That’s a wrap!

For my final blog post of the semester, I want to take some time to wrap up and bring the previous eleven posts all together.

My blog started off discussing the evolution of social media and then moved to the development of the hashtag. With that basic knowledge acquired, I was able to move forward and closely examine eight significant, digital, social campaigns that have taken place in the past few years. If you haven’t had a chance to read through all eight yet, just follow the links below.




#WhyIStayed #WhyILeft





As I stated in my proposal, I specifically looked at these campaigns because of their overarching themes – sexuality, relationships, and gender roles. Although these are all individual stories and campaigns, they stand together to address similar causes: gender equality, women’s rights, self-confidence, gender roles, self-perception, and sexuality.

Throughout the course, Sexuality and Social Media, we have delved into countless conversations that aim to break the norm or the mainstream point of view. Whether we are looking at sexual assault on college campuses, abortion rights, or sexuality in the media, we are constantly examining why these norms have been developed and the opposing viewpoints would be.

I really enjoyed researching the ways in which social media has been able to help break these norms. If leaders like Emma Watson or Wendy Davis never spoke up, then hashtags like #HeForShe or #StandWithWendy would have never developed and the national conversation and perception around these issues would never change.

It is time to understand that we now live in a world where news and public opinion can be controlled by more than just the media and PR professionals. We all truly have a voice and although it is often limited to 140 characters or less, sometimes all you need is a hashtag.

Although an entire problem will not be fixed by Tweets and social shares, the most important development is that conversations change. For example, with #JadaPose and #CarryThatWeight, neither hashtag was able to change sexual assault as a whole but they both facilitated conversation and inspired action to take place across the country. They inspired other survivors to come forward and share their messages – a success and step forward that news outlets alone could not have achieved.

I hope you have found my blog informative and enlightening. I urge you to use hashtags if you do not already do so, and of course support the hashtags that are working towards a cause close to you.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my blog and left comments! I hope you will find a place to share this information or at the very least have gained a better sense of social sharing and the true impact a hashtag can have on a campaign.


To continue the conversation about sexual assault from my last post, I am now looking at a campaign that was inspired from one student’s bravery.

Emma Sulkowicz, now a senior at Columbia University, came forward this past spring about her experience of being sexually assaulted her sophomore year at Columbia. (Sulkowicz) Initially, Emma did not report the assault but when she met two other women who had been sexually assaulted by the same attacker, Emma knew she had to come forward. (Sulkowicz)

Emma and the two other girls quickly saw the flawed system that Columbia was using for sexual assault cases. Their hearings did not take place until seven months after reporting the incident and the panelists continuously questioned how the details of their story could be possible. (Sulkowicz) Emma found herself trying to retell this terrible story, while simultaneously having to educate the panelists and Columbia faculty on sexual assault. (Sulkowicz) Follow this link for Emma’s full story and video.

Emma’s rapist was ultimately found guilty. (Sulkowicz) Although Emma appealed this decision, the appeal was sent to the Dean – another faculty member not trained or educated in sexual assault care. (Sulkowicz) Emma admits that universities, including Columbia, feel pressured to find these students not guilty so they can push it all under the rug. (Sulkowicz) If they took the time to facilitate a thorough investigation and truly understand the campus culture, then they would have to admit that they are harboring these serial rapists. (Sulkowicz) The sad reality is that universities are more focused on their public image than keeping people safe. (Sulkowicz)

Although Columbia may have tried to silence this incident, Emma would not give up that easily. She vowed to drag her dorm room mattress around campus until Columbia expelled her rapist. (Taylor) This act was meant to make a point while also being a part of a performance art piece she called “Carry That Weight/Mattress Performance.” (Taylor)

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Emma’s story and mattress statement quickly spread throughout the country. (Taylor) Unfortunately, Emma’s story is not unlike many other college students. For this reason her message resonated with numerous campuses and as a result a Facebook group called “Carrying the Weight Together” was created. (Taylor) In this group, students from all over the country shared photos of people holding up mattresses and showing solidarity on their campuses. (Taylor)

