ECPR Graduate Student Conference
University of Tartu, Tartu
10 - 13 July 2016

'My Stealthy Freedom' and Illusion of Activism; Take a Photo and be an Activist

Social Movements
Social Media
Sara Talebian
University of Helsinki
Sara Talebian
University of Helsinki

"My Stealthy Freedom" is the name of a Facebook page that demands to protest against compulsory Hijab and demonstrate willing of clothing freedom for women in Iran. The foundation and activity of the page had been described as a "social movement" from the first days. Some western media claimed that this would be a successful social movement for Iranian women and some others asserted that this page would be a new platform in which Iranian women represent a new image of their identity. In this paper, I argue that despite some excitements about a new social movement for Iranian women in western media and some western human rights association, "My Stealthy Freedom" cannot be considered as a social movement against Iran's government and the law of compulsory hijab in Iran. I analyze the contents of photos and captions that have been sent by the Iranian users and published in "My Stealthy Freedom" page on Facebook. According to the main limited activity of "My Stealthy Freedom" on Facebook, and due to the results of content analysis, I claim that this Facebook page is, not only incapable to organize a real social movement against hijab, but also can be a well-suited example for the concept of slacktivism. According to Morozov (2009), the concept of slacktivism generally refers to activities that are easily performed, but they are considered more effective in making the participants feel good about themselves than to achieve the stated political goals. "My Stealthy Freedom contains the main features of slacktivism in its contents, photos and captions. It just exists in cyber space and does not have any power or effectiveness to create any social movement against compulsory hijab due to weak ties between the users and anonymity. It also seems to be completely unable to mobilize their users for a real social and political movement against compulsory hijab in future.
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