Among the think pieces and lists about how feminism won 2014, the thing consistently overlooked proves to also be the most infuriating. Feminism, while it has always outlined the shape of politics and culture throughout the years, isn’t new.
Feminism didn’t just happen. It’s not a trend. It’s not suddenly “important” because of how mainstream it’s become in recent months. Feminism, the collective that has certainly made strides in 2014, will not disappear because it “won” 2014. But in a year that saw the biggest pop star of our time declare her affiliation, actors and actresses take their stand as feminists, and TIME magazine ban the word in a further demonization of the ideology, it’s hard to ignore the fact that feminism as we know it has made its debut in the world of popular culture.
The truth is, feminism was here last year, this year, and will be the next. But with that said, feminism in 2014 was visible in ways that it hasn’t been in years. It was the conversation to have. And those who engaged in that conversation, especially online, absolutely (for lack of a better term) killed the game.
Let’s be clear — feminism did “win” in more ways than one this year. Proving that social media activism is a viable, sustainable, and real vehicle for change, feminists harnessed the power of the hashtag to create and carry conversations meant to spark social change and raise awareness. But 2014’s win on Twitter wasn’t totally unexpected — last year in what many characterize as a turning point for white feminists to acknowledge race and gender identity in feminism, blogger Mikki Kendall started the #solidarityisforwhitewomen hashtag in August 2013 that has now become a cornerstone for feminist activism on Twitter. Others followed and the momentum continued into the following year, a year dotted with some of the most powerful social media movements created and carried on by feminists worldwide.
As the year comes to a close, we take a look at those hashtags and moments that have certainly transformed or “won” Twitter, and that stand to catapult men and women into new and hopefully game-changing conversations in 2015.
Take a look…
When #RapeCultureIsWhen was created to combat the gross and often normalized victim blaming and shaming of women:
Created by political analyst and writer Zerlina Maxwell in March, #RapeCultureIsWhen created a space for women and men to denounce rape culture in popular media, combat the normalization of rape, and protect rape survivors from their rapists and cyber-bullying. And even as the year comes to a close, the hashtag is continually used to fight the disregard for rape survivors and usher in a new era of a society free of rape acceptance.
#Rapecultureiswhen we make a million lists of “prevention tips” for WOMEN but fail to teach men not to rape.
— Zerlina Maxwell (@ZerlinaMaxwell) March 25, 2014
When TIME magazine had to apologize for including the word “feminist” in a readers’ poll of terms to ban in 2015:
When TIME added the word “feminist” to a list of 2014’s cringeworthy words like “bae” and “basic,” feminists took to Twitter to combat the demonization and the dismissal that feminism was just a “thing” celebrities took to this year. It worked. The list was amended and the above apology delivered.
When Beyonce performed at the MTV Video Music Awards, snatched all of our wigs with a “flawless” performance, won the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, brought her husband and daughter on stage, AND silenced every hater who argued she wasn’t “feminist” enough:
Twitter nearly exploded. Literally. And it spawned this gif that will live in feminist history forever. You will deal.
When #BlackLivesMatter became a national movement:
This summer saw the national formation of a movement to combat police brutality, a movement sparked by the deaths of Michael Brown Jr., John Crawford III, and Eric Garner. But the refrain repeated by demonstrators nationwide, emblazoned on t-shirts and signs, first began in 2013, when Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman. The creators? Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza — three black women who have spawned a call of action to combat anti-black racism and dehumanization while combating state violence no matter gender, sexual preference, or birthplace. As their site says, “Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum. It centers those that have been marginalized within Black liberation movements. It is a tactic to (re)build the Black liberation movement.”
The #WhyIStayed hashtag:
Sparked by the disturbing video of Baltimore Raven Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée Janay Plamer (now Rice) unconscious in an elevator, #WhyIStayed was created by writer Beverly Gooden to combat the victim blaming that comes with domestic violence, especially for women who are shamed for staying with their abusers.
Created by Obiageli Ezekwesili and Ibrahim M. Abdullahi in response to the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapping nearly 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria, the #BringOurGirlsBack hashtag brought awareness to a conversation that many believe would have otherwise been overlooked and sparked a dialogue about protecting our young girls and promoting education even in the face of terrorism.
