2013: The Year of the Feminist Hashtag #FeminismMeans #F

This post originally appeared on December 30, 2013 written by founder, Tara L. Conley.

On December 23, 2013 Hashtag Feminism released a comprehensive analysis of this year’s top feminist hashtags. Among the most widely cited hashtags of 2013 include, #TwitterFeminism,#NotYourAsianSidekick, #fem2, #femfuture, #BeyonceThinkPieces, #MyFeminismLooksLike,#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, and #FastTailedGirls. I explain more about the meanings and evolution of these hashtags HERE.

The list is in no way meant to represent a definitive statement about which feminist hashtags were considered “the best” of this year. Rather, the purpose of the analysis was to trace how the meaning of these hashtags evolved over time, along with celebrating the most widely used feminist hashtags that primarily functioned to gather information, share stories and wit, and talk back to the status quo.

Now that our stories are arguably more visible than before, I wonder, as does blogger and self-identified Generation Y-er, Jenn of @reappropriate wonders, how might hashtag-ing in this millennial moment impact broader social movements concerned with equality and justice?


It is often noted that the primary uses of hashtags are to build brands, campaigns, and follow trends. As we enter into a new(er) era of social activism and advocacy, what meta meanings do we attach to feminism by way of the hashtag?

When #BlackPowerAsianPeril debuted last week as a way to talk about “shared goals” and bridge-building between Black and Asian American communities, I wondered about how this hashtag, or rather critical conversations around the hashtag, might impact how we go about addressing racism (colonization and discrimination) poverty, and mental health issues (access and stigma) shared among both diverse communities.

I think #BlackPowerYellowPeril will REALLY scare the white supremacists tomorrow. I'm even reading up on historical divide.

— Suey (@suey_park) December 25, 2013

The archiving of feminist-leaning thought and practices didn’t begin in 2013, but this year marked a moment in history when nuanced critical conversations traveled outside of Twitter and into online and offline mainstream media contexts. That #NotYourAsianSidekick appeared in TimeAl Jazeera AmericaABC, and BBC, and that #solidarityisforwhitewomen and #solidarityisforblackmenappeared on NPR, among other outlets, might indicate that broader audiences are paying more attention to our stories than ever before.

But this sort of online political and social activism isn’t without criticism. Often when we see critics come out against hashtags as a mark of new activism, we find arguments that set up what I believe to be a false binary between real vs. not-really-real change.

Kai Ma’s uninformed piece on #NotYourAsianSidekick in Time may be an example of a critique that presents a false binary without further exploration. Ma writes,

I’m all about not being your Asian sidekick — I support and applaud the platform — but can we please move from digital activism to social change?

I’m not sure what Ma mean’s when she asserts that we “move from digital activism to social change” Does she mean change as in legislative impact (see #StandWithWendy)? Community impact (see #RenishaMcBride)? Societal impact (see #Jan25#Arabspring#Egypt)?

Maureen O’Connor’s piece in NYMag.com asks can feminist hashtags dismantle the state? setting up a similarly polarizing argument. Sure enough, the Twitterverse responded:


Perhaps critics of the medium have a point about how meaning, particular associated with certain hashtags, gets lost in often contentious spaces of #Twitterfeminism. I’d argue, however, that heated exchanges about the lives and politics of individuals have always been contentious. If you sit two people in a room, face-to-face, with different life stories and political philosophies, chances are they’ll likely at some point disagree with one another. And if these same individuals enter into the room with their minds already set on how the other person thinks and experiences, then surely finding shared goals between the two will be difficult to accomplish. The absence of mediated channels doesn’t necessarily mean the absence of ego.

Twitter doesn’t make it more difficult for people to understand one another or build movements, people do.

In a moment of 140-character thoughts and context-driven hashtags with lack of context clues, the medium actually requires more from us. We have to sit with Twitter just as we would with an epic poem, yet we marinate on these texts for different reasons. I’m not as quick to blame Twitter as I am more thoughtful about the way I use Twitter to think through personal and political issues with complete strangers. At times, for me, some things are better left untweeted, and instead quietly reflected upon.

