This time last week, Australia was commiserating with The Bachelorette runner-up Jarrod using #PutOutYourPotPlants, and literally putting pot plants on our doorsteps to remember that very contentious symbol of his love for Sophie.
Did we care that we were basically mocking the original hashtag that it was derived from – #PutOutYourBats – which was used to honour cricketer Phillip Hughes when he died? No. Well, now it’s been pointed out you might care, but basically, no one even remembered.
Because it’s 2017, and hashtags are an integral part of the way we communicate, having evolved from their original purpose of being impossibly tiny games of noughts and crosses. #sofunny #gold
But not all hashtags are created equally: some convey universal beliefs – for example (the incredibly annoying) #friyay and #fitspo. And some have sparked global revolutions, such as #BlackLivesMatter.
#BlackLivesMatter was a hashtag created in 2015 as a response to inherent racism in the United States, and the increasing number of unarmed black lives being taken by authorities. (Think Michael Brown, the protests and unrest in Ferguson, and Eric Garner.) The hashtag was so successful that it ignited a civil rights movement for an historically oppressed minority group who was tired of keeping quiet.
Much like Jarrod’s pot plant, its massive popularity saw it spawn a number of derivative hashtags: #BlueLivesMatter (for police), #WhiteLivesMatter (for white supremacists), and #AllLivesMatter (for the sorts of fence-sitters and head-in-the-sand people who say they are ‘equalists’ not feminists).
And then, of course, there was the accidental and somewhat unnecessary movement, #BlackOlivesMatter…
A White Lives Matter rally was held in Tennessee last week, and the white supremacists probably thought that clever title was making a statement. Which, of course, it was - about the irony of the concept being created by the very people they're trying to claim superiority to. #awkward
Increasingly, #WhiteLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter are being used around the world, and it's gloriously non-sensical. It completely misses the point of #BLM, which is not saying that only black lives matter, so that white peoples' existence is threatened.
It's making us aware that black lives have mattered less, and something needs to be done about it. #BLM is about challenging the status quo and seeking equality, not about silencing existing voices - which these other hashtags want to do. #doyourresearchdudes
Not surprisingly, the Australian anti-immigration (aka white supremacy) Party for Freedom (not to be confused with the Part-ay for Femdom, which I run) has a similar misunderstanding of what #BLM represents.
Which is why they started using the very creative #StraightLivesMatter as soon as marriage equality and the postal survey hit our headlines. The PFF needed to let the nation know that heterosexual lives matter, dammit.
To which most of the nation did a collective #facepalm. Um, thanks dudes, we said. We already figured that out. It’s kind of the entire point of this postal survey; straight people have been the only ones allowed to marry, so straight lives have been the only ones that do matter.
#MarriageEqualityDoesntMatter would have been a much more sensible hashtag for the PFF to use.
Holding a rally insisting that straight lives matter is as valuable to the discussion as the classic and never-over-used-but-totally-pointless comeback, “so’s your face.” Straight lives matter is a given. Our entire society has been hetero-centric since Adam and Eve got kicked out of the Garden of Eden.
No one with any understanding of reality can argue that straight lives have mattered less than gay lives. In Australia, our media, and the law – including the very law we are debating - revolve around the concept of heterosexuality. The Straights are everywhere, they dominate everything, from the traditional definition of a family to the most popular reality show on television.
As for any similarities with #BLM; um no, the risks to The Straights as they stare down the barrel of a veritable marriage free-for-all are not akin to the risks faced by a group of people who were oppressed for centuries, and had their rights removed under systems such as slavery and apartheid.
The Straights haven’t had been told they can't vote, based on their sexuality. The Straights haven’t had to fight for rights to education, employment and housing, because of legislation that made access impossible based on their sexuality - but black people have had to fight for all of those things.
LISTEN: Why the CEO of the YES campaign is a straight, white liberal voter (post continues after audio...)
A power imbalance not in their favour is what #StraightLivesMatter supporters are afraid of - how dare someone else be afforded the same rights and privileges as them? Just like #WhiteLivesMatter, #StraightLivesMatter isn't a solution, and it isn't a response, but it most definitely is the reason why things ended up the way they did.
So while it's perfectly Australian to change #PutOutYourBats to #PutOutYourPotPlants, changing #BlackLivesMatter to #StraightLivesMatter to argue against equality makes no sense at all. #eyeroll