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When Emma began carrying around her mattress as a powerful visual symbol for her art project, she would have never imagined the support and feedback she would receive. (Taylor)

“It just really took off! I think a lot of other people felt a pretty deep connection to the symbolism and to the message of her piece,” Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, one of the activists on campus who’s organizing alongside Rickard, told ThinkProgress. “We decided that we should do something strategic with that, and make this a moment where we really channel this energy and passion into a collective national day of action.” (Culp-Ressler)

October 29, 2014 marked a national day of action, encouraging students and faculty members to carry a mattress together to support survivors of sexual and domestic violence. Leading up to the day of action and throughout October 29th, supporters used #CarryThatWeight to share their campus’s messages and photos.

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This movement and hashtag could not have come at a better time, as the discussion of sexual assault on college campuses has been dominating the media in the past few months. (Culp-Ressler)

Emma Sulkowicz had the courage to stand up for herself and face an administration that was less than understanding to her case. She made a negative situation, a bit more positive by sharing her story and making a powerful statement through a simple action. Her voice and actions gave other survivors and college campuses the power to make their stand.

#CarryTheWeight united their messages and brought colleges together on the national day of action. Although the conversation around sexual assault is not over, Emma and all the supporters of #CarryTheWeight have allowed universities to take positive steps forward.

As this wraps up my specific hashtag analysis, take a look at my next post that explains the psychology behind social sharing and why all these hashtags have been so successful.


Works Cited:

Culp-Ressler, Tara. “Columbia Student’s Mattress Protest Has Sparked A National Movement.” Think Progress. N.p., 29 Oct. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <;.

Sulkowicz, Emma. “My Rapist Is Still on Campus.” TIME. N.p., 15 May 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <;.

Taylor, Victoria. “Columbia student carrying mattress on campus brings attention to anti-sexual assault movement.” Daily News. N.p., 22 Sept. 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <;.


In my past blog posts I have looked at how hashtags can create positive change and bring about awareness. As we have seen through these examples, hashtags do have the power to reach the masses. But what happens when a hashtag is used negatively?

Jada, a sixteen-year-old girl from Houston, Texas knows this reality better than she should. In June of this year, Jada attended a party with some of her friends. (Stewart) She explains that she was not initially drinking because the drinks were “too strong.” (Stewart) In response, one of the boys at the party took her drink and added something to it, which was when Jada and her friends decided to start drinking. (Stewart) From there Jada passed out and admits that she does not remember much prior to that and remembers nothing from the remainder of the night. (Stewart)

When Jada got home the next day she realized her underwear was on backwards and she had a bruise under her eye. (Matthews) When she asked her friends what had happened they all brushed it off and made it seem like it was not a big deal. (Matthews) Several days later, one of Jada’s friends sent her a screenshot of a picture from the party where Jada was photographed passed out and naked. (Matthews)

Photos and videos of Jada lying unconscious at the party quickly swept across Twitter and Instagram, accompanied by #JadaPose. (Matthews) Even people who were not at the party or knew Jada personally were using the hashtag with photos of themselves mimicking Jada’s position. (Matthews)

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This event was devastating to Jada and her family and was worsened by the social media coverage. This did not silence Jada for long, however. Jade spoke out on numerous talk shows and news stations to share the truth about that night. (Bates) Jada also created her own hashtag and a new pose, “one that she says better captures who and what she is: strong.” #IamJada (Bates)

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Jada spoke out and explained in an interview, “There’s no point in hiding, everybody has already seen my face and my body, but that’s not what I am and who I am.” (Stewart) By Jada coming forward and standing up for herself, made it more difficult for people to marginalize and demonize her. (Marcotte) It also showed Jada that there are people out there who support her and condemn the behavior and reactions of those using #JadaPose. (Marcotte)

Although Jada was able to come forward and share the truth about her sexual assault experience, #JadaPose is a perfect example of the double-edged sword that social media can sometimes be. (Marcotte) Social media is often a blessing and a curse. We can share nearly any and all information we want and we can do so in real time. (Marcotte)

When working on campaigns such as He For She, Free The Nipple, or Bring Back Our Girls, this aspect of social media can work in our favor. For Jada, social media made an already horrific event even worse. Jada’s strength to standup for herself and create a new post, more representative of her true self, is inspiring and shows just how powerful a single voice and hashtag can become.

