We have all seen them – those viral campaigns exhorting us to re-tweet, copy something or other to our Facebook profile. Hell, even the old “forward this email to everyone you know to save a little child with leukaemia”.
#StopKony was an amazingly successful campaign. I only say that because it seems the aim was to have as many people as possible re-tweet it. Not actual awareness, not anything constructive, just proliferation of one person’s view. Compare this to #ididnotreport and #ididreport how they started as a response to #webelieveyou and became something devastating in its honesty, empowering in its shared strength and pain, and has the potential to truly blow people’s minds.
OK – you got me – I am biased to fuck, but these two threads – they are just worlds apart.
For those who don’t know, #StopKony was a campaign where a 30 minute movie was being spread to raise awareness of a very bad man from Uganda who was kidnapping children and forcing them to fight his own private war. He is guilty of many things and one of the “most wanted” international war criminals. Sounds worthy doesn’t it? I was taken in at first.
But then things start to sink in. Where were the Ugandans? Why was there a nice white baby reaching out to grab a picture of the big bad black man? Who are Invisible Children and why are they doing this now? What are they really raising money for? What use is it in simply blindly re-tweeting?
But Ugandans were able to make themselves heard above the din of seemingly well-meaning Western folk clamouring for “justice”. But it is bloody hard to find because the online world continues to be taken over by western folk like me.
#ididnotreport and #ididreport were more organic and stemmed from a campaign started by London Feminist - it was an adjunct to the #webelieveyou campaign to give support to abuse survivors, Unlike Kony, this was something where the tweeters has a direct personal interest – they were sharing their stories, their pain and horror.
And while Kony has kinda done its dash, #webelieveyou, #ididreport and #ididnotreport are still going strong. It spurred some wonderful people to providing an anonymous forum – people who felt they could not share their stories using their twitter account were invited to anonymously share their story for it to be posted by proxy.
I wrote an #ididnotreport tweet and then I deleted it. Says it all really.
What this tells me (as if I didn’t already know it) is that there is a whole world of invisible people. People for whom abuse is a reality, a daily fact of life, one in which they are made to feel as if they are to blame, one in which they go on trial as much (if not more than) the offender. One in which society questions their motives.
I had no idea how powerful that would be. I had imagined that it was predominantly low-level street harassment which was not reported, but it wasn’t just this sort of abuse, that came up on that hashtag. Far more serious attacks go unreported.
Society, language, mainstream reporting – it all works against the people who are abused. One of the classic examples was my fight on the Stuff article on the “dangerous alleyway“, compared to the article on the man who was attacked in Lower Hutt, and then the Times of India article about women not being allowed to work after 8:00pm because they might be raped.
Some MSM stories on this (my Google search returned the vile SMH as the first result) where people criticise the hashtag and those who did not report it – and wonder why they didn’t.
And people still try to argue there is no culture of victim-blaming.