We’re all trying to situate our selves in this moment, always trying to carve out a digital space, sometimes at the cost of our sanity. Twitter isn’t for everyone, nor should it be, and that’s OK.

Because Twitter asks more of me as I grapple with meaning, I tend towards an observational and reflexive stance. And because the hashtag exists, I can better parse through the myriad of constantly updated conversations related to how others grapple. Now that we have the ability to search and archive these conversations with tools like Topsy, Keyhole, and others, it makes for an even more enriching observational experience. For the very first time since I joined Twitter in 2008, I can temporarily leave Twitter to sit with the feminist media of Twitter.

Parsing, observing, and curating is how I grapple with #Twitterfeminism.


I have a pretty good working definition of what #FeminismMeans to me, which is largely informed by my experiences,

  1. growing up in a Midwestern working class interracial family, taking care of an aging parent.

  2. fighting for fair and equal treatment as an elementary, middle school, high school, and college female athlete.

  3. studying Chicana feminism, Black feminist thought, and feminist spiritualities at a Texas state graduate institution.

Though I’m not so sure about how my working definition of feminism fits in with the 1,847+ other working definitions of feminism, informed by the 1,847,000+ other life experiences out there in the ether.

I readily admit that I don’t exactly know what #FeminismMeans to others with which I share a digital and social community. I suspect that how we understand and do feminism varies according to how we grew up and came of age.

I also suspect that my “brand” of feminism isn’t shared by others, which is why, at this point in my life I try very hard to first relate my life experiences to another individual rather than falling prey to policing someone else’s “brand” of feminism. It’s not easy, and I’m not always right.

#FeminismMeans different things to different people at different moments in their lives. And because language changes and evolves #FeminismIs, at times, a moving epistemological and ontological target. #FeminismIsNot, especially in 2013, an homogenous concept. The genre of feminist hashtags is proof that conceptually, feminism consists of many different, and often fluctuating parts. #Feminism, at times, amounts to an abstraction, a “thing” that many of us continue to grapple with because “it” isn’t something easily reflected in mainstream contexts.

Maybe #twitterfeminism hasn't built part of mvmnt you participate in but Feminism is not so flat that you can make that general statement.

— Jessica W. Luther (@scATX) December 23, 2013

"Allowing only women you agree or identify with to have a voice is not feminism or sisterhood, but something else. It's spite" @TanyaGold1

— Stephanie (@ArtfullyAdored) December 27, 2013


This is why Hashtag Feminism exists, so that as a collective, we zoom out and then parse through the conversations, debates, and dialog to build a picture of what feminism might look like during an Obama and millennial era. Hashtag Feminism is for the futurist feminist archivist who, in 100 years looks back at this digital moment and understands why the hashtag marked an important meta political stance in 2013.

Though someone like Maureen O’Connor might view Hashtag Feminism, a website primarily dedicated to archiving and exploring critical conversations, as greeting card folly, I think otherwise.

[T]rend-chasing websites that arrange The Best Tweets From #WhateverHashtag into listicles only seem to amplify the giant-stack-of-greeting-cards perception of Twitter activism. Even the most profound of one-liners start to seem vapid when you’re reading Bartlett’s Quotes cover-to-cover like a novel.

Hashtag Feminism isn’t so much about listing for the sake of listing, or calling out people for the sport of it, it is (as @BattyMamzelle so poignantly tweeted) about ‘collecting receipts’. We are a space that allows for more time to observe and reflect upon a wide range of personal and political issues that emerge by way of Twitter and other social media spaces.

Hashtag Feminism is my little digital space carved out.

If 2013 is the year of the feminist hashtag; the year that we grappled and reckoned with the Other’s lived experiences, then let 2014 be the year when #FeminismMeans actively and deliberately transforming so we can be better to ourselves and for our shared communities.