Guest Post: “#140 Reasons Domestic Violence Is Not a Joke” Battles “#Reasons To Beat Your Girlfriend” on Twitter

Written by Abigail Collazo. Originally published at Fem2pt0. Reprinted with permission.

It was a Sunday like any other.  I had gotten brunch with a girlfriend, done my grocery shopping, and was throwing some laundry in when my phone pinged.  A colleague had sent me a quick email.

“Did you see that one of the hashtags today is #reasonstobeatyourgirlfriend?”

When you’ve been fighting a fight for a certain length of time, you get a feeling.  It’s the “there’s-no-way-this-is-made-up” feeling.  It’s the feeling that tells you that if you are honest with yourself, you know exactly what you are going to find once you start to dig.

And find I did.

Everything from “if you find out she’s a guy” to “she dont make you a sammich on command

Now, I’m happy to say that there were plenty, PLENTY of tweets that denounced the hashtag, the people using it to support violence against women, and Twitter for allowing it trend in the first place.

And so my Sunday Twitter war began, as I and others fought against the thousands of tweets that were actually causing this to trend worldwide.  Not because I thought that in 140 characters, I could convince anyone legitimately using that hashtag that violence against women is wrong.  But because I simply couldn’t stay quiet.  A huge part of fighting these battles is simply fighting back – speaking out – letting people know that we will NOT sit idly by and allow them to make those statements that threaten the safety and health and well-being of half of our population.

You’re making it trend! Stop talking about it!

As people analyzed why exactly this offensive hashtag had been trending for so long, there was speculation that it was because those of us who were against it were using it to denounce it, which was only making it trend more.  I was accused of just promoting the tag to promote my brand, using this campaign to increase my Klout score, being ignorant and stupid about the way Twitter works, and a host of other things.

And to those people, I would say this.  We did it.  We beat them in their own forum.  If you look up the hashtag now, you’ll see that the tweets denouncing it are far more numerous than those supporting it.  And I want people to see that.  I want people to see that this hashtag was trending with violent and offensive language, and that our community took it over, reclaimed this tag, and repurposed it to say with one voice,

“There is NEVER a #reasontobeatyourgirlfriend.”

So yes, we used the hashtag and we made it trend longer.  But we turned it into a campaign to spread awareness about domestic violence, about violence against women.  We turned it into a crusade.  We weren’t calling for it to stop trending at that point – we were calling out Twitter for allowing it to trend in the first place (for those who were following, Twitter believes that #FuckYouWashington should not have been allowed to trend last week despite over 28,000 tweets, because it was offensive.  Inciting violence against women, however, is ok.  @DickC, CEO of Twitter, acknowledged the problem and had this to tweet in response to questions about Twitter’s “trending tweets” policy.

In response to the popularity of this tag, Courtney Martin at Feministing started this campaign, called #140reasonsdvisnotajoke.  As you may have guessed already, the 140 reasons are the names of 140 victims of domestic violence.  And over the course of these 48 hours, Fem2pt0 is going to be tweeting out absolutely every one of them.

Will you help us spread the word by retweeting ONE of our posts listing the names of these victims? You can find our twitter stream here: http://twitter.com/#!/fem2pt0

These names are just a fraction, a tiny fraction of the victims out there.  So please follow us as we tweet from #140reasonsdvisnotajoke.  Share your outrage, and show the world that these jokes represent real people, real victims, and real casualties.

1.3 million women will be victims of domestic violence this year. The law of odds say that most of their abusers are probably online.  Were they using the #reasonstobeatyourgirlfriend hashtag on Sunday?  Perhaps.

Want to learn more?  Sady Doyle has an awesomely funny post on Tiger Beatdown as she tries to set you up on dates with the classy men using this tag. On a more serious note, if you or someone you know needs help related to domestic violence, please check out these resources:

Abigail Collazo is a Project Manager at Turner Strategies and serves as the Editor of the renowned online women’s community, Fem2pt0.  Over the past 10 years, Abigail has worked tirelessly on behalf of women’s empowerment in a variety of forums.  She has served as a Congressional staffer responsible for women’s issues in both the domestic and global spheres, and has also worked on numerous political campaigns for female candidates.  Abigail attended Mount Holyoke College and is currently a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University where she is writing her Master’s thesis on the intersection between gender and armed conflict.

4 thoughts on “Guest Post: “#140 Reasons Domestic Violence Is Not a Joke” Battles “#Reasons To Beat Your Girlfriend” on Twitter

  1. While violence against women is a huge problem & something no woman should endure, i find it hard to take this article seriously, with lines like: “and we were up against 1,000 tweets”, or “Re-tweet one of our posts…”

    Doesn’t anybody ever put down their phones, anymore?

    Why not just ignore Hashtag?
    What is a Hashtag?

    It sounds like some internet troll, with a Twitter account, trying to outrage others just like you.
    Why give them the satisfaction of being outraged, and putting forth all that effort & re-tweeting
    a counter-attack.
    For every Hashtag, there are a million other Hashtags, waiting in the wings.
    In the age of the internet & anonymity, it’s a losing battle.
    There are too many stupid people on the planet to spar with.

    Instead, have faith that the Hashtag’s of this world, are the minority, and most people don’t take them seriously.

  2. Julian, Thanks for your comment. I’ve received similar feedback before, about everything from responding to hashtags to calling out street harassers to boycotting movies with sexist overtones. The argument is inevitably something along the lines of “eh, it’s pretty harmless, why not focus your energy on the ACTUAL problem?”
    I understand and appreciate this point of view – I just think it doesn’t take into account the influence that pop culture and media and messaging plays in our daily lives. There are two reasons I decided to engage here: A) Morality, and B) Effectiveness. The first is what I tried to explain in my post – that even if one could effectively convince me that it would have no impact whatsoever in any way on anybody, I still felt morally compelled to speak against it. The second is more complicated. The truth is that such images and messaging DO impact us. Just like men who watch copious amounts of pornography are significantly more likely to believe rape-acceptance myths, the more our society pushes the message that domestic violence isn’t a big deal or is something to joke about, the more that idea makes its way into our behavior and our own moral code. And lastly, I believe there is something to be said for solidarity. If I were a victim of domestic violence and I saw this hashtag trending with no one fighting back against it, I’d feel alone. I’d feel much less likely to take steps to change my situation or to seek help because the message I would be sent is that no one cares, DV is a joke, and the general population thinks its funny. After writing this post and engaging in this Twitter war, I received 9 emails/DMs from people who had either been a victim or known a victim, who appreciated the crusade we were launching.
    I’m afraid I just can’t agree with you that it’s a losing battle and that with so many tweets and so many messages out there, we should just cede the public discourse to the haters.

    • @Abigail, I’m really glad you responded to Julian’s comment because I think it’s a common reaction (and thanks for commenting, Julian!!). Social media, pop culture and advertising do matter; we are bombarded by their often contradictory sexist, misogynistic, racist and violent messages. Even if we think we can avoid media, due to the sheer number, they can subconsciously influence our behavior. It’s important to question what’s being said and speak out. And as I domestic violence survivor, I cannot thank you enough for writing this post.

    • I do understand your point more clearly.

      It just seems exhausting to have to counter these “trolls”, which attempt to outrage, no matter what the subject.
      I feel these people crave some sort of twisted validity, and responding to them (or going to battle with them), gives them satisfaction, on some level.
      But it’s good that your crusade has helped many victims feel less alone, and that
      they had someone in their corner, speaking out against the “Hashtags.”

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