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MeToo hashtag unites thousands through social media

Viral awareness campaign recognizes victims of sexual assault

MeToo hashtag artwork by artist Susi Milne to promote the MeToo Rally, organized by March On Vancouver, happening on Nov. 4 at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
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Reported by Lindsey Lloyd

As the #MeToo movement continues to grow online, one sociologist said hashtags may not be enough.

The social media campaign arose to recognize sexual assault victims in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and is similar to campaigns such as Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street.

Samantha Monckton, organizer with March On Vancouver, believes the online campaign is effective because it “resonated” with the high number of women who have been sexually harassed.

“I think it helps to pick it up,” Monckton said of social media’s role in popularizing activism campaigns. “Maybe we can actually make huge changes. That’s what we did at the women’s march [last January], maybe it wasn’t a hashtag but that was still an ass-kicking movement that helped.”

Social media as a campaigning platform

Monckton uses social media to reach out to people to organize similar social movements across Canada. She is one of the organizers of a Me Too rally on Nov. 4 at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

By contrast, Peyman Vahabzadeh, professor of sociology at the University of Victoria, said although he agrees that social media can create awareness, the impact of online activism on changing social norms will only last if people act in the streets, too.

“Social media has had, to a great extent, a negative impact on participatory movements,” contended Vahabzadeh, attributing it to ‘slacktivism,’ a term he used to describe the lack of motivation to take concrete action against what somes deem societal ills.

“You can’t defy the law through your Facebook account,” Vahabzadeh said.

“You have to participate. You have to invest concrete days and hours and life and energy…not digital.”

Awareness continues

Francesca Colyer, who attended the Vancouver Women’s March in January, does not usually protest, but was inspired after seeing its scale on Facebook.

“I definitely have liked things online or been part of [Facebook] groups that I didn’t take action on.”

Read our related story here.

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