Activism has taken on multiple forms through the years. People are looking for more ways to express their opinion on any topic. The latest trend is hashtag activism, which was in full display during the Bring Back Our Girls Campaign. The method of spreading awareness got worldwide attention, and was a success in that aspect.
The Hashtag Effect
From then on, hashtag activism became a powerful tool for spreading information; it had its detractors as well, who criticised the movement as a Band-Aid solution that did very little to help the actual situation. Now, the debate rages on if hashtag activism even deserves its name, as it is unclear what it actually accomplishes.
The story is a complicated one that requires years of study and research before anyone can be sure what exactly happened. Even though hashtags only became a vehicle for the quick exchange of information recently, the effect of passive activism is not an entirely new issue.
The Shirt Effect
During the 1980s, international politics was the only topic of conversation. People had an opinion one way or another about Margaret Thatcher and West Germany. One woman took her opinions to a platform that – amazingly – no one before her had thought of taking.
Katharine Hamnett is a t-shirt designer who used her products as vehicles for her political opinions. She printed slogans such as “Jail Tony” and “Stay Alive in ’85” on oversized silk tops and sold them to like-minded people. Just like hashtag activism, it was a revolutionary idea.
Leading UK garments supplier Fire Label Merchandising explains that modern garment retailers owe their existence to those early campaigns. For the first time, people realised the social potential that blank shirts could offer to any cause or opinion.
Printing activist slogan shirts pushed Katharine and her company into the national conversation. But, she was criticised for promoting a lazy style of activism that “didn’t accomplish anything.”
Whether Katharine’s slogans actually spurned any action or none at all is debatable. What’s not up for discussion is the quick vehicle impact her garments produced. Speed is a significant factor in determining the result of any situation, and slogans printed on shirts definitely had an effect that way.