Hashtag Activism As Events: the #viajosola case

Visiting Scholar Ingrid Buchman shares insight from her research on #viajosola, a social media campaign in Latin America.

2018.05.22 | Hannah Spyksma


Chilean scholar Ingrid Bachmann gave a guest lecture in Hamburg this week, sharing insights from her research on the intersections of hashtag activism and feminist movements, and the ‘events’ that can occur as a result of these. Bachmann, director of the Journalism Department at PUCC, Santiago de Chile, has been specifically focusing on the #viajosola ("I travel alone") twitter campaign.  

In 2016, two young female travellers from Argentina were raped and brutally murdered while on vacation in Ecuador. The media coverage of the case blamed the victims for travelling ‘alone’ and indulging in the behaviour that prompted the attack. Women in South America took to twitter to criticise the media coverage and reverse the narrative that blames the rape victim coverage, through using the hashtag #viajosola (I travel alone).  

Bachmann’s research addressed both the coverage of the crimes as well as the responses from Twitter users who were fed up with news narratives blaming the victims for the crime.

Her research entailed a textual analysis of 5000 randomly selected tweets with the hashtag #viajosola. In her analysis, Bachmann found that the women in Latin America were using twitter as an alternate public sphere where their voices could be heard and where they could express themselves freely. In their tweets, Latin American women strongly criticised media and society for blaming women for rape and redirected the blame from the victim to the rapist. Bachmann said that this is the point where this twitter campaign took the form of a feminist activism as these women not only redirected the blame, they called for action too.

It is cases like these when a hashtag becomes an event itself. In Bachmann's words: “Hashtags have become a way to give voice to the voiceless people who are sharing their experiences, who are questioning cultural assumptions and using the digital sphere to connect with the like minded people.”

Bachmann’s presentation generated an interesting discussion about digital research methods and hashtag feminism among the students attending – particularly relevant for many of those in the midst writing their Master thesis in Hamburg this semester.

- words and image by Sabeen Jamil 

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