"'Hope in a hashtag': The Discursive Activism of #WhyIStayed." Feminist Media Studies, 2016.

Hashtag feminism, or feminist activism that unfolds through Twitter hashtags, has become a powerful tactic for fighting gender inequities around the world. Feminist media research, however, has yet to grasp the implications of this new form and social movement research has yet to model the conditions under which activists successfully mobilize online. This article builds on research regarding the potential and limitations of hashtag feminism to consider a question that remains understudied: what is the process through which a feminist hashtag develops into a highly visible protest? Through a case study of #WhyIStayed, which arose in response to a 2014 NFL domestic violence controversy, I frame hashtag feminism as an extension of the movement’s historically rooted discursive tactics. Hashtag feminism’s narrative form implies that the conditions for a successful online feminist protest parallel the elements of an effective dramatic performance. Using data collected from Twitter and news media, I identify the dramatic elements that propelled #WhyIStayed tweets from online personal expressions to online collective action.