Niki Akhavan

Associate Professor of Media and Communication Studies and Director of Undergraduate Studies
Hashtags and Harassment: Ending Discrimination against Iranian Women one Post at a Time?

Long before #metoo became a digital mechanism for highlighting the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace and in Hollywood in particular, Iranian women inside the country and abroad had been taking up a variety of hashtags for bringing attention to routine harassment in professional and public arenas. Alongside this, they also used a variety of digital spaces to attempt a direct line of connection to figures in power such as state officials and public figures in order to demand accountability or, at minimum, acknowledgement. With a focus on the social media sites Twitter and Instagram, this paper examines the ways that Iranian women have used the affordances of these particular platforms to maximize the reach of their messages. Magnifying a message digitally, however, also comes with vulnerabilities: more quickly than the offline sphere, digital campaigns and their concomitant hashtags can be co-opted and/or used for reasons other than those intended by its original creators. This paper also brings attention to some of these dangers as well as potential responses to them.
Research interests include: new media and transnational political and cultural production; international cinema and national identity; state sponsored and oppositional propaganda; documentary and social change; post-colonial and critical theory; Iranian cultural studies. Dr. Akhavan is the author of Electronic Iran: The Cultural Politics of an Online Evolution (Rutgers, 2013).