OPINION

Lives are more than a hashtag

My annoyance with hashtags began in 2011 with Charlie Sheen's #winning making the rounds. At first I found it clever, but it played out quickly and soon everything was being hashtagged. I chalked it up to growing older and not understanding the significance of tagging everything from baby photos to new movies to eating green beans for dinner. However, the recent hashtag making the rounds, #yesallwomen, is making me want to quit all social media for good.

Do we really believe Twitter is making a difference? Is #yesallwomen selfishly hijacking an aspect of a terrible tragedy and taking the focus off of mental health and gun control? Have I added to the nonsense and taken the focus away from the fatalities by making it about my hashtagging exasperation? Is this the best we can do?

In the wake of the Santa Barbara shootings, Twitter became a platform for women to air their grievances about being whistled at by construction workers or hit on at Starbucks. Yes, I have read the more serious offenses, but unfortunately there has been too much nonsensical noise made by those just wanting to play victim. Take to your Twitter account, punch out those 140 characters and suddenly this has happened to YOU!

I have no doubt #yesallwomen started with the best of intentions, but all I see are grossly uninformed people trying to be relevant. The feminist movement rose out of the need for respect and equality and has taken decades of action, not the 80 seconds it takes to tweet about a too-persistent man at a bar or being catcalled while walking down the street. Are you not making a mockery of women in the world who face real problems? Oh, and by real I mean abuse, rape and genital mutilation.

Mental health is a serious issue. Gun control is a serious issue. Violence against women AND men is a serious issue. Where were the nonviolent activists when Solange Knowles jumped on Jay Z a few weeks ago—an incident that elicited more jokes than it did outrage? 

I’m fearful that we live in a culture that has turned every injustice in the world into a hashtag, only to be replaced the next week by #justinbieberslatestantic. I’m still stuck on whatever happened to saving our girls. I’m still stuck on Ukraine. Remember that?

More than anything, I’m still stuck on the families in California who had to plan funerals for their children. I hope they find peace and a way to carry on. I hope those who are impassioned enough to post on social media outlets get out there and do something. And I hope I’m wrong and #yesallwomen somehow makes a difference. I really do.

Katie Killacky Toomey is a RedEye special contributor.

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