It is a photograph all Australians recognise:
29-year-old murdered rape victim Jill Meagher’s body was discovered in a shallow grave by a dirt rode near Brunswick in 2012.
Jill Meagher’s husband Tom has recently become the face of The White Ribbon Campaign, a global activism movement which challenges men to take the lead in changing attitudes towards violence against women.
In Australia, the campaign harnesses the power of social media to encourage Australian men and boys to act as positive role models and advocates for social change. This involves breaking a “culture of silence” by swearing an Oath online never to commit, excuse or dismiss violence against women, signing an online petition, emailing government officals to ask them to sign the White Ribbon pledge, posting an image or video or sharing a personal story, liking the Foundation on Facebook and engaging in the conversation on Twitter.
It is often argued, however, that such online awareness campaigns, known as ‘clicktivism’, are ineffective, with people participating only as a means of self-gratification and to declare a level of awareness to peers. This is dubbed as ‘slacktivism’, and is less of a form of activism and more of a way of belonging to the collective identity of a cause.
Whilst this is one of the major criticisms of clicktivism, it is also one of its strengths. Traditional campaign activity is time-consuming, with more people likely to engage in online activism than participate in physical protests. In fact, online engagement and slacktivism can be a catalyst for movements. For example, Facebook and Twitter helped promote White Ribbon’s Walk A Mile in Their Shoes event, spreading information and creating a consciousness which, in turn, built momentum and an audience. Similarly, the use of the Twitter hashtag #UncoverSecrets promotes White Ribbon’s aim to expose Australia’s “dark secret”, starting important conversations about domestic violence that are not always started in mainstream media.
Despite popular belief, clicktivism has not replaced or impeded upon traditional forms of protest. Rather, it leverages a medium which is understood by those growing up in the digital era. Whether or not this is active involvement, it is at least a step forward in increasing awareness and engagement amongst a rather politically apathetic Internet generation.Giverny