fbpx
24/05/2019 Communication Science news and articles

Cultural awakening or trending hashtag? Denouncing rape culture on social media.

About #MeToo: is it just a trending hashtag or a wake-up call for cultural change?


As the people of Twitter wisely put it, if 2016 was the year of praying one of your faves wouldn’t die, 2017 is the year of praying one of your faves won’t be outed as a sexual predator. In the past month, countless victims have stepped forward and openly accused powerful Hollywood men of sexual abuse. Like tiles of a domino, the dismantling of this power architecture has inspired many others to come forward on social media and find support in sharing experiences. As more and more find the courage to raise their voice, I am left wondering: is this the beginning of a cultural awakening?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that in the past month accusations of sexual misconduct have had Hollywood powerhouses shaking in their boots. All the stories are relatively similar, like scripts of a trite movie genre. Drunk with power (or as Louis CK would have put it, admiration), these men took advantage of victims that a complicit system ensured would remain silent. In random order, these men include:

  • Harvey Weinstein, with a well-oiled machine of complicit assistants and a statement comparing himself to Jay-Z, because a cheating husband and a serial abuser are totally the same thing;
  • Kevin Spacey, special nominee for the ‘worst time to come out’ award;
  • Ed Westwick (y’all gotta stop defending Chuck Bass just because he’s (semi-)attractive);
  • The extremely admired Louis CK and his narcissistic admission of guilt.

Trending hashtag
The outpouring of assault and harassment allegations initiated in Hollywood has been followed by a global conversation on the experience of abuse under the hashtag #MeToo. The hashtag was launched with the aim to bring visibility to the reality of sexual harassment and abuse, and let the world understand the magnitude of the issue. After its launch on October 15, the hashtag soon went viral on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, with millions of users sharing their stories and receiving support from the many other survivors.

It doesn’t end here. Moving from online platforms to real communities, the US’ largest anti-sexual violence organization, RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) reported that survivors of sexual violence had been reaching out to them in record numbers. In the month of October alone, RAINN’s victim service program registered an increase of 21 percent in the numbers of those reaching out for help, as well as a spike in the number of donations received.

This wave of courage rippling through global communities feels like a collective, long-due ‘we’ve had enough’. And we should be thanking social media for that. Beyond the ads, the worries about what they could possibly be doing with our data, the collective obsession over the quantification of our popularity in likes and retweets – social media is about immediacy, the possibility to talk to anyone, about anything. It is the locus where one can have a voice, establish conversations, and have others chime in.

This architecture of speed and global connections made it possible for the countless victims of abuse and harassment to realize that they were not alone, that others could understand their experiences and relate. It made it safe to speak up from behind a screen and find a voice. Personally, knowing so many other women navigate public spaces fearing for their safety was upsetting – but it is a drive to speak up and stop tolerating injustice.

Cultural awakening
I can do this, if I am not alone.

I can do this, if my action have consequences.

Ultimately, this is the beauty of watching those old, decaying Hollywood monsters meet their fate. Seeing once all-powerful men being shunned from the public, their work marginalized, their careers destroyed. It feels like justice, at once. Like speaking up can have repercussions, and reporting won’t be in vain.

Can we really speek of a cultural shift? Only time will tell. Real cultural impact can only be measured when norms are changed. After punishing the usual suspects (see Courtney Love warning us about Weinstein in 2005), what we need is to establish a system where powerful men are held accountable for their actions, where the less powerful are not objectified and belittled. Where women (and other victims, too) won’t have to stand up again and say “Me too.”

The whimsical, flimsy nature of the billion of conversations taking place on social media at any given moment makes it hard to trust the power of those platforms, and hope that they will carry the voices pioneering such a cultural turn. What will happen when the next trending hashtag comes along? What are we going to do with those uncomfortable, powerful conversations then?

Cover: Nicole Adams

486 Total Views 1 Views Today

Reacties

reacties

Related Posts

Aspiring for digital wellness

21/05/2019

21/05/2019

Actually we can't live without our smartphones. Nevertheless there are some solutions to control our digital lives. Medium has elaborated some of them.

Three Identical Strangers: a review

20/05/2019

20/05/2019

Have you ever wondered if there's a doppelganger of you out there somewhere? 3 men found those doppelgangers. They actually all looked exactly alike. Little did they know, they turned out to be brothers! Aakansha reviews the movie Three Identical Strangers, about these 3 men.

Medium Podcast #6 – A crash course in TV media landscape and why Game of Thrones rules

19/05/2019

19/05/2019

Plamen is back, but this time he’s sitting on the Medium throne. In this 6th episode of the Medium Podcast,...

The Brutally Feminine Murder of the Anti-Hero

18/05/2019

18/05/2019

We all love a hero, but sometimes, an anti-hero is even better. This article explores moral ambiguity and why we are attracted to it.

#RIPDorisDay

17/05/2019

17/05/2019

The world mourns as news of the passing of Doris Day arrives. Medium remembers a woman whose movies and music earned her the status of a Hollywood legend.

Tessa: De geneeskundestudent die geniet van haar leven in Maastricht

13/05/2019

13/05/2019

Dit keer geen student uit Amsterdam, maar een student uit Maastricht! Medium sprak met geneeskundestudent Tessa over haar studentenleven in Maastricht en hoe communicatie een rol speelt in haar studie.

Faking a Disease Online: Munchausen by Internet

12/05/2019

12/05/2019

Who can we trust online? This article explores the distressing phenomenon of Munchausen by internet.

Your nightlife review: De School, Amsterdam

10/05/2019

10/05/2019

Gabby reviews De School, mainly known as a techno nightclub. Is it worth a visit? And why is there such a strict doorpolicy? We sum up the good and bad points for you.

The Pursuit of the Perfect Picture and its Consequences

09/05/2019

09/05/2019

A lot of people nowadays do the craziest things to get the most beautiful Instagram photos. It's all fun and games, until people's properties get destroyed. Angela discusses 3 places in the world where 'Instagram tourists' have taken over.

Quality of public debate and social media

07/05/2019

07/05/2019

Does social media add or subtract from the quality of public debate today? Aakansha shares her take on the controversial topic.

Everything Not Saved Will be Lost

03/05/2019

03/05/2019

As our lives today are intertwined with that of the objects we are surrounded by, Ada dives into minimalism, decluttering and downsizing.

Medium TV – Brexit, just what the bloody hell went wrong? | MediumTV #19

30/04/2019

30/04/2019

Medium TV asked Jeppe and Charlie a few questions on Brexit. Watch the interview and listen to their opinions about it.

Outraved: Dance Demonstration for Your Education | MediumTV #18

29/04/2019

29/04/2019

Medium was present at 12 April's Outraved; a demonstration against budget cuts on education.

Medium TV interviews Leon Willems, director of Free Press Unlimited | MediumTV #17

29/04/2019

29/04/2019

Leon Willems, director of Free Press Unlimited since May 2011

VR Butterfly (World)

29/04/2019

29/04/2019

In a world where we are losing touch with our natural environment, can virtual reality save the day?

EnjoyInstagram