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For my final hashtag examination, my next post discusses another sexual assault case and the way this hashtag gave women across the country a voice and way to take action.


Works Cited:

Bates, Laura. “#JadaPose: the online ridiculing of a teen victim is part of a sickening trend.” The Guardian. N.p., 17 July 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <;.

Marcotte, Amanda. “The Double-Edged Sword of Social Media After an Alleged Sexual Assault.” Slate. N.p., 10 July 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <;.

Matthews, Cate. “Her Alleged Rape Went Viral, But This Defiant 16-Year-Old Is Taking Control Of The Conversation.” The Huffington Post. N.p., 15 July 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <;.

Stewart, Alicia. “#IamJada: When abuse becomes a teen meme.” CNN. N.p., 18 July 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. <;.


As I continue to look at examples of the power of hashtags, I draw my attention to not only movements for social change, but movements that rise up due to current events. Earlier this year in mid-April, over 200 Nigerian adolescent school girls were abducted by Boko Haram militants. (Mukasa)

This event was an act of violent terrorism and struck the heart of families and communities in Nigeria. (Mukasa) It is likely that these girls would be sold as sex slaves and condemned to a life of unspeakable abuse and horror. (Mukasa)

In response to this horrific news, outside governments, including the United States, pledged their support in the search for the girls. (Mukasa) “As global leaders and citizens we all must act to protect women and girls from such terrible human rights abuses in the future.” (Mukasa)

As the world looked for a way to help in this time of crisis, a hashtag exploded all over social media. (Morse) #BringBackOurGirls was created in a desire to reunite the 200 Nigerian girls with their families. (Morse) Below you can see just a handful of celebrities who publicly displayed their support for the girls and the campaign.

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The growth of this hashtag became so significant because of the lack of news coverage around the girls’ kidnap. (Morse) It is a sad reality to face, but many news outlets did not cover the event for very long due to the media’s perception of what they thought their audience wanted to hear about. (Morse) Many argued “if these children were white European girls, countries would do something.” (Morse) Humanity tends to care about things they can imagine happening to themselves and because this event occurred in a very removed culture and country from our own society, the media did not see a strong demand to cover the story initially. (Morse)

Thankfully, citizens spoke up and began campaigning to bring the girls home. (Morse) Plenty of other tragedies have occurred in Nigeria and throughout the world that have not promted hashtag campaigns, but with enough determination, online word-of-mouth can spread a message like wildfire. (Morse)

As this issue became a passionate call for action, many argued that #BringBackOurGirls was not enough. (Morse) As the most powerful country in the world, holding up a sign with a concerned face was not a sufficient response for the United States. (Morse) This was the first step in creating awareness and getting people to talk, but was not a solution. (Morse) “We, the people, use a hashtag because we don’t have the power that these leaders have. I want influential people to act, not update their status.” (Morse)

This campaign was successful in many ways but also addresses how easy it can be to spread inaccurate information. (Morse) In the midst of this campaign, Chris Brown tweeted a photograph (seen below)of a girl, Jenabu Balde, with #BringBackOurGirls at the bottom. (Morse) The issue here was that the girl in the photograph was from Guinea Bissou, a country more than 1,000 miles away from Nigeria. (Morse) The photo had been taken back in 2000 and had no relation to the kidnappings in Nigeria. (Morse) Unfortunately this was not discovered until after Chris Brown tweeted the image, as well as being shared by the US Embassy in Madrid, Kim Kardashian, and global girls rights activist, Betty Makoni. (Morse)

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Although these mistakes are made and have become more common with the advancement of real-time sharing and news, hashtags not only spread a message but tell the media and politicians what the public cares about. (Morse) This feedback influences the news we receive and what politicians then believe is the most important topics to focus on, as they want to please the public and keep up with public opinion. (Morse)

My next post examines another hashtag that aimed to achieve justice here in the United States.


