Hashtags have tremendous power. As tags, they’re an effective way to sift through the chaos of social media and find related posts. But they also can take on a life of their own, becoming slogans that galvanize social movements and capture the attention of millions, as is true of the feminist hashtags below.
Activists have long taken advantage of feminist hashtags as a way to spread a message and to unite. And with much of our local, national, and global political conversations taking place over social media, it’s no wonder this tactic has become so popular.
But today, folks are feeling a feminist hashtag burnout. There are so, so many, and it’s getting hard to even keep them straight. Some have started to question whether hashtag branding is effective at all, since it seems to stir up a momentary frenzy only to be replaced by a new trendy phrase weeks later.
If you’re feeling exhausted by the hashtag craze, don’t fret. LiveYourDream.org is here not just to keep you in the loop, but also show you what to do next. Hashtags are great for helping us name the problem, but we must also take action if we want to improve the lives of women and girls!Join Our Online Activist Community
Top 15 Feminist Hashtags Explained
To help you keep your hashtags (and your head on) straight, here’s a handy guide to all the feminist hashtags, their origins, and what they mean.
Coined in September 2018.
The #BelieveWomen hashtag arose as a show of solidarity with survivors of sexual assault during the Kavanaugh-Ford hearing. It is a political statement that challenges society’s default skepticism and criticism of survivors who talk about their experiences. It also invokes a long history of women’s voices being sidelined, ignored, and dismissed, and calls for more empathy.
Coined in September 2018.
When Dr. Christine Blasey Ford raised allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump tweeted his doubts. He argued that if it were true, she would have reported it right away. In response, a thousands of survivors (lead by actress/activist Alyssa Milano) took to the web to explain why it can take years to talk about an assault—because of shame, denial, fear of retribution, fear of not being believed, fear of being victim-blamed, because they knew the police would do nothing, because they wanted to protect their attacker, because society says this is just what men do and it’s normal, and a million other reasons.
Coined in August 2018.
This hashtag invites women to examine the gap between women’s legal rights and women’s lived reality. “Gender discrimination plays out in ways you may not see at first. For every “right” there’s a shadow side of “reality.” Lack of enforcement, power imbalances, social stigmas. Much remains to be done to achieve full gender equality in this country.” By shining light on everyday experiences of discrimination, women are exposing why the movement for gender equality still matters.
Coined in January 2018.
This hashtag was introduced on January 1, 2018 and has soared in popularity since then. “The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace. It’s time to do something about it,” says TimesUpNow.com, which is an online resource for victims of sexual harassment, allies and advocates. The Times Up Legal Defense Fund also provides subsidized legal support for women seeking justice for sexual harassment in the workplace.
Coined in November 2017.
When Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore of Alabama was accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl, the Internet exploded with fury. Then, when some attempted to defend Moore’s actions by claiming that a 14-year-old is mature enough to give consent, the Internet took up the #MeAt14 hashtag. Women posted pictures of themselves at age 14 to reinforce that, NO, Roy, teen girls can’t consent to a relationship with a grown man, ever. That’s illegal. #NoMoore and #NeverMoore were then used to send the message that Moore’s moral questionability made him unsuitable to ever hold office.
Coined in October 2017.
Activist Tarana Burke founded the Me Too campaign in 2006, but it did not take off until October 2017 when actresses started using the #MeToo hashtag on social media to demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment. It followed on the heels of the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct allegations in which the Hollywood producer was accused of sexually assaulting 84 women, many of whom were actresses and models. Millions of women have used the feminist hashtag, many also sharing their stories of how they have survived sexual violence or manipulation. It took the Internet by such force and has brought the conversation about sexual harassment to the forefront.
Coined in October 2016.
During the third presidential debate, Donald Trump was seen muttering, apparently to himself, “Such a nasty woman,” while Hillary Clinton answered a question about social security. It didn’t take long for #IAmANastyWoman to catch on among Trump critics as an ironic rebuke of his insult. Women reclaimed the “Nasty Woman” label to describe a woman who was tough, powerful, dynamic and unafraid to call it like it is.
