New Technologies, Violence Against Women and Feminist Responses

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Information and communication technologies (for example, computer and cell phone technologies) are changing how violence against women happens and how it is experienced.

Abusers can use these technologies to monitor text messages, email and social media sites and they can extend harassment to online spaces. Recent cases covered by the media – including the Steubenville sexual assault case and the death of Rehtaeh Parsons – have begun to draw attention to the complicated role new technologies play in perpetuating violence. Questions about how to address issues of technology and violence against women remain and opinions differ about possible solutions and even about the extent of the problem.

While these debates take place, feminists and their allies have not sat idly by. They have begun to organize to provide support for those seeking it and to confront abusers who use new technologies to extend violence against women into virtual spaces. Here are a just few examples of this inspiring activism:

  • Anita Sarkeesian, the creator of a web series called Feminist Frequency, has faced a mass campaign of harassment because of her critiques of misogyny in popular culture and, more specifically, in gaming. Anita has bravely spoken out about this harassment, refusing to be silenced. To hear Anita speak about her experience of online harassment, check out this video:

    You can also follow her web series, Feminist Frequency, on twitter or facebook.

  • After Rehtaeh Parsons passed away on April 7th this year, there was a general outcry online about this tragic story. Rehtaeh’s family has courageously called out the rape culture which led to the loss of their daughter (see a letter by her father here). Recently, folks organized online to raise awareness about rape culture and violence against women by writing “Rehtaeh” on their wrists and sharing the photos online. Follow #handsup4rehtaeh on twitter to learn more about this.

Jeff Perera from White Ribbon Campaign’s #handsup4rateah pic

  • Take Back the Tech! is a global campaign which works to reclaim online spaces to end violence against women. It calls on women and girls to use technologies in their activism to end gender-based violence. Their website provides ideas for actions people can take to use technology in their activism and they also provide resources to help people create things such as digital post cards and videos. For more information go to www.takebackthetech.net or look them up on facebook.

Of course many, many, many other feminist anti-violence activists, groups and organizations are online, taking advantage of the reach of social media to educate and organize. Feel free to share an example which inspires you with us!

— Lisa

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