Works Cited:

Morse, Felicity. “The Bring Back Our Girls Campaign Is Working: Boko Haram Should Be Scared of a Hashtag.” The Independent. N.p., 13 May 2014. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <;.

Mukasa, Stella. “Nigerian Tragedy Underlines the Urgency of IVAWA.” International Center for Research on Women. N.p., May 2014. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <;.


My last post examined the use of hashtags to share domestic violence stories after the reveal of the footage showing Ray Rice abusing his fiancee. This post will be a much lighter topic but still focused on a campaign working to empower women across the globe.

Coming to your On Demand channels and iTunes stores this December is a film titled Free The Nipple, directed by Lina Esco. (Duberman) Free The Nipple has developed as an equality movement, while also promoting the premier of the film. (Duberman) The movement stands against female oppression and censorship.(“What Is Free The Nipple?”) It remains illegal for women to be topless in 35 states throughout America, including when breastfeeding. (“What Is Free The Nipple?”) In some states, exposing your nipple can result in up to three years in jail and a fine of $2,500. (“What Is Free The Nipple?”) Free The Nipple is working “to change these inequalities through film, social media, and a grassroots campaign.” (“What Is Free The Nipple?”)


A large aspect of this campaign is working to promote the upcoming film, Free The Nipple, which is inspired by true events. (“What Is Free The Nipple?”) The film follows a group of young women who take the streets of New York City topless to protest the archaic censorship laws in the United States. (“What Is Free The Nipple?”) Through publicity stunts and graffiti installations, the women make a statement throughout the city, while armed with First Amendment lawyers. (“What Is Free The Nipple?”)

The campaign explains that the film’s goal is to explore “the contradictions in our media-dominated society, where acts of violence and killing are glorified, while images of a woman’s body are censored by the FCC and the MPAA. What is more obscene: Violence or a nipple?” (“What Is Free The Nipple?”) Below you can see the official trailer for the upcoming film.

The film, Free The Nipple, was not just made for entertainment or a short-term conversation. Free The Nipple has become a “real-life” equality movement, with the support of influencers such as Miley Cyrus, Liv Tyler, and Lena Dunham. (“What Is Free The Nipple?”) Free the Nipple has become a national conversation and #FreeTheNipple has gone viral. (“What Is Free The Nipple?”)


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Much like other topics I have discussed on this blog, such as the He For She campaign, Free the Nipple is not just an effort for women. This campaign has to do with equal rights for men and women and creating a more balanced system of censorship – changes which need the support of men and women to be successful.

Society has had the power to decide how women’s bodies should be perceived. (Duberman) Free The Nipple aims to deviate from these norms and show that women deserve the same right to self-expression  just as much as men do. (Duberman) The media has over sexualized women for countless years and as a result has created a stigma around nipples. (Duberman) For a woman to expose their nipples, society perceives this act as salacious and scandalous, when in fact it is freedom of expression and could even be an act as simple as breastfeeding. (Duberman)

By using #FreeTheNipple, the women behind this campaign have been able to successfully promote their film, while also raising awareness around this issue by creating provocative and attention-grabbing merchandise and advertisements.


The campaigns just keep coming! Check out my next post about the hashtag that aimed to bring over 200 girls home.


Works Cited:

Duberman, Amanda. “Free The Nipple Trailer Shows Women Fighting for Equality Through The Right To Bare Chests.” The Huffington Post. N.p., 21 Nov. 2014. Web. 6 Nov. 2014. <;.

“What Is Free The Nipple?” Free The Nipple. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Nov. 2014. <;.

