fry was instrumental in raising awareness of the poor conditions in British prisons and campaigning for more humane conditions.

Wangari Maathai was a Kenyan environmental and political activist. In the 1970s, she founded the Green Belt Movement which was a non-governmental organisation promoting environmental conservation and women’s rights. Billie Jean King is another inspiring activist who is one of the greatest tennis players of all time. King fought for the equal pay of women at a time when their was a disparity in prize money awarded to men and women in the 1960’s.

In my next post I am going to speak to you on the topic of modern day female activists and how they use our digital culture to fight for their cause’s.




Activism is..

the practice of addressing an issue                                                                                                                          by challenging those in power.


Activism can be loud or quite. It can be civil society challenging those in the system of governance. Justice is at the core of activism. Equality and fair treatment of individuals and opinions it what all activists are striving to achieve. Compassion drives activism. Seeing someone being treated unjustly evokes compassion in an activist.

But what makes someone an activist? Isn’t everyone an activist if they stand for a cause? I believe those who show compassion are activist. Most humans are compassionate, we may show it in different ways, but social scientists say compassion is mankind’s strongest trait.

Why is that? Well its relatively simple, we are the most successful species due to our compassionate nature and teamwork.  Dacher Keltner, a UC Berkeley psychologist and author of “Born to be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life”, and his colleagues believe humans are successful as a species precisely because of our nurturing, altruistic and compassionate traits. Keltner defines this theory by saying, “Human beings have survived as a species because we have evolved the capacities to care for those in need and to cooperate. As Darwin long ago surmised, sympathy is our strongest instinct.”

So if its possible for us all to be activists, why is it that bad things still happen in this world? Where are the all the activists?

Activism doesn’t always mean mass protests and mass action. Activists aren’t always superhero’s. Activism doesn’t heal all the big and bad things that are happening right now. It can, but more often activism is taking place at home in our daily lives. Making simple small changes in the world, but big and meaningful changes in our lives. Activism takes place when someone applies their everyday integrity to their daily life. It might not be something big and world changing. But by maintaining honesty and having strong moral principles it can only provide positive change to your day to day life. A small and barely noticeable change in the world as a whole. But these acts of activism mount up, and eventually affect the world as a whole. “Activism is not separate to life, but it is life itself” – Anjali Appadurai.

Activism in regards to big worldwide change takes place when a large group of individuals come together with the same moral principles and integrity. This sort of activism is most powerful, but this doesn’t undermine local activism. As I have mentioned, anyone with compassion (which is pretty much everyone) is an activist. An activist could be male, female, gender non-conforming, young, old, middle aged, local, high profile, poor, rich, black, white… activism isn’t specific to any type of individual.

Seeing as I am a young woman living in the western world with the likes of the internet and my social economic background feeding into how I see and experience the world, I feel I can only really speak truthfully from my personal experience and from my personal viewpoint as a young female in the digital age. I can relate better to and understand individuals like myself, and whilst I feel like I understand and know how other people live, that is naive of me. So I would like to delve deeper into female activism and modern female activists who are of a similar age to myself and relate to my social and economic situation.


Needless to say after continued research into my topic of choice I discovered how much I do relate to other women across the globe who may be from completely different socio-economic situations to me. The thing that joins us is the Internet and Social Media, this is the aspect of female activism I would like to focus on and how social media has affected activism. Topic name: Female Cyber-fueled Activism/Hashtag Activism.