Personal stories for Social Change: #lifeinleggins and #Mamilolivre

“Radical Subjectivity”

Despite the negative effects new technologies have brought into society, there are also positive things, particularly campaigners are taking advantage of it.

Internet is a democratic tool which allows anyone with online access to communicate, express opinions, and organize and promote protests (Romanos and Sábido: 2013). Since everyone has access to it, the unidirectional communication of traditional media becomes obsolete and the need of a new (bidirectional) language pattern arises. The participation of audience in digital campaigning is called Citizen Media.

Moreover, for years now, we have been protesting for similar causes. Therefore, we need to find new ways to engage people within those issues. “We need new narratives that connect with peoples’ deepest motivations and promote more radical action. Stories engage people at every level – not just in their minds but in their emotions, values and imaginations, which are the drivers of real change” (Hodges: 2014)

Thus Internet seems like a good platform to explore these new narratives and to get people to participate actively to campaigns. In addition, feeling part of the “story” almost guarantees the involvement. As Hodges states, “we feel compelled to listen when we ourselves are included in the storyline”.  The same author presents the term “Radical subjectivity” as the new communication line based on personal stories or voices.

This approach is generally used by activists and campaigners in Social Networks and is known as Digital activism. Twitter, for instance, is being increasingly used as a platform to build campaigns for social change together with the audience (Hashtag activism).

I have chosen two campaigns (#lifeinleggins and #Mamilolivre) that reflect how participation and “subjectivity” are key points for the success of a campaign.

#Lifeinleggins

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#Lifeinleggins is a Facebook and twitter campaign, launched on the 25th of November 2016, that gives Caribbean women the space to share their stories of sexual harassment, created by two Barbadian women who wanted to demonstrate the high degree of sexual harassment in the Caribbean culture.

A survey carried in nine Caribbean countries reported that the sexual initiation of 48% of adolescent girls was “forced” or “somewhat forced.” The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Latin America and the Caribbean Region of the World Bank report noted, “While the worldwide average for rape was 15 per 100,000, The Bahamas had an average of 133, St. Vincent and the Grenadines 112, Jamaica 51, Dominica 34, Barbados 25 and Trinidad and Tobago 18.” (Stop street harassment: 2016).

This campaign is adding a face and a voice to these statistics and women of all ages, ethnicities and economic backgrounds have been sharing alarming stories about their own experiences. Here are some of them:

#LifeInLeggings He was asked to watch the kids while Mom went to the store. I was three. He told me to come sit on his knee. I said no. You smell. He made me sit on his knee. Pulled apart my baby legs and ripped my panties off and stuck his fat calloused fingers inside of my vagina. I cried. He said he would make my mother beat me. I was afraid. I hate you” (Crystal Roslyn Mary Granado).

#lifeinleggings Walking with my key in my hand, ready at all times to be used in self defence. Looking behind me at least 3 times before I reach my car. Checking the back seat before I open the door. Opening the door quickly, slamming myself on the seat. Shut the door and lock doors immediately. Sigh. Start ignition. Drive” (Cho Sundari decribes).

#lifeinleggings walking home and receiving 17 catcalls (yes I counted) 11 of which were highly inappropriate. “I want one of them bubbies in my mouth, wish that skirt would blow lil higher, left that lipstick pun muh nuh” etc. One guy slowed his car and offered $400 to go for “a ride”.” (Nia Goddard).

So many women have participated to this recent campaign and so many have identified with the others’ story, creating a common support to each other and stating, steadily, a global picture of sexual harassment culture in the Caribbean. Moreover, this campaign is intended to achieve global visibility, as the founder of #lifeinleggins explains, “I did intend for it to spread through the Caribbean. Rape culture isn’t just a Barbadian issue; it’s a Caribbean issue as well as a global one, so I know that support would pour in from the other countries”.

#LifeInLeggings started as a simple idea, and a group of dedicated women worked together to make it region-wide conversation. (Stop street harassment: 2016).

Another example of Citizen activism is #Mamilolivre in Brazil.

References:

Hodges, Simon. 2014. What’s so special about storytelling for social change? (Online). Available: http://www.open Democracy.net

Wallace, Alice. 2016. The Bahamas: Interview with Founder of #LifeInLeggings (online) Available: http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/2016/12/lifeinleggings/

Mendes Franco, Janine. 2016. Caribbean Women Take Their Power Back by Sharing Stories of Sexual Abuse Via the #LifeinLeggingHashtag (Online). Available:https://globalvoices.org/2016/12/02/caribbean-women-take-their-power-back-by-sharing-stories-of-sexual-abuse-via-the-lifeinleggings-hashtag/

Rodrigues, Julia. Bahia, Leticia . Mamilo livre. https://mamilolivre.com/manifesto

Sganzerla, Taisa. 2016. Brazilian Activists Outsmart Facebook’s Censorship of the Female Nipple. (Online). Available: https://globalvoices.org/2016/11/23/brazilian-activists-outsmart-facebooks-censorship-of-the-female-nipple/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 thoughts on “Personal stories for Social Change: #lifeinleggins and #Mamilolivre”

  1. These campaigns are interesting examples, as often ‘hashtag activism’ gets a bad name because it’s seen as a passive, lazy way to campaign. But these examples are, I suppose, more about spreading awareness and creating community for people who feel connected to those issues. That’s valuable in itself, and also might serve as a basis from which to build campaigns for more concrete change.

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  2. The two examples you used were really interesting examples of how #hashtag activism can be used to not only bring attention to a change that needs to be made, but also how they can create communities for those involved. While as you mentioned, there are definitely downsides to this digital age, I think this is one of its greatest upsides.

    A similar campaign to your #lifeinleggins one arose in the United States during the presidential run. Author Kelly Oxford started the #notokay on twitter to ask women to share their personal stories of their first sexual assault. If you are interested you can read more about that here – http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/notokay-women-share-stories-sexual-assault-article-1.2827132

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  3. This is another great example of how the campaigns that allow people to share their experiences are usually the most effective ones. Also, I do spot some clear commonalities with the campaign #NotAllWomen.

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