Activists Use Web To Spread Feminist Message

By Golzar Meamar
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Twitter hashtag that popped up hours after the murderous rampage near the University of California at Santa Barbara a month ago has fueled a global response on social media about the victimization of women as well as a continuing debate about whether such Internet activism is helpful to the feminist movement.

The killings by Elliot Rodger on May 23 in the seaside college town of Isla Vista left six people dead and 13 injured before he apparently turned a gun on himself.

Before the rampage, the 22-year-old recorded a chilling video vowing a “day of retribution” against women who had sexually shunned him.

The incident ignited grass-roots campaigns across the Web, including the phrase #YesAllWomen on Twitter and the “When Women Refuse” Tumblr, which shared the stories of women who had been injured or killed by men whom they had rejected.

Some believe that social media has raised the voice of survivors and women across the country — including those in Pittsburgh — more than ever before.

“Part of the reason that the anti-rape movement is heating up in a way that we have never seen before on college campuses is in two ways,” said Caroline Heldman, chair of the political science department at Occidental College. “Survivor activists have been able to connect and social media has brought a voice to crimes that are usually silenced.”

But some local and national organizations and activists have expressed different reactions to the “hashtag activism” phenomena.

In her recent commencement address at Dartmouth College, TV producer Shonda Rhimes said, “A hashtag is not helping. Hashtags are very pretty on Twitter. … But a hashtag is not a movement. A hashtag does not make you Dr. King. A hashtag does not change anything. It’s a hashtag.”

Sophie Zucker, an outgoing senior and president of Mobilization of Resolute Feminists (MORF) at Carnegie Mellon University, similarly raised doubts about the effectiveness of the hashtag movement.

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