#WhyIStayed #WhyILeft

In my last few blog posts, I have examined several issues around gender roles and stereotypes, including equal rights, abortion rights, and defining beauty. Today I will be discussing an issue that is familiar to us all, some more personally than others. This issue is an international one: domestic violence.

This past September, TMZ released a video showing Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, out cold with a single punch. (Jeltsen) The couple was seen having this altercation in the elevator of the Revel Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City earlier this year. (Jeltsen)

Both Rice and Palmer were arrested on simple assault charges following the event. (Jeltsen) The NFL came forward claiming they had never seen the video prior to TMZ releasing it in September but were called to take appropriate action. (Jeltsen) The video depicted the graphic interaction of Rice dragging Palmer’s unconscious body out of the elevator. (Jeltsen) You can see the full video below.

The NFL came forward and suspended Ray Rice for two regular season games, leading to an outcry of negative backlash to what was seen as a lenient punishment. (Jeltsen) In response, the NFL announced stricter domestic violence penalties in August. (Jeltsen) NFL commissioner, Rodger Goodell, came forward regarding the NFL’s initial poor judgment stating, “My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families,” he wrote. “I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values. I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.” (Jeltsen)

As the NFL came forward regarding this incident, the public questioned why Janay Palmer (now Rice’s wife) would remain in a relationship with Rice. (Grinberg) People expressed their opinions and offered answers via Twitter. (Grinberg) In little time, the social media platform was flooded with stories. (Grinberg) This outpouring was collected under two hashtags, #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft. (Grinberg)

Beverly Gooden, a writer and domestic abuse survivor, started the campaign #WhyIStayed in September because she wanted to “change the tone of the conversation.” (Grinberg) Gooden explained that she married her husband after he hit her because she loved him and wanted to “protect” him. (Grinberg) “I was thinking about him and not myself, and I think that’s the story of a lot of people out there,” she said. (Grinberg)

On Gooden’s website, she explains her reasoning for starting this campaign and what she hoped others would gain. “I believe in storytelling. I believe in the power of shared experience. I believe that we find strength in community. That is why I created this hashtag. I hope those tweeting using #WhyIStayed find a voice, find love, find compassion, and find hope.” (Gooden)

Gooden initiated this campaign on the Monday Ray Rice’s video leaked and by that Tuesday the hashtag had already been used more than 46,000 times. (Grinberg) The popular use of this hashtag showed that there are people who have experienced the same type of relationships and how and why they left. (Grinberg)

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As #WhyIStayed continued to grow, people began sharing why they left (#WhyILeft) their abusive relationships. (Grinberg) This added dimension to the conversation and instead of just focusing on creating awareness, the campaign was now providing solutions and strategies. (Grinberg)

Feminist and media critic, Jill Filipovic explained, “The power of this hashtag is that abuse survivors volunteered the answer to the ‘why did she stay?’ question so that, hopefully, friends and family members of other survivors won’t have to ask they can just provide support.” (Grinberg)

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This campaign was successful in sparking conversation and providing empowering stories and support. Ray Rice and Janay Palmer did continue with their plans for marriage and were very upset when this story resurfaced in September. (Grinberg) With the reveal of the video, Janay posted this response on her Instagram page. (Grinberg)

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Although the release of this video brought back bad memories for Rice and Palmer, it initiated a conversation that helped many to reflect, learn, and possibly change their lives.

For a somewhat lighter topic, take a minute to read my next post about the striking campaign, Free The Nipple!

#WhyIStayed #WhyILeft

Works Cited:

Gooden, Beverly. “Why I Created the #WhyIStayed Twitter Hashtag.” Beverly Gooden. N.p., 8 Sept. 2014. Web. 4 Nov. 2014. <;.

Grinberg, Emanuella. “Meredith Vieira explains #WhyIStayed.” CNN. N.p., 17 Sept. 2014. Web. 4 Nov. 2014. <;.

Jeltsen, Melissa. “Horrific Footage Of Ray Rice Punching Then-Fiancée Released.” The Huffington Post. N.p., 8 Sept. 2014. Web. 4 Nov. 2014. <;.