This past year has seen many social injustices committed in countries across the globe, from the displacement of thousands of Syrians, to the kidnapping of innocent girls in Nigeria, to the brutal rapes in India, to destruction of countless lives in the Ukraine. Through technology, the media has been able to give us unparalleled access to the news as it happens, and through technology every citizen has been able to shape the debate. No more has this been the case as with the #BringBackOurGirls campaign to free the kidnapped Nigerian women.
The ongoing challenges that women face in this day and age remain noteworthy, especially in less developed countries. One would think that in 2014 much struggle would be behind us, but this is not the case. Fortunately everyday people and Brands are championing the causes for change, powered by the technology and social media tools that are readily available to all of us.
This past year there were several creative undertakings that put a spotlight on issues of female discrimination that persist as we enter 2015. The first issue is about sexual harassment. It is unbelievable how many men behave towards women who are minding their own business, not provoking interaction. There is this perverse belief that “there might be a chance”, or “she appreciates it”. Meanwhile, women have to fend off this undesired attention and communication. To underscore the universality of this issue, a women walked around in New York City for 10 hours and had a friend plant a camera in a backpack and walk in front of her. What she had to deal with will shock you.
The second issue is the struggle against gender “weakness”. There are terms in culture that are readily batted around such as “you throw like a girl”, or “you run like a girl”. These terms are brushed aside because it is believed that we all know that it is not meant to be serious. Well then why say it at all if it is not serious and thus should have no meaning? The fact is that by mindlessly using such expressions we are shaping societal beliefs. To prove this, Always did a “fake casting” where it asked people to do select things “like a girl”. The older people did the stereotypical things. However, when pre-teen girls were asked to do the same things, the outcome was strikingly different. The #LikeAGirl campaign created a movement to abolish the stereotypes because they handicap progress, shackle ability and hinder true equality. Have a look at the video below.
Another societal struggle that continues today is the legalisation of same sex marriage. While society is becoming more universally accepting of gay marriage, and more and more places are legalising it, the forces that are resisting change are strong. A case in point was in Australia where gay marriage was legalised and then overturned only 5 days later. GLAAD wanted to fight this reversal to the dark days by creating a 1 year anniversary and getting the world involved through social media and PR. The campaign “5 days of equality: a paper anniversary” was born. The global response was astounding and the congratulatory cards that those 31 people who got married during those 5 days received were beyond touching, they were eye-opening. Have a look.
The discrimination against being gay continues to be a problem. No more evident was this in 2014 as in Russia, especially surrounding the Sochi Olympic Games. Fortunately, international Governments, global Brands, and high-profile athletes used this big stage as an opportunity to raise awareness of this continued problem and create debate around it. Some even provoked debate by hijacking the spirit and essence of the Games, such as the Canadian Institute of Diversity. Have a look.
Another societal movement that is gaining steam in 2014 is extreme nationalism. While different political beliefs and groups are good for societal debate, when things get extreme the debate becomes less healthy and may even turn into physical wrath. A group in Germany decided to weaken this movement not by calling it out (which would create an us vs. them fight that just stimulates animosity), but by dissolving it from within. Their “Rechts gegen Rechts” involuntary walkathon was a brilliant move to sabotage a Nazi rally. Have a look at the case study.
We will likely see a lot more action taken against social injustices by everyday people and their mobile phones, social communities, and willingness to get their message heard. Let’s hope that throughout 2015 we will be able to add a lot of create content and movements to this post.