Sign Holding

Sign Holding

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Updated Dec 28, 2014 at 06:38PM EST by Brad.

Added May 12, 2014 at 04:53PM EDT by Molly Horan.

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Sign Holding refers to the act of participating in a social or political movement by taking a selfie, or posing for a picture, with a handwritten sign featuring a message about the issue and sharing it online under the designated hashtag. Since first rising to recognition through the “We are the 99%” campaign in 2011, online picketing has become a popular tool in social media activism; however, it has been also criticized as a prime example of slacktivism by many pundits on the web.


On August 3rd, 2011, a 28-year old New York City activist only known as Christ created the single topic Tumblr We are the 99 Percent. The title for the Tumblr came from a General Assembly poster shared on the official Occupy website in early August 2011. The name reflects the opposite of the nation’s richest 1%, who control nearly half of America’s total wealth, according to various research studies. In its first post, the blog asks readers to submit a photo of themselves holding a sign with a single sentence about how America’s financial situation is affecting their lives. The blog began curating photo submissions on September 8th, 2011.


This practice has its roots in timestamping, or the act of providing photographic evidence of oneself with a handwritten note detailing the target audience and the date and time of the post date, which initially became widespread through its appearance on 4chan’s /b/ (random) board and later on Reddit, where it became used for the same purpose on /r/AMA.



Be a Man

Be a Man is a social media campaign started by Iranian men that involves taking a picture of oneself wearing the hijab, a head covering traditionally worn by Muslim women, and sharing it online. The subversive photo fad first began on Facebook during the 2009 Iranian protests following the arrest of student activist Majid Tavakoli, who was forced to put on the hijab after being taken into custody for state propaganda. Many of the man participating also chose to hold a sign explaining how they were being a man.


Dear Girls

Dear Girls is a photoshopped image featuring model Cole Mohr in space holding a sign instructing women to not be insecure. The photograph has been criticized for being pseudofeministic and even misogynistic, inspiring a number of parody images reenacting the photo. On May 8th, 2011, the Latvian site Spoki[2] published an image compilation including the photo of Mohr[1] edited with an outer space background and a sign which read “Dear Girls / don’t be insecure / you don’t need make-up & nice clothes / you’re all fucking beautiful.”

What’s goin’ on…

Whats goin on..*[sic] is the title of a confessional YouTube video starring a teary-eyed California teenager Jonah Mowry, whose silent and moving monologue about being bullied as a gay student drew millions of views on YouTube and words of encouragement from various celebrities in early December 2011. The video was uploaded to YouTube[3] on August 10th, 2011. Jonah begins his monologue by describing the hardships of being bullied using a stack of white index cards. He ends the video with a final card saying that despite all of this, he has a million reasons to be here.

“This is What I was Wearing (Tell Me I Asked for It, I Dare You)”

This is What I was Wearing is the slogan that was originally seen on a sign held by a feminist activist at the 2011 SlutWalk in New York City. Online, both the slogan and the photograph of the sign have been parodied through image macros and photoshopped images. On October 3rd, 2011, a photograph of a casually attired young male protester with a sign which revealed the outfit was the same one he was wearing when he was raped was posted the official SlutWalk NYC Tumblr.[4] The photo was taken that day at the SlutWalk[5]protest held in Union Square against victim-blaming, slut shaming and rape culture. According to a post on The Slut Project[6], the image was captured by photographer Francesa June.

“We’re a Culture, Not a Costume”

We’re a Culture, Not a Costume is a poster ad campaign that features students of various ethnicities holding photos of people dressed in Halloween costumes that could be perceived as culturally insensitive. The campaign inspired a series of photoshop parodies depicting animals and fictional characters with photos of people wearing their respective Halloween costumes. In late October of 2011, a student organization at Ohio University named “Students Teaching Against Racism in Society”[8] (STARS) launched a campaign to raise awareness about racially insensitive Halloween costumes. On October 21st, the president of the organization posted several images of awareness posters on her Tumblr blog.[7]

I am Trayvon Martin

The single topic Tumblr blog I am Trayvon Martin[58], created to show support for slain teenager Travyon Martin was created on March 20th, 2012. The Tumblr features photos of people wearing hoods, acquiring nearly 200 submissions within a week. Many of the submissions featured people holding signs voicing their anger and support.

