2015’s best hashtags for social justice

2015 saw the creation of many hashtags that gave way to fruitful campaigns, targeting a wide range of issues such as racism, sexism and rape culture. These are some of my favourites in no particular order.

By Trecia Makhubele
  1. #FeesMustFall

This student-led campaign is the biggest protest to have come out of South Africa in 2015. The campaign was a response to the annual increase in University fees, which many students felt was unaffordable. Students from universities across South Africa used the hashtag #FeesMustFall to organize protests in their respective universities and the protests quickly gained momentum.

While fees did not fall when protest action ended, the campaign brought about small victories such as  securing a 0% increase in university fees and drawing attention to the ways in which universities marginalize poor students. In some universities, the #FeesMustFall campaign was accompanied by a call for universities to end to outsourcing. Many who participated in the #FeesMustFall campaign have expressed that the next step is to secure free tertiary education for poor students.


#FeesMustFall demonstrations in Pretoria. Image by Paul Saad (CC)

2. #FreeTheNipple

Inspired by Lina Esco’s film that carries the same name, the #FreeTheNipple campaign is a fight against sexism and the constant sexualisation/objectification of women’s bodies. While the campaign has been around for quite some time, it gained momentum internationally in 2015 when Bruce Willis’ daughter, Scout took to the street of Manhattan’s East Village topless to raise awareness for the campaign.

3. #SayHerName

The  #SayHerName movement is the African American Policy Forum’s response to the increasing police violence against Black women in the USA. The campaign documents stories of Black women who have been killed by police, shining a spotlight on the police brutality experienced disproportionately by women of color. Through ensuring that their stories remain alive and ensuring that their perpetrators are held accountable, the #SayHerName campaign has helped bring justice for victims of police brutality.

4. #NotGuilty

Many victims of rape often find it difficult to speak out due to the common practice of victim-blaming. Women who speak out about being raped are often met with insensitive and problematic questions such as; “Why did you allow him to buy you drinks in the first place?”, “What were you doing out so late at night” and “Don’t you think your dress was a little revealing?”. Such questions wrongly shift the blame of rape from perpetrators to victims.

The #NotGuilty movement aims to create a society where victims of rape and assault can access all the help they need without being made to feel like they were in the wrong or being ostracized for choosing to speak out. The movement saw rape and assault victims from all walks of life speaking out and sharing their experiences. Among these stories are message of hope and offers to provide support to those who have been in similar positions. Although society still has a long way to go in ending rape culture, campaigns like #NotGuilty are crucial to get us closer to reaching this goal.

  1. #ShoutYourAbortion

Having started late September the Shout Your Abortion campaigns provide a people-centered approach to the pro-choice campaign on abortion. The campaign began as a response to anti-choice campaigns in the US. The campaign was used by people who had abortions talking about their experiences and helped to decrease the stigma around having an abortion.

In 2016, we hope to see more campaigns which advocate for equality on social media, as well campaigns which take these movements further, offline.


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