Twitter has long been home to powerful discussions about women’s rights and the issues that affect women around the world on a daily basis. Here in Canada, a variety of powerful voices have emerged on Twitter in recent years, asking the right questions and providing insights and answers about safety, opportunity and equality in our global culture.
The #UseTheRightWords movement is a prime example how cultural leaders are using Twitter to have real impact on many of the key issues that women face everyday. In efforts to shift the conversation on how media and observers talk about sexual violence online, people on Twitter began “correct” Tweets on these topics with more appropriate words.
#UseTheRightWords was created by femifesto (@femifesto), a Toronto-based, feminist organization that works to shift rape culture to consent culture. Its main project to date has been creating Use the Right Words: Media Reporting on Sexual Violence in Canada, a free guide for journalists when reporting on sexual violence.
@femifesto also provides education, training and research on gender-based violence including building consent culture, addressing rape culture, and media reporting.
On March 24, 2017, Twitter Canada hosted the inaugural #UseTheRightWords Reporting on Sexual Violence Awards. Attendees from across Canada media, government and policy were on hand watch as leading #UseTheRightWords voices were recognized for their efforts.
From the awards’ event page: “Over the past year there has been an unprecedented focus on sexual violence in the media. From the Ghomeshi trial, Murder and Missing Indigenous Women, to campus sexual assault there is a strong interest from the public to have a dialogue on this important issue. The Canadian media has a powerful role in shaping conversations about sexual violence and influencing the way people think about the issue. The awards are an opportunity to celebrate insightful and challenging media reporting on sexual violence in the past year.”
The Use the Right Awards included five categories on reporting on sexual violence during 2016:
Super Sleuth: Best Investigative Article - ‘Who Killed Alberta Williams?’ podcast by Connie Walker (@connie_walker) and Marnie Luke, CBC (@CBCNews)
Survivors Know Best: Best First Person Narrative - Pieces from four leading Canadian publications (see below)
We Begin by Listening: Best Interview - ‘Ghomeshi trial sparks debate about treatment of sexual assault complainants’ by The Current (@TheCurrentCBC)
Desk Flip: Worst Overall Media - ‘Treating women like victims is not the answer’ by Rosie Dimanno (@RDiManno), Toronto Star (@TorontoStar)
We Revolt at Dawn: Best Overall Media - ‘Rape Culture Is Surveillance Culture’ by Scaachi Koul (@Scaachi), BuzzFeed Canada (@BuzzFeedCanada)
The awards were organized by femifesto, the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (@OCTEVAW), Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education at Ryerson University (@RyersonU) and the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres.
#UseTheRightWords is not the only hashtag that has emerged in recent months within conversations about sexual violence and women’s rights. Twitter is also home to many other conversations and hashtags that address issues of importance to women in Canada and beyond.
Building off the popularity of hashtags like #IdleNoMore, #MMIW and #MMIG are used when speaking about the search for missing and murdered Indigenous women, an important topic in policy and political circles in Canada in recent years.
#youoksis was introduced by social working and blogger Fem B. Wells (@FeministaJones) to bring in a number of voices to conversations about street harassment and possible solutions. Especially amongst Black and other racialized women online, the hashtag continues to be widely used as a term of empowerment and discourse.
Canadian author Kelly Oxford (@kellyoxford) popularized the use of the hashtag #notok during 2016’s U.S. presidential election to shine a light on sexual violence, invited all women to share their stories of sexual assault on Twitter in a safe, inclusive environment. Oxford was eventually voted as the Top Canadian on Twitter for 2016, due in large part to her contributions via #notok.
Many other hashtags continue to draw attention to sexual violence including #ItsNeverOK, #BeenRapedNeverReported,#WeBelieveSurvivors, #OnVousCroit and #StopCultureDeViol. Continue following these and other hashtags to be part of the dialogue on women’s right and safety on Twitter.