Who Needs Feminism

Who Needs Feminism? is a movement organized via a single topic Tumblr and Facebook page that feature photos of people holding handwritten signs explaining why they need feminism and why feminism is important to them. A Tumblr[9], Twitter[13] and Facebook page[10] were all launched on April 11th, 2012 by 16 female students at Duke University as part of their final project[11] in a class titled Women in the Public Sphere. Prior to its web launch, the students went around campus asking their peers why they needed feminism, taking pictures of them holding up a whiteboard with their explanation on it.[12]

Iran Loves Israel

Iran Loves Israel is a grassroots anti-war campaign that aims to bring mutual assurance of peace and reconciliation between the peoples of Iran and Israel, two rivalry nations in the Middle East with a history of animosity. The initiative was launched by two Israeli graphic designers Ronny Edry and Michal Tamir in early March 2012. On March 17th, 2012, Edry and Tamir launched a Facebook campaign with pacifist slogans addressed towards Iran, affirming their love for the Iranians and assured that “Israel will not bomb Iran.” The original instance was created by Edry himself and uploaded onto the Facebook page of Pushpin Mehina, a small graphic design preparatory school.


“Not A Martyr”

Not A Martyr is a social media campaign started by young men and women in Lebanon to voice their opposition to the ongoing violence in the region and euphemistic use of the term “martyr” by politicians to describe the innocent victims of terrorism. The campaign launched after a car bomb exploded in the busy central district of Beirut in Lebanon, on December 27th, 2013, killing six people and injuring at least 50 people, including a 16-year-old boy named Mohammad al-Chaar, who happened to be hanging with his friends near the site moments before the bomb went off.

I, Too, Am Harvard

I, Too, Am Harvard is a single topic blog featuring photographs of African American students at Harvard University holding whiteboards with racist and insensitive comments that have been said to them because of their race. Launched in early March 2014, the Tumblr-based photo project has since led to the creation of numerous spin-off blogs for minority students at other universities and colleges.


#BringBackOurGirls is a hashtag campaign launched by a group of Nigerians to raise awareness and call upon the international community for action after nearly 300 Nigerian school girls were kidnapped by a jihadist terrorist group in April 2014. On April 23rd, the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls was first tweeted out by lawyer Ibrahim M. Abdullahi[9]and spread through Twitter users in Nigeria.[14] On May 3rd, 2014, education and equality activist Malala tweeted a picture from her foundation’s Twitter account[15] of herself holding a sign with the hashtag. In less than a week the tweet gained over 4,000 retweets.


Public Resignation

Public Resignation refers to the act of quitting one’s job in front of an audience in real life or on the Internet, which is usually manifested in the form of an open letter or video recording of a speech. On March 13th, 2009, Flickr[16] user Neil Berrett uploaded a photograph of himself holding a large cake containing his letter of resignation from his position at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard (shown below, left). In the first five years, the photo gained over 440,000 views and 700 favorites.


WDYDWYD? is a collaborative art project designed to survey and document people’s responses to a simple yet compelling question: why do you do what you do? According to a 2010 WIRED Magazine article, “In Silicon Valley, that question has become the hottest team-building meme since Outward Bound--and it’s spreading.”

One Million Facebook Likes Pleas

One Million Facebook Likes Pleas are ad hoc campaigns launched by individuals seeking to raise one million “likes” on the social networking site in order to win a bet in real life. Each post is typically accompanied by a photograph of the pleader and the pledger, along with a poster sign revealing the prize at stake. The first casual instance of “One Million Likes” plea to go viral came in November 2012, after Dan Urbano from Newton, Massachusetts made a bet with his children that if their picture asking for a cat got 1,000 likes on Facebook, he would make their wish come true. Within hours of posting on November 7th, the Facebook plea made by Urbano’s children surpassed its goal and by November 12th, it had received more than 110,000 likes and 100,000 shares.

Kira Hudson’s Facebook Lesson

Kira Hudson’s Facebook Lesson refers to a social media experiment featuring a photograph of a teenager launched by Colorado resident Kira Hudson in order to demonstrate to her daughter how quickly an image can spread once it is posted on the social networking site Facebook. Shortly after the photograph was posted on Facebook in March 2014, it subsequently drew the attention of users on 4chan and spawned a number of parodies. On March 18th, 2014, Hudson posted a photograph on Facebook[17] of her 12-year-old daughter Amia holding a sign reading “Mom is trying to show me how many people can see a picture once it’s on the Internet” (shown below). In the next 48 hours, the post reportedly gained close to one million likes before it was removed.


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