Since the turn of the year, I have kept seeing articles about how 2014 was “the best year for women since the dawn of time”. Certainly, we did have a strong year – Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize, Emma Watson stunned the world with the launch of the HeforShe campaign, reminding us all that women’s equality is not just a women’s issue, William Hague teamed up with Angelina Jolie on making rape a war crime and the #YesAllWomen phenomenon reminded us all that social media can have a powerful effect for women to get their voices heard, share their stories and raise support for challenging misogyny and sexism.
For me, 2014 highlighted the growing power of social media and how small individual campaigns about something you feel passionate about can be both explosive and powerful. Take for example, the ice bucket challenge that took over Facebook for at least several months last summer. Who would have thought that throwing a bucket of ice-cold water over your head would have caught on so quickly? The challenge resulted in over 100 million dollars worth of funding to charities supporting those with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Pretty impressive to say the least.
Further, a petition starting at the end of last year to prevent convicted rapist Ched Evans from playing football for Sheffield United surpassed 160,000 signatures. Whilst the petition has not solved the endemic issue of rape in our society, what it has done is started a conversation about two issues – violence against women on the one hand, and the way in which our society and criminal justice system treats ex-offenders in the other (clearly a topic for another blog post).
The point to note here however, is how one individual’s passion and enthusiasm to campaign on an issue important to them, or highlight small, seemingly insignificant examples of oppression, can have a more powerful and greater impact than campaigning for the larger picture. Before 2014, I don’t think people really realized that a small action on social media could have such an explosive effect. I personally was blown away with the #illridewithyou hashtag, (after the bombings in Sydney at the end of the year). That one person’s small, seemingly insignificant action showed that you care, meant so much to people and ended up having such a huge global impact.
What we need for 2015 is more of these small actions. What 2014 showed is that is doesn’t matter if you start small, as long as your passion, empathy and enthusiasm shines through. If each person makes a resolution this year to campaign on one thing – however small, but on something they feel passionate about, then we could dare to dream for a more equal society. We could each play our small, but still powerful part and that these small actions combined, could change the world.
Sian Webb, Co-Editor