Starting around 11 p.m. on Saturday, a flurry of tweets were being sent out with the hashtag #reasonstobeatyourgirlfriend. Early into Sunday morning, it became the top trending topic and remained on the list of trending topics for a good part of the day Sunday.
Tweets with the trending hashtag were often sexist jokes, references to the Chris Brown and Rihanna incident from last year and references to women cheating. Some tweeters responded by questioning the trend and offering support to victims of domestic violence. Some even mentioned the National Domestic Violence Hotline, @NDVH, as well as our number here at the National Dating Abuse Helpline.
Twitter as a company was also called out by users for its refusal to remove it as a trending topic. The company policy states that topics with obscenities are removed, but gives no guidance on offensive content. The trending topic soon sparked a debate over Twitter’s ability to censor the topics on its site.
The founder of the site Women Who Tech, Allyson Kapin, started a petition on act.ly to remove it. The petition was tweeted more than 2900 times and the tweet “Petition @twitter 2 remove #Reasonstobeatyourgirlfriend as a trend. Domestic Violence is not a joke. http://act.ly/41k RT to sign” reached more than 1.4 million Twitter users.
The CEO of Twitter, Dick Costolo, responded by tweeting ““The trends are algorithmic, not chosen by us but we edit out any w/ obscenities & I’d like to see clearly offensive out too.”
To some Twitter users, these offensive tweets were just a harmless joke. We here at loveisrespect would like to remind our readers to consider the perspective of a dating abuse victim seeing these tweets. How would they feel seeing this topic?
Sharing a laugh about domestic violence and dating abuse minimizes what victims have gone through and the reality of what they are facing. Yes, these issues can be difficult and painful to talk about, but joking about them will only make that conversation harder to have. If your friend or loved one is experiencing domestic violence, it may be more challenging for them to come to you for support if they feel that you treat their situation as a joking matter. Trending topics like this do the same thing on a societal level, potentially desensitizing our society to the needs of domestic violence victims.
We are encouraged by all of the people who spoke out against the offensive tweets. The best way to keep insensitive trending topics from starting is by educating our communities about the realities of domestic violence and dating abuse. You can all help — try to get people talking about ways to support victims of domestic violence and inform your community about the facts of dating violence.