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Social Media Movements in the US and Nigeria Essay

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Updated: Jun 4th, 2021

Introduction

The concept of human rights remains one of the major topics in modern philosophy and sociology. The exploration of values and principles that people from different parts of the world express is a theme that is closely connected to these communities’ culture. The influence of external factors on people’s values is apparent, which can be seen in various cultural differences, laws, and traditions (Bowman, 2012). For example, the question of women’s rights is often related to the culture in which these women exist. In some countries, women have similar rights to men, at least, in a legal way (Bowman, 2012). In others, women may have limited authority and autonomy based on the established laws (Bowman, 2012). However, the existence of cultural norms further complicates this situation, adding implicit standards that, while not legally binding, are enforced by society. A notable example of a tradition that is condemned by one part of the world but adopted in another is female circumcision in certain African states. According to Essien (2017), this procedure has been a part of these territories’ religious practice for years. The Western perspective views it as mutilation, stating that is it a clear violation of the human right to bodily autonomy (Essien, 2017). In this case, similarly to many others, the difference in the perceptions of women’s rights depending on the culture is evident. Currently, the global nature of women’s rights is changing due to the growing role of the Internet.

Social Media’s Effectiveness

Social media is a type of platform on the Internet that can connect people from different parts of the world to share information and discuss any topics. It is a conversational tool for individuals that allows them to interact with anybody, regardless of their remoteness and even language barrier. Social media messages are available to all Internet users, and their speed of delivery is limited only by the quality of one’s connection. These characteristics make social media much more effective than traditional media in disseminating new information and engaging people in conversations. While newspapers and television programs are often localized and spread in a limited amount of copies or time frames, the Internet grants unlimited access to social media posts that can be seen by anyone, anywhere, at any time (Ellsberg et al., 2015). Therefore, if a message needs to reach a wide group of people, social media is a suitable platform for this affair. In regards to women’s rights, social media allows women from different communities to interact with each other, sharing their experiences and comparing the values, limitations, and standards that are imposed by their respective cultures. As an outcome, such platforms connect women with other women, creating a global understanding of their concerns and a network for empowerment and support.

#MeToo

The first case of a women’s rights social media campaign started on Twitter and grew into a significant international phenomenon. The Me Too Movement was first created in 2006 by activist Tarana Burke with an intent to raise awareness about sexual assault that women of color experienced (Rodino-Colocino, 2018). In 2017, a hashtag “#MeToo” was created after an actress, Alyssa Milano, wrote a post about women’s experiences with sexual assault. The hashtag was created to emphasize the magnitude of the issue and express solidarity and empathy with women from different backgrounds living with similar fears and traumas (Rodino-Colocino, 2018). While the social media campaign started in the United States, it quickly spread to other countries which used #MeToo as well as other hashtags that were linked to their particular culture-related themes (Rodino-Colocino, 2018).

Some criticisms of the Twitter campaign argued that the appropriation of the hashtag for all women erased the experiences of women of color and the initial movement’s purpose. Nevertheless, the abundance of messages, posts, and articles about the new hashtag led to some changes in people’s understanding of the underlying problem – sexual violence. According to PettyJohn, Muzzey, Maas, & McCauley (2018), the campaign was received by men differently, dividing them into supporters and opponents. Thus, the movement both raised awareness about the need for social change and increased some people’s sexist attitudes (PettyJohn et al., 2018). However, its overall effect on people’s ideas about sexual violence and women’s rights was global.

#BringBackOurGirls

The second campaign, originating as a Twitter hashtag, #BringBackOurGirls, started in Nigeria in 2014. It was a response to the kidnapping of more than 200 young girls by a terrorist group, Boko Haram, from a school hostel in Chibok (Maiangwa & Agbiboa, 2014). Boko Haram’s attacks on women and children in African countries are in line with the group’s opposition to gender equality and women’s right to education and autonomy (Chiluwa, & Ifukor, 2015). The beliefs of this terrorist group directly oppose the growing movement of egalitarianism, which increased young girls’ access to learning facilities, previously available only to male students (Maiangwa & Agbiboa, 2014).

The parents and concerned citizens began writing about the kidnapping on social media, using a hashtag #BringBackOurGirls and demanding the girls’ release and return to their families. It is unclear whether the movement had a substantial effect on the incident, but more than 100 young women were released or have been found after some time after the campaign became widespread (Chiluwa, & Ifukor, 2015). Thus, one may suggest that the hashtag encouraged people to put effort into locating the girls, spreading information about them, and raising awareness about the harmful influence of Boko Haram in and outside Nigeria (Chiluwa, & Ifukor, 2015). The movement grew further, evolving from a short local campaign into a country-wide and international phenomenon disseminating information about other kidnappings, killings, as well as calls to action for reform and community support.

Conclusion

The examples provided above show that social media’s outreach to people from different locations and cultures has more impact than traditional media. The Internet’s ability to connect people in real-time offers some advantages to women’s rights activists. For example, it allows women to share their experiences, increasing their understanding of opportunities that they may not have due to cultural and religious values. Moreover, it provides people from other nations to see the incidents that may not be covered inasmuch detail by other media sources. Therefore, social media can be a valuable tool for women’s rights campaigns. It can also act as a platform on which a global view of women’s rights can be developed. It is vital to remember that a social media discussion, however, does not produce positive effects on its own. Actions in the real world, including policy, reform, peer support, and resistance are essential in bringing change. Social media should be viewed as one of the channels for communication that distributes information and provides resources for discussion.

References

Bowman, M. (2012). OpenDemocracy. Web.

Chiluwa, I., & Ifukor, P. (2015). ‘War against our Children’: Stance and evaluation in #BringBackOurGirls campaign discourse on Twitter and Facebook. Discourse & Society, 26(3), 267-296.

Ellsberg, M., Arango, D. J., Morton, M., Gennari, F., Kiplesund, S., Contreras, M., & Watts, C. (2015). Prevention of violence against women and girls: What does the evidence say? The Lancet, 385(9977), 1555-1566.

Essien, E. D. (2017). Overcoming conflict between religious and cultural freedom and women’s rights in Africa: Its ethical implications. International Journal of Public and Private Perspectives on Healthcare, Culture, and the Environment (IJPPPHCE), 1(2), 41-54.

Maiangwa, B., & Agbiboa, D. (2014). Why Boko Haram kidnaps women and young girls in north-eastern Nigeria. Conflict Trends, 2014(3), 51-56.

PettyJohn, M. E., Muzzey, F. K., Maas, M. K., & McCauley, H. L. (2018). Psychology of Men & Masculinity. Web.

Rodino-Colocino, M. (2018). Me too, #MeToo: Countering cruelty with empathy. Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, 15(1), 96-100.

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1. IvyPanda. "Social Media Movements in the US and Nigeria." June 4, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/social-media-movements-in-the-us-and-nigeria/.


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IvyPanda. "Social Media Movements in the US and Nigeria." June 4, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/social-media-movements-in-the-us-and-nigeria/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Social Media Movements in the US and Nigeria." June 4, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/social-media-movements-in-the-us-and-nigeria/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Social Media Movements in the US and Nigeria'. 4 June.

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