Coined in October 2015.
“I’m With Her” was officially unveiled as the slogan for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2011, but it was not until 2016 that the hashtag became popular. As celebrities such as Katy Perry and Amy Schumer adopted the #ImWithHer hashtag to show their support for Senator Clinton, people all over the U.S. followed suite. It carried a feminist message because Hillary Clinton was the first female candidate to ever make it this close to the presidency.
Coined in April 2015.
This hashtag surfaced when author Laura Bates, founder of The Everyday Sexism Project, began encouraging women to share instances of sexism perpetrated against them daily. From microaggressions to blatant misogyny, many women shared their experiences of how they are treated differently by men (and society as a whole) for being a woman. The hashtag helped broaden the conversation about sexism to include not just the most outrageous behaviors, but also the smallest offenses that are so often normalized but have a cumulative effect of oppressing women’s voices.
Coined in April 2015.
On April 14, author Courtney Summers called on the women of social media to “take the opportunity to tell girls you know – and the ones you don’t – that they are seen, heard and loved.” Older women shared their encouragement and words of wisdom #ToTheGirls, tackling issues like self-esteem, body image, and confidence.
Coined in November 2014.
When news broke of Janay Palmer choosing to marry her fiancé pro football player Ray Rice after video surfaced of him knocking her unconscious in an elevator, writer Beverly Gooden shared her story of domestic violence and how she came out alive. Statistically, choosing to leave (and leaving) a domestic violence situation is the most dangerous time for a victim. Many women have been murdered or viciously attacked during this time. The #WhyIStayed hashtag raised awareness about the ugly power dynamics of domestic abuse and called for sympathy for survivors—including those who are unable to leave an abusive relationship.
Coined in September 2014.
The United Nations began the He For She program in March of 2014, but Emma Watson brought this hashtag to the forefront during the Summer of 2014 as the United Nations Woman Goodwill Ambassador. This campaign was meant as a call to action to men to fight alongside women for equity between the sexes. Many male celebrities, such as Tom Hiddleston and Steve Carrell, jumped on board in support of the movement.
Coined in May 2014.
After Elliot Rodger went on a revenge rampage and murdered six women who had rejected him romantically, feminist activists decried male violence, blaming toxic masculinity for the loss of these women’s lives. In response, men were quick to defend that not all men are killers and rapists and began using the #NotAllMen hashtag. Of course not all men are murderers and rapists. However, there is no way to know which men pose a threat, and which ones do not, simply on sight. #YesAllWomen became a rallying cry of women acknowledging that not all men are dangerous, but that all women have experienced feeling unsafe by men in her lifetime.
Coined in 2013.
Tess Holliday launched the #EffYourBeautyStandards movement on Instagram to show that women don’t have to be a certain size to love their body (big or small) and that their size should not dictate their fashion choices. Holliday, a plus-size model who has repeatedly faced criticism for her size 22 body, is a prominent voice in the body positivity movement and has continued to advocate for fat acceptance, proving that women of all sizes are beautiful and brilliant.
Coined in December 2008.
The #Fem2 hashtag is one of the earliest feminist hashtags to gain popularity on Twitter. Meaning “feminism 2.0,” it’s generally been used to tag interesting articles or conversations about the future of feminism.
Hashtags come and go, and many are fleeting. But make no mistake: these hashtags are not just another passing fad, or simply “having a moment”. They are a movement—and WE, the women who refused to be silenced or oppressed, are the movement.
Disclaimer: LiveYourDream.org is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and does not endorse any political candidates or parties. The opinions expressed on our blog pages are not necessarily representative of LiveYourDream.org.
Ashley Hesse is a 20-something writer/musician and women’s rights activist. She is a former beauty/special FX makeup artist who put down the makeup brushes and raised her fist in solidarity to help fight the social injustices against women all over the world. When she’s not crusading for social justice and defeating bigotry in all its forms, she also enjoys feeding her soul with musical theatre, red lipstick and Ghirardelli brownies.