Somehow following the two prior posts, I’m thinking about the word resist, and the hashtag behind it. As an adjective – nothing grand at all, but still it seems to cause great drama. With one specification: only if it’s a woman resisting.
It’s been a rough week. While the president of the United States wants to grab us ladies by the pussy, news in my Facebook feed says a Swedish artist pushes a young woman’s face against his crotch during a gig just because he felt like it. What gets me up after all this are the reactions that always follow. Social media feeds explode with debate articles, hashtags, anything to bring light on the issue of men taking advantage of female bodies. While Trump signs an anti-abortion executive order the feed screams. Women and girls are raising their voices in capital letter texts on my screen.
As long as you live you'll never see a photograph of 7 women signing legislation about what men can do with their reproductive organs pic.twitter.com/dXjfVjnRiX
— Martin Belam (@MartinBelam) January 23, 2017
Societal breakdowns answered by social media response/activism. Facebook posts and hashtags as reactions to global political events. I’m scrolling down and that’s what I get: the one after the other. Political scandals, then a resistance movement, brought to the world in a collective digital manifestation. Trump grabs a pussy, #PussyGrabsBack.
One example. A photo of all white men taking further control over women’s rights to their own bodies. Then Isabella Lövin, the Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation posts a similar picture of an all women crowd supporting her while signing the Council on Legislation of Sweden’s new Climate Change Act. This kind of media activism is getting more frequently used, it seems. The strange part is that people are seldom prepared for a counter-thrust.
Social media as battleground, social media as weapon
This week, a Swedish handball player became a viral media sensation. Linnéa Claeson had enough of men sexualizing and harassing her through the internet, so she started the Instagram account Assholesonline where she posts the offensive messages she receives, and her replies to them.
Skål då! Dricker male tears och drömmer om att riva ner samhällsstrukturer som accepterar att kvinnor behandlas som objekt och översexualiseras samtidigt som den kvinnliga sexualiteten även förtrycks och kontrolleras i form av exempelvis slutshaming, skambeläggning av mens och amning samt inskränkningar i aborträtten. Fantiserar om att machokulturen och attityder som boys will be boys förintades i alla åldrar och alla länder. Önskar att jag kunde sätta stopp för våldtäktskulturen, victimblaiming och hålla alla offer som utsatts för sexuella övergrepp i handen och säga till dom att det INTE var deras fel och att jag alltid kommer stå på deras sida. Jag tänker inte bara sitta och drömma, jag tänker kämpa för att det här ska bli verklighet, varje minut, varje dag, i resten av mitt liv. // Linnéa Claeson @linneaclaeson #assholesonline
Linnéa Cleason receives offensive messages, videos pf rape and nude pictures. When she answers by telling the man she has forwarded all his messages to his family and friends, he is very angry and offensive, saying she has destroyed his life. Reading this, I get a feeling that I’m still in primary school, playing football or basketball or whatever. Boys against girls. The thrilling sense of danger. The underdog feeling. The teamwork.
Women visible in media get sexually harassed every day. By men, and that’s men of all sorts (but #NotAllMen of course what do you think?). At the same time, there seems to be nothing more provoking than a woman doing the same. Nothing more unthinkable for a man, than a woman using the internet right back against him. Will there ever be anything more politically charged, than a woman resisting a man?
It might not be all men. But it’s all women. We carry the fear of rape collectively, even though not all women have been sexually assaulted. We know what the world looks like because we have to. I carry my keys as a weapon in the pocket of my jacket. I clench my fist and write a hashtag because us women are bundled together as one, harassed because of our gender.
#YesAllWomen know. We have been told and showed the risk of having a female body in the era of the internet. We have been warned about revenge porn and online rapes. We have seen the slut shaming and aggressive sexual attacks of female public figures. We know the risks of putting our pictures, words and work online, where the pack of hungry wolves is waiting to push us down, oppress us, reduce us.
Clay Shirky claims social media have become a fact of life for civil society worldwide. He says: social media’s real potential lies in supporting civil society and the public sphere-which will produce change over years and decades, not weeks or months.
Parmelee and Bichard responds: Social media, Twitter in particular, is a powerful tool for the civil society to influence politicians. It forces them to get to the point, and to respond and act quickly.
The media is reporting on events like Linnéa’s. Online harassment is nothing new. Maybe, one issue is that we keep on sounding surprised that the internet opens up for these kinds of interactions. And one question that keeps coming back to me while reading on Assholesonline is: How couldn’t these men see the resistance coming? One answer is that the internet, not surprisingly, is reproducing the AFK– patriarchal world, where vulnerable women are repeatedly silenced by societal norms.
Evegny Morozov says: Given how fuzzy the very idea of the Internet is, derivative concepts like “Internet freedom” have become so all-encompassing and devoid of any actual meaning that they can easily cover the regulation of 3D printers, the thorny issues of net neutrality, and the rights of dissident bloggers in Azerbaijan.
Online activism is often called “slacktivism”. Clearly you won’t ever change something at all only by clicking like on a Facebook post, but what’s the alternative? The feminist movement needs to act on what is going on online. Men have long used social media to fight for their right to hate women. It’s only about time we all claim some digital space, raise a middle finger and outsmart the internet trolls.
Shirky, Clay. The Political Power of Social Media: Technology, the Public Sphere, and Political Change. Publication info: Foreign Affairs 90.1 (Jan/Feb 2011): 28-I.
ParmeleeBichard (2011). PoliticsTwitterRevolution. Chapter7: Conclusion.
Morozov, Evgeny (2013). To Save Everything, Click Here. The Folly of Technological Solutionism.