Kelly Oxford is no stranger to social media. Perhaps you recognize her from TIME Magazine’s best 140 Twitter feeds of 2011 and 2012. Or maybe you’ve read her hilarious memoir “Everything is Perfect When You’re a Liar,” which became a New York Times Bestseller in 2013. Or maybe (like me) you’re obsessed with her Instagram feed and read her Twitter religiously. Oxford’s social media presence is unapologetically honest, her sense of humor dry and perfectly self-deprecating. This year, though, the Calgary native caught the Internet’s eye for a different reason.
In wake of Donald Trump’s infamous “locker room” tape leak, Oxford encouraged millions of women on Twitter to share their first experiences with sexual assault. The campaign became known as hashtag #NotOkay, and it has inspired women around the world to share their stories – many of them for the first time. “Women: tweet me your first assaults,” Oxford tweeted. “they aren’t just stats.” Oxford then shared her own experience of being groped by a man on a city bus. She was 12 years old. Within just a few hours, a flood of responses came pouring in. Women of all ages shared their experiences: college students, mothers, teenagers. Some replied anonymously; some wrote that they hadn’t known until that moment that what they’d experienced was assault. Some women had never shared their stories until that moment. Many expressed their gratitude to Oxford for bringing this issue into light.
But it didn’t stop there. Later that evening, Oxford announced that a million women had reached out to share their stories: “I can’t believe I just shared my experiences in your thread,” tweeted one woman. “Something is happening. Thank you.” “Thank you for your work tonight,” tweeted another.
Two months later, the outpouring of responses hasn’t stopped. Millions of women have continued to reply with their own stories. The #NotOkay campaign has sparked a much-needed dialogue, bringing the topic of sexual assault into the forefront of our political conversation. And on December 15, thousands of Twitter users recognized Oxford for doing so.
More than 21 thousand people voted in Twitter Canada’s poll for the 2016 Top Canadian on Twitter, and 10,500 of those votes went to Oxford. Also in the running were Olympic swimmer Penny Oleksiak and 17-year-old musician Sebastian Olzanski. “A moment of cultural reckoning has been honoured!” Oxford tweeted. “Sexual assault is an unwanted grab, touch, kiss, sexual talk. Not our shame & #notokay.” Oxford’s next book, “When You Find Out the World is Against You,” will be released in early 2017. Her first book is available for purchase.