Foto: Guilherme Guimarães

Internet trends are one of the most dynamic research subjects, constantly adapting to public opinion. In fact, this doesn’t happen by chance. These topics are registered to mirror our online conversation, so they’re changing as rapidly as we change our minds…that’s pretty fast!

Usually, the highest trending hashtags are about a TV show or even a brand’s marketing campaign — culturally relevant search terms, influenced by mass media that seem to be fads that will pass as soon as the next trend comes along.

In Brazil, we have recently (within the last eight weeks) seen two specific hashtags come to represent unified movements that are growing rapidly, releasing long oppressed societal issues and empowering minds for change. These hashtags correlate to causes that Brazilian women really care about, but until recently we did not realize how many women felt the same. This trend has been dubbed the “Female Spring”.

The hashtags used have spread virally, because they transmit an empathetic human truth:

  1. #primeiroassedio — #firstharassment

In Brazil this year the Masterchef TV show released a kid’s show (as seen in other regions). The program, which shows 9 -13 year old children cooking “like grown-ups”, intended on showcasing the talent of it’s participants. However on the contrary, it was marked by the sexual comments on social media directed to Valentina, one of the participants of the reality show, who is only 12 years.

Some examples:

(“About Valentina: If we have consensus, will this be considered paedophilia?”)

A few days later, the movement started. The project @ThinkOlga, who is lead by Juliana de Faria one of the most activist of the feminist themes in Brazil, launched the #firstharassment. The idea was to use the hashtag to report a personal story. A huge amount of women answered to the call. There were more than 30K posts in one day, talking about the episodes of violence that happened to Brazilian women everyday.

A strong idea from @ThinkOlga and Juliana de Faria is that in Brazil the harassment culture starts in life so early that we become used to it. When you see in a matter of hours, 30K cases of stories that actually show how this deeply affects women’s life, society cannot oppress the issue for much longer.

What is the real impact of this?

When I was a child I suffered from serious abuse that deeply impacted my life. At the time, I had the opportunity to see a psychologist and talk about the episode. This helped me tremendously, but I could never talk about it outside of that room. First, because it was a story that provoked shame to my family and second because I also felt extremely embraced and sad every time I thought about it.

The effect that the #firstharassment hashtag had on me was comfort, to feel that I was not alone and also that this was not something to be embarrassed by — but that the sick and weak man who did that to me should be embarrassed. It empowered me and made me see that I have responsibility to also fight for this cause. I just don’t want any other girl to suffer the way I have. After all these years, I have realized that many of my friends feel the same way.

2. #meuamigosecreto — #mysecretfriend

With Christmas time approaching, Brazilian women started to share stories about their common enemy: machismo. This hashtag exploded in a matter of hours as well. More than 80K mentions have been registered on Facebook this week, by men and women talking about the theme and how it brings to light the fact that for Brazilian men, this sort of behavior is socially acceptable and regarded as a natural habit.

Some examples of my friend’s reports:

“My secret friend exposed me for the first time, the day after the Dilma’s re-election in 2014. He is one of many, that uses gender, appearance and sexual conduct to criticize when women, responsible for a policy management that does not please him. At the time, he made a “meme” with my photos he found on the internet.

One year goes by. As many secret friends spread a malicious print of my posting on Instagram: he reappears. He calls me and says I should forget this history of feminism. Not satisfied, [he] calls a few days later again to say that I deserve to be raped.

My secret friend is indeed, secret. I do not know who he is. Failure tends to flirt with cowardice, [doesn’t] it? A shame, secret mate, I had a gift so great for you.

“#Mysecretfriend is saying I have not found a “real man” just because I still prefer women.”

“#MySecretFriend said he loves seeing his video wedding backwards. He says the best part is when he takes the ring and walks away alone doing moonwalk.”

“#Mysecretfriend [is] why I do not take taxi alone. That’s why I never sit on the side of the window. My secret friend is the reason why I got so subtle the habit of looking back ten steps in the street, and look into each parked car I step foot on the side, afraid of being kidnapped. Sometimes my secret friend appears in my dreams, but he has no face. That’s why I do not know my secret friend, but live in the certainty that one day [ I ] will know. Every abuse report I read, I feel my secret friend approaching. Everyone tells me to get out of “noia”, to relax more. I say I’m traumatized by something I never experienced. I happen to live [with] this thing on my mind a hundred times a day, every look I get on the street, every man sitting next to me, every time a safe boy [grabs] my arm at a party to “talk” every time a man who is not my friend offers me a ride. My secret friend is my fear is the certainty of my helplessness, my physical and psychological weakness, my secret friend is myself and at the same time, the whole society."

“#MySecretFriend comes, turns aside and sleeps.”

“#Mysecretfriend asked to “take care” of the clothes I wear on tabalho because I can draw the attention of men.”

“#MySecretFriend justifies the fact that never have kissed a black women as a matter of taste and think you’re all right with this.¹

# Meuoutroamigosecreto kisses black women eventually, but only appeared in public with whites.²”

These are testimonials of people trying to stage a fight for something that really matters to them. It is a call for the ones who actually stimulate the aggressions against women, to realize that this is not right.

It has consequences, it hurts people in a very deep way, and no one deserves that. Connection is power and is playing an important role in bringing awareness to key issues that until now were hidden in our society.

From the frightened individual to a powerful community that is responsible to create a movement and make a difference. That is an example of the real contribution that social media has made to the world.