Sean Penn, Justin Timberlake and Ashton Kutcher. Photo: via Twitter
In the last few days the hashtag #RealMenDontBuyGirls has been trending globally, tweeted by thousands in connection to the abduction of hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls three weeks ago. Some tweets include images of Hollywood celebrities holding placards – the likes of Sean Penn, Justin Timberlake, Ashton Kutcher and Jamie Foxx throwing their support behind the social media campaign.
You would be forgiven for thinking #RealMenDontBuyGirls was created in a bid to keep the Nigerian kidnapping in the global consciousness, just as the hugely successful #BringBackOurGirls hashtag has done, now tweeted more than 1.6 million times world-wide. Yet, while its message seems fitting, #RealMenDontBuyGirls was actually launched in 2011 by actor Ashton Kutcher and his then-wife Demi Moore to fight trafficking into the sex trade. It featured a series of YouTube videos with celebrity endorsement.
The BBC reports that the link between the two campaigns began on May 2, when a woman based in New Jersey in the US tweeted #RealMenDontBuyGirls when news broke that Boko Haram militants were threatening to sell the girls. It then took off, the old images spread by Twitter users in Nigeria, the US and elsewhere, before being picked up by high profile Twitter users, and then the mainstream media.
Sure, #RealMenDontBuyGirls may have been taken out of its original context by well meaning social media followers, but its resurgence is testament to the strength of 'sharing', and the emotive reaction this news story has inspired.