— Ibrahim M. Abdullahi (@Abu_Aaid) April 23, 2014
Shonda Rhimes transformed Twitter:
Shonda Rhimes has changed the landscape of television. By dominating ABC’s Thursday nights with Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How To Get Away With Murder, Rhimes continues to support and champion women as lead characters while herself being a force to be reckoned with off-screen. She’s a woman. She’s black. She’s successful. She doesn’t shy away from race, gender, or sexual preference in her programming. And with that alone, she shuts down Twitter on Thursday so we can all discuss and watch in awe at how different television looks now than it did last year. Win-win.
When that scary and alarming catcalling video turned into something bigger and more nuanced:
The above video, a collaboration between Hollaback (an anti-street harassment organization), and Rob Bliss Creative, shows actress Shoshana Roberts walking through NYC in a span of 10 hours and getting catcalled at least 100 times. It’s horrific. It’s disgusting. It’s scary. And it’s the reality for many women walking on the street, to their homes, to work, and to run errands. Feminists took to Twitter to share their daily experiences with street harassment as well, but the video did more than bring light to a prevalent issue in society — it highlighted the exclusion of the marginalized community of people who are most likely to be harassed. Black women. The video also brought another issue to light — all men, no matter race, are capable of harassing. Hollaback later apologized for editing out the white men in the video, explaining that the edited video stereotypes men of color and suggests harassment by white males is rare, if it happens at all. A little inclusivity (and feminism) might have solved this problem.
When we smashed the Supreme Court for endangering women and allowing corporations to have religious personhood with #HobbyLobby:
In July, Hobby Lobby, the family-owned chain of arts and craft stores founded on Biblical principles, gained ground when the Supreme Court ruled corporations can refuse to provide health insurance coverage for birth control. The newest enemy in the fight to limit women’s reproductive rights also exhibited some hypocrisy too patriarchal to ignore — the chain cut contraceptives, which they claim destroy human life by interfering with a fertilized egg, but continue to cover vasectomies and Viagra. Twitter responded. And with the #HobbyLobby hashtag, users were able to voice their concern over giving corporations personhood and how that action infringed upon women’s rights. Oh, and some pretty epic protests in Hobby Lobby stores (like the one above) were too awesome not to share via social media.
— Katie Compa (@katiecompa) June 30, 2014
When we responded to misogyny and harassment with #YesAllWomen:
Sparked by the tragic murder of six people at the hands of Elliot Rodger — the 22-year-old son of a Hollywood movie director who wrote a 150-page manifesto full of hate and resentment towards women — #YesAllWomen aimed to bring the abuse and hate women suffer at the hands of men to the forefront. The hashtag, created by Twitter user @Gildedspine, also serves as an important tool to understanding the violence women are subject to because of sexism, patriarchy, and misogyny. The hashtag, created in May, still generates hundreds of tweets daily.
Because women are taught to hate themselves if men reject them, and men are taught to hate women if women reject them. #YesAllWomen
— Kendall (@KendallMcK) May 25, 2014
Created by Feminista Jones and Twitter user @BlackGirlDanger in June of 2014, #YouOkSis aims to combat the street harassment women of color face on a daily basis. The hashtag, which addresses harassment based on race, gender, culture, and sexuality, hits the intersectionality mark that the one-sided Hollaback video failed to. Watch the video above to see Jones and other women of color talk about their experiences.
Ultimately, if you’ve paid attention, #YouOKSis is a call for bystander intervention that moves beyond sharing experiences to ending them
— Mother of Kittehs (@FeministaJones) August 8, 2014
Also created by social worker Feminista Jones, #NMOS14 (National Moment of Silence) appeared in August following the shooting death of Michael Brown Jr. at the hands of a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo. The hashtag spawned hundreds of silent vigils nationwide to combat police brutality and honor the lives of men and women who fall victim to that facet of state violence. Click here for more information.
National Moment of Silence = #NMOS14 Thursday, 8/14 7pmEST/4pm PT ppl around the country gather in smaller vigils and observe moment
— Mother of Kittehs (@FeministaJones) August 10, 2014
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty, Twitter