POST 7 Gender Based Violence and the Online Discourse

Within the past couple of years we have witnessed how social justice movements have been fuelled and triggered by activity and content on social media. Activists and participants in these issues not only see social media platforms as a useful tool to voice their concerns but as a true necessity in a society that is more demanding of progress and resolve. Twitter in particular has been harnessed in social justice causes to ensure that awareness reaches the masses but also as a means of engaging in meaningful, powerful discussions. Although twitter restricts is users to 140 characters, it is evident that the word limit drives individuals to express the most within a few potent sentences. As a result, many tweets tend to utilise strong emotive language and/or qualities to intensify the reaction of their statements and increase exposure of their issue. This has proven to be a double edged sword as the content of twitter posts can shift from empathetic and insightful to hateful and pernicious. Both sides of the spectrum, whether negative or positive, are protected by the anonymity of their profile, perhaps allowing for statements to be more controversial as the author is not held accountable. What also differentiates twitter as an informative source is that it represents a more current, demographic conversation that doesn’t require a professional writer status to participate.

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The image above is a screenshot taken from the web scraping exercise where I collected any twitter content that included the term “rape culture”. Rape culture refers to society’s sanction and downplay of sexual violence through the encouragement of masculine sexual aggression and the objectification of women. It is a polemic term that has garnered mass attention and controversy in the discussion of feminism and gender based violence. Below are some tweets that demonstrate how the heated conversation of rape culture has unfolded in an online territory.

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The content of the tweets above reveal a common interruption in the online discussion of rape culture. Ever since the term was coined by early feminists in the early 70s, conversations aimed at spreading awareness of the issue has been constantly met with claims denying its existence. With the ability to share and respond to external links, twitter users have been using posts to provide examples of how rape culture can be perpetuated on a mindless but nevertheless powerful level. The most recent posts have been directed as a response to the heavily publicised Stanford University rape case. The authors behind these posts were criticising both the minimal sentencing of the offender, Brock Turner as well as the victim blaming attitudes that were responsible for his