#MeToo Wins Symbol of the Year Vote Again for 2018

The Symbol of the Year in 2018, as voted by Symbolic Systems Program affiliates, is...


For the second year in a row, #MeToo united survivors of sexual violence speaking out within the movement founded by Tarana Burke. At first targeted primarily at gender-based workplace harassment and assaults committed by powerful men in the U.S., in 2018, #MeToo became a broader symbol of solidarity across levels of society and around the world.

Nominated by Sunshine Weiss (Class of 1997)

Other Notable Symbols from 2018, chosen by Symbolic Systems Program affiliates, were as follows:

"fake news"

Repeating its appearance as a Notable Symbol from 2017, the phrase “fake news”, popularized by Donald Trump in an adaptation of “lying press” messaging, spread to other countries such as Brazil, where newly elected President Jair Bolsonaro declared that his government would not support critical Brazilian press organizations he termed “fake news”. - Nominated by Margot Bushnaq (Class of 1998)

the U.S.-Mexico border and "wall"

As the year drew to a close, the U.S. Government was shut down due to a disagreement between the President and Congress over funding for a proposed full-length barrier along the border with Mexico. The barrier has existed in portions as walls or fences since 1994, but “the wall” became a symbol of border security and of divisions over immigration.- Nominated by  David Orr (Class of 2005), Emily Mandelbaum (Class of 2002), Tiffany Chao (Class of 2004), and Davyde Wachell (Class of 2003) 

the starving polar bear

A tragic image and video of an emaciated polar bear, widely spread through social media. It represents both sides of the global warming movement: activists pushing for change by showing the effect of climate change in polar areas, and climate deniers claiming that the image is a unique and common incident being used for emotional manipulation. - Nominated by Margot Bushnaq (Class of 1998)

yellow vests (gilets jaunes)

The symbol of a political movement with origins in France, spread to other parts of Europe and the Middle East. Participants were protesting the high cost of living and claims that a disproportionate burden of the government's tax reforms were falling on the working and middle classes. - Nominated by Margot Bushnaq (Class of 1998)

Black Panther

The highest grossing film in the U.S in 2018, Black Panther drew both widespread acclaim and critical analysis. The film was filled with African symbols, and became, itself, an iconic representation of Afrofuturism, African-American cinema and box office clout, and both the real and possible relationships between Africa and western nations. - Nominated by Todd Davies (Associate Director)

photos of starving children in Yemen

Photos of starving children helped build bipartisan support for a U.S. Senate resolution that passed in December, calling for an end to U.S. support for the Saudi-led war on Yemen. A tragic photo of 7-year-old Amal Hussain in October drew global attention to the humanitarian crisis. On Nov. 1, Amal’s family announced she had died in a refugee camp. - Nominated by Todd Davies (Associate Director)

cartoon depicting the assault of Lady Justice

Bruce MacKinnon's editorial cartoon depicted lady justice being held down on her back with her mouth covered. This work of satire / criticism came during one of the most emotionally turbulent episodes in recent American politics. The cartoon went viral when the eventually-confirmed Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault.  - Nominated by Colin Sheppard (Class of 2001)

Colin Kaepernick

The former 49er quarterback who had initiated the controversial US National Anthem protests two years earlier, in 2018 Colin Kaepernick was a potent symbol of athlete activism. After being shunned by NFL teams, Kaepernick was featured in a widely viewed Nike commercial in September, which reportedly led to a substantial increase in sales for Nike. - Nominated by Todd Davies (Associate Director)

video of driving through wildfire in Paradise, California

During the most destructive and most deadly wildfire season on record in California, images of devastation from the November 2018 wildfire in Paradise, California, were defining and coupled with an increased call to take climate change seriously.  - Nominated by Emily Mandelbaum (Class of 2002)

the Trump Baby balloon

The large balloon designed by Matt Bonner, depicting an angry, blond-haired, orange baby holding a smartphone, debuted in London in July during a visit to the UK by Donald Trump. Conveying sentiments of many critics of the 45th US President, the Trump Baby appeared in several places around the world at protest events and spawned cartoon versions. - Nominated by Todd Davies (Associate Director)

Melania Trump's "I really don't care, do u?" coat

The back of a jacket worn by First Lady Melania Trump as she boarded a plane to visit migrant children at the Texas-Mexico border read, "I really don't care, do u?" To many it symbolized a detached and insensitive presidency during a moment of public outrage about border policies. - Nominated by Margot Bushnaq (Class of 1998)

photos of Robert Mueller's face

The year 2018 produced a steady stream of revelations from the Special Counsel's office, headed by Robert Mueller. Photos of Mueller were constant reminders of the long investigation into the 2016 election campaign of President Donald Trump. - Nominated by Al Sargent (Class of 1991)

the redesigned gun emoji

In 2018, platforms such as Google and Twitter adopted a water gun representation for the gun emoji, following Apple’s lead. The cascade of design changes illustrated how standards drive industry change: Users sending an emoji assume it will be read similarly by others, providing pressure for uniformity once a widely used platform adopts a change. - Nominated by Todd Davies (Associate Director)

the "blue wave"

The "blue wave" was a term used to describe the results of the 2018 midterm elections in the U.S., which had the highest turnout in a midterm election since 1914. The Democratic Party (symbolized by the color blue in recent decades) scored major gains in the House of Representatives during the election.  - Nominated by Jeffrey Wishnie (Class of 1992)

"truth isn't truth"

On Aug 19, 2018, President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani said “truth isn’t truth”. The statement became a widely quoted meme for opponents of President Donald Trump.  - Nominated by Jordy Mont-Reynaud (Class of 2004)