October blog challenge - Day 17 - Random thoughts on hashtags ###

October blog challenge - Day 17 - Random thoughts on hashtags ###

So today's post is about hashtags, and a recent hashtag campaign that caught my attention - #metoo and here is what it is about:

 #metoo - If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote "Me too." as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.

This has been trending worldwide as women who have had those experiences are encouraged to stand in solidarity, as well as showing the magnitude of the problem (as the post suggests). This also reminded me of a recent hashtag that was trending in the Caribbean #lifeinleggings – and this too was being used to highlight the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault. When the #lifeinleggings started, I confided in a friend that I didn’t see the point of it all. I am a pretty action oriented person, and I didn’t understand what difference a hashtag could make in the real world where women were being taken advantage of. I pretty much said – call me when you are going to do something real.

I should also admit to being one of those old fogies who did not understand hashtags, and in fact I am still not sure that I understand them now, despite the fact that I use them without a second thought, even when I am sending texts!! But my current impression of them, is that they can be used to tie together the things that people post using them together under one theme. And then (or so I am told) you can do a search for it, and find everything that was posted using that hashtag. Perhaps if I was more into social media such as tweeting or instagramming then it might make more sense.

For these reasons, I wasn't totally moved by the #lifeinleggings campaign, although I did read the stories that my friends posted, under the hashtag. Now however, I have a different take on it – and it has to do with the power of community.

Have you ever felt or thought something and wondered if you were the only person to feel that way? It can actually be a pretty lonely place, and most people’s immediate follow up thoughts or feelings to this is one of embarrassment or shame. Interestingly enough, I think that this is one of the biggest reasons that people keep things to themselves, and this applies doubly when the thing is as personal (and sometimes taboo) as sexual harassment, but it applies to everything. People will carry things around inside of them for years, out of shame. I have definitely done this. And sometimes, all it takes is for someone else to have the courage to step up and speak about their experience. Somehow this can be the catalyst, the “permission” that a vulnerable, ashamed person needs to stand up and say “Me too”. For me this is the importance of hashtags like these ones, and some of the others that have been trending recently in relation to social issues. I am starting to think of the hashtag as creating a virtual community, which can allow people to give themselves that much needed permission to speak out, knowing that their voice is not going to be lost or drowned out, but instead will be added to the chorus of like minded persons with similar experiences.

I am still action oriented, but I can also see the importance of solidarity on such matters, hopefully as the first step to a more widespread change. In addition, if it causes persons to feel empowered to speak out, then it has achieved much. Perhaps one of these days, I will tell my story in full. But today, I simply state #metoo and stand in unity with those women everywhere.

Big love from a small island

PS this time of year brings out the autumn in me, so another one of my autumn shots from 2 year ago

Pps More on the hashtag at this link