6 Most Popular Social Movements Currently
Most days, it’s hard to watch the news, browse social media, or read a trending article without being confronted by everything that’s wrong with the world. Fortunately, now more than ever before, people across the nation and around the world are standing up and speaking out about the problems they see in the world. Better yet, a wide range of current social movements has encouraged people to band together and make a concrete push for change.
The #MeToo movement gained a national stage in the closing months of 2017. Dozens of women stepped forward during this time to accuse Harvey Weinstein and other powerful Hollywood figures of sexual assault and other forms of harassment and abuse. Although #MeToo was created by activist Tarana Burke well before the Weinstein scandal, the hashtag gained momentum when actress Alyssa Milano suggested that victims of sexual harassment and assault use it to share their stories. The movement was further aided by the efforts of investigative journalists who exposed abusers like Weinstein in high-profile articles.
The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements are related but distinct. While the primary goal of the #MeToo movement is to give abuse survivors a voice and help them heal, the Time’s Up movement is focused on concrete solutions to workplace issues that affect women. This includes, but is not limited to, sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace.
Time’s Up was founded by a group of over 300 women in Hollywood. Its goal is to create safe, fair workplaces by addressing pay inequalities, power imbalances, and related problems. Most actors and actresses wore black to the Golden Globes this year in support of Time’s Up, and many made large donations to the organization’s legal defense fund, which was set up to help victims fight against sexual misconduct through the justice system.
A series of controversial police shootings and similar incidents over the last several years gave rise to #BlackLivesMatter. The hashtag first appeared in 2013, after George Zimmerman was acquitted of manslaughter in the death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager he shot in February of 2012. In 2014, #BlackLivesMatter gained more momentum after a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, shot black teenager Michael Brown.
In 2017, the #BlackLivesMatter movement became even more widely discussed when many NFL players chose to follow Colin Kaepernick’s lead, taking a knee during the national anthem before games. Kaepernick, who played for the San Francisco 49ers at the time, first took a knee in 2016 to protest issues at the center of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, such as racial injustice and police brutality. In some instances, entire teams took a knee or otherwise indicated their solidarity with the movement.
Player protests could continue to make a difference during the upcoming NFL season. Not only are 70 percent of NFL players black, but they have a built-in audience thanks to the large and diverse group of people who follow football. Professional athletes — perhaps, especially NFL players — can be the ideal candidates to champion the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
March for Our Lives is the latest student movement in the U.S. that has been drawing national headlines. After the recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the decades-old nationwide debate about gun control came to the forefront once more. In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, survivors have used the national attention they received to call for stricter gun control and other measures to prevent gun violence.
The Parkland survivors organized a March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., on March 24, 2018. Over 800 sibling events happened across the country as others added their voices to the movement. Since then, the students behind March for Our Lives have organized student-led town halls in various cities, with chairs left empty for lawmakers who were invited but did not attend. They have also been encouraging young people to register to vote so their voices can be heard.
It hasn’t just been students marching in 2018. On February 22, teachers in West Virginia staged a walkout to protest low pay and rising health insurance costs. Although the eventual 5-percent raise for teachers and other state employees took center stage, the strike was about more than just pay. It was about the effect that poor teacher compensation and legislative changes could have on the quality of students’ education.
Striking teachers in West Virginia adopted the hashtag #55strong in honor of the fact that teachers from all 55 counties joined the movement, shutting down every public school in the state from February 22 through March 6. Throughout the strike, teachers enjoyed a broad base of public support from their communities.
Teachers in other states took note, and some have followed suit with walkouts of their own. Teachers in Kentucky staged a “sickout” on March 30 that closed schools in 30 districts, and an Oklahoma teacher walkout that began April 2 has lasted more than a week. So far, the movement has been largely successful for teachers and has increased awareness across the nation about low teacher pay and the other burdens they face.
#DACA, #NoBanNoWall, and #MuslimBan
Throughout 2017 and 2018, Donald Trump’s administration has pushed several controversial agenda items relating to immigrants and refugees, from his promised border wall to new immigration bans that primarily target Muslim countries. Another example is President Trump’s repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy that went into effect during Obama’s presidency. As lawmakers struggle to pass legislation that will shield people from deportation who were brought into the U.S. as children, as DACA was designed to do, many immigrants have been left in limbo. Debates related to immigration policies are likely to continue to dominate 2018.
Despite the hashtags and strong social media element, these popular movements are creating real change in the real world — and they barely scratch the surface. From the efforts of hacktivist groups like Anonymous to grassroots protests organized via social media, modern technology plays a huge role in social movements around the world. For a fictional but all-too-realistic example, watch Eko’s new interactive series, #WarGames.