Image from Kindle, an online magazine from Kolkata, India. It comes from the article #Hashing It Out: Democracy and Discourse in Twitterverse by Koli Mitra (October 2, 2013)
According to the ACRL WGSS website, our section “was formed to discuss, promote, and support women’s studies collections and services in academic and research libraries.” I agree with this statement, but… I posit that while library collections and services in academic and research libraries are the primary concerns of the section, they will be only as good as the broader understanding and awareness of academic and research librarians. As an academic librarian, I propose that our primary objective should be grounded in matters occurring in the world outside of academia. The relevance of our library programs and collections depend on how well we understand the events, issues, and matters being discussed outside of the ivory tower. As the mediation of social media is drastically and dramatically transforming social interactions, we can witness global-scale discussion of matters relevant to women and gender studies. Our collections and services will greatly benefit from understanding these social actions and calls for change through hashtag activism.
Many of you, dear readers, may already be aware of these hashtags I introduce below. If not, I invite you to investigate and read about them, from different corners of social media, such as Twitter and Tumblr.
Created by Noorulann Shahid earlier in 2014, the hashtag #LifeOfAMuslimFeminist gathers the assertions, questions, and concerns prevalent in the intersections between feminism and faithful Muslim living. Complexities of female oppression and liberation, religious practice, and racial issues are laid bare for all to discuss and ponder. The hashtag and the feminist views expressed through it are more powerful when considered along with the actions of Ukrainian feminist activist group Femen and their well-known topless protests against the oppression of Muslim women. Femen’s protesters have been inviting Muslim women to bare all using slogans such as “Muslim women, let’s get naked!” and “Islam = Oppression,” in effect equating female nakedness with liberation. Femen’s actions present an extreme point-of-view that does not sit well with many. Femen stages protests against various political and religious events and institutions that it deems oppressive to women, not just against Islam.
Shahid is currently a behavioral economics postgraduate student at the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom.
Some resources to explore:
32 Powerful And Brutally Honest Tweets from #LifeOfAMuslimFeminist (BuzzFeed, Jan. 10, 2014):
Why I Created the #LifeOfAMuslimFeminist Hashtag (HuffPost Students UK, Feb. 6, 2014): http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/noorulann-shahid/muslim-feminism_b_4730882.html
Noorulann Shahid’s WordPress blog: http://noorulannshahid.wordpress.com
#LifeofaMuslimFeminist by Nadia Kalifa (Loyola Marymount University, First-Gen Voices: Creative and Critical Narratives on the First-Generation College Experience, Vol. 1, Issue 1, 2014): http://digitalcommons.lmu.edu/fgv/vol1/iss1/15/
On April 14, 2014, armed militants in Chibok, Nigeria, roused 230 high school girls from their sleep in a boarding school and forcefully took them away. The militants razed the school to the ground before leaving with the children. This is not the first incident of child kidnapping in Nigeria’s corner of the world. From the hashtag #BringBackOurDaughters, started by a group of relatives of the kidnapped children, came the global #BringBackOurGirls. While many have commended the hashtag activism of the #BringBackOurGirls movement, others have also provided criticism. Though the criticism may be legitimate, the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls has certainly raised awareness to the continuing insurgency, warfare, and child enslavement plaguing Nigeria.
Some resources to explore:
#BringBackOurGirls and the Trouble With Hashtag Diplomacy (Daily Maverick, Johannesburg, South Africa, May 20, 2014):
#BringBackOurGirls Misses the Real Story About What’s Happening to Nigeria’s Boys (PolicyMic, May 21, 2014):
Fear and Determination for Nigerians at Heart of #BringBackOurGirls (LATimes.com, May 22, 2014): http://www.latimes.com/world/africa/la-fg-nigeria-girls-20140522-story.html
BringBackOurGirls: Why U.S. Parents Should Care (GoEerie.com, May 22, 2014): http://www.goerie.com/article/20140522/LIFESTYLES21/305229996/Bringbackourgirls%3A-Why-US-parents-should-care
U.S. Troops Have Been Deployed Near Nigeria to Help #BringBackOurGirls (The Week, May 22, 2014):
On May 23, 2014, a male student of Santa Barbara City College opened fire at a deli in Isla Vista, California, near the University of California, Santa Barbara campus. In total, 7 people have died, including the shooter, Elliott Rodger, and 13 others are injured. Rodger intended to commit mass murder in response to the frustration and dejection he experienced at being rejected by women he found sexually attractive. In response to the blatant misogyny evident in Rodger’s declaration (linked below), the Twitterverse responded with the #YesAllWomen hashtag, sparking a global conversation about violence against women, sexual politics, and misogyny. As of the writing of this post, May 26, 2014, the hashtag is still trending.
Some resources to explore:
The Manifesto of Elliott Rodger (NYTimes.com, May 25,2014):
#YesAllWomen Shows That Misogyny Is Everyone’s Problem (TechCrunch blog, May 26, 2014):
How the #YesAllWomen Hashtag Began (Mashable, May 26, 2014): http://mashable.com/2014/05/26/yesallwomen-hashtag
Many people have derided the use of hashtags to further social and political positions, giving the practice the derogatory term “slacktivism.” I think such an opinion is short-sighted and stems from positions lacking understanding and appreciation for the role of social media in modern life.
Of course, hashtag activism is by no means perfect. It should not replace face-to-face advocacy, outreach, education, or skeptical inquiry and scholarly study. However, social media affords us with unprecedented communication and organizing power. While continuing collection of scholarly resources of women’s and gender issues is the main charge of our work as subject and area studies librarians, we should be aware of the trends happening in the digital realm. Social media has become a significant platform for protest, discussion and inquiry. As we are all actors and citizens of the social world, our mindfulness of the trends taking place online are fodder for the ongoing scholarship of our students, our faculty colleagues and ourselves.
I invite you, dear readers, to explore the world of digital culture and hashtag activism. There’s a lot there to see and learn.