Kathryn Lindsay
March 23, 2016 12:18 pm
SAUL LOEB/Getty Images

Today, the Supreme Court convenes to address whether the requirement that employers providing free birth control under The Affordable Care Act is a violation of their religious freedom. As the decision looms, users have taken to Twitter using the hashtag #HandsOffMyBC to express the necessity of this coverage.

#HandsOffMyBC is just one of many hashtags over the years that people have used online to start a conversation about domestic violence, mental health, street harassment, racism, or sexism. Even if the events prompting the hashtag are long passed, these hashtags are very much alive on social media as long as people continue to use them as symbol of the continuing movements.

For those of us looking to get more involved in social justice issues over social media, here are 9 other meaningful hashtags everyone should know about. 

1. #EverydaySexism

The Everyday Sexism Project documents instances of sexism in run-of-the-mill situations to raise awareness of just how prevalent and ingrained these attitudes are in our society. By hashtagging any tweet or post about an instance of sexism you or someone else has faced, you’re contributing to the project and adding to ever-growing list of reasons why this kind of activism is so important.

2. #OscarsSoWhite

Broadway Black managing editor April Reign started the iconic hashtag after the 2016 Oscars nominees were announced. “I was disappointed and frustrated once again with the lack of marginalized community that was represented,” she told HelloGiggles over the phone.

“I think the advent of social media makes it easier to galvanize around an issue, and when you’re moving beyond social media, it’s something very quick and easy to understand,” she continued. #OscarsSoWhite is the perfect example of this, as the movement appeared not just on our Twitter feeds but on TV and in print media.

Although the hashtag was inspired by the Academy Awards, it has a life well beyond Oscar season, inspiring companies like Warner Bros. and the Academy as well as people like JJ Abrams to take steps towards being more inclusive in their work. It’s also inspired similar hashtags, including #JournalismSoWhite and #BrooklynSoWhite, about gentrification.

3. #TalkingAboutIt

“One day in December, my anxiety was so terrible that I couldn’t get out of bed — the thought of leaving my bed, let alone my apartment, was too overwhelming,” Sammy Nickalls, HelloGiggles staff writer and creator of #TalkingAboutIt, explained. “I then saw a tweet from a friend who was sort of joke-complaining about a cold she had that had knocked her off her feet, and that she was planning on watching Netflix all day. I suddenly realized . . . why can’t we talk about our mental health that way?”

The hashtag took off, she thinks, because it touches on subjects with which many people deal with but seldom discuss publicly.

“#TalkingAboutIt represents the importance of opening up about our mental health to shed light on the fact that everyone struggles with their mental health at some point — whether it’s due to a condition like depression or anxiety, or whether it’s situational after a difficult obstacle.”

4. #NotSmiling

Writer Lauren Duca hopes that, while #NotSmiling is just getting on its feet, it becomes a safe space for women to discuss street harassment.

“I was walking out of Port Authority when I realized the man who was yelling through the bus station was yelling at me,” she told us over email about the night she decided to start the movement. “From 15-feet away, he told me that I need to ‘respect myself’ and said I was ‘showing too much.'”

She tweeted about this moment, and #NotSmiling was born.

“There are awesome options for feminist discussion like #EverydaySexism — which is great, by the way! — though the generalization sometimes disperses focus a bit too much,” she explained. “Street harassment is such an ever-present, enduring problem that personifies an arm of rape culture which we should spend more time discussing. It’s not a trending topic pegged to a viral video. It’s something most women experience every single day, and sometimes it can help to have a place to put those experiences.”

5. #BlackLivesMatter

Started by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag now dominates our conversations about police brutality and racial justice. What began as an online movement now represents a fundamental discussion in today’s politics and the hashtag continues to advocate for not just awareness but, more importantly, change. 

6. #BlackOutDay

#BlackOutDay celebrates blackness in all its forms. “It’s time we got fed up with constantly being surrounded by the idea that white faces and bodies were the epitome of beauty,” the The Blackout website reads. “T’von(expect-the-greatest) suggested that there be a day on Tumblr, within the black tumblr user population, where we like and reblog selfies of each other and fill our dashboards with encouragement.”

Since then, the movement has spread to all forms of social media, creating spaces to celebrate “the many different manifestations and nuances of blackness.”

7. #YesAllWomen

#YesAllWomen formed in response to the hashtag #NotAllMen, under the premise that while not all men are perpetrators of sexual violence and sexism, all women experience it. It acts as a reminder that people who claim “not all men are like that!” derail the conversation from the issue at hand.

8. #WhyIStayed

Beverly Gooden’s #WhyIStayed represents “a moment when people, regardless of gender, sexuality, or ethnicity, shifted the direction of the discussion about relationship violence,” she told HelloGiggles. “It’s unique because survivors hadn’t collectively had that sort of power before. Individually, we’d share our stories and reasons for staying in an abusive relationship, but at that moment, we were one powerful voice. And, we found each other on a forum with millions of people. We found each other and we found hope.”

However, she didn’t start #WhyIStayed with the intention of making it go viral — that just happened.

“I first tweeted the hashtag as part of a conversation between me and two other survivors the day that the Ray Rice video was released,” she remembers. “We were sharing our personal stories, and I ended my tweet with #WhyIStayed. I felt so strongly about those three words in relation to the public response to Janay Rice, that I shared more reasons for staying in an abusive relationship. This wasn’t the first time I spoke out about the topic but this was the first time I gave it a hashtag, and that seems to have made all the difference.”

9. #BiracialLooksLike

The Toast writer Jaya Saxena is biracial, but frustrated that people don’t seem to understand that “there’s not one way for a mixed race person to look.” So she started #BiracialLooksLike as “a space where people were welcomed to identify as all, both, everything they are.”

As she explained to HelloGiggles over email:

Are there other hashtags that we forgot to include? Let us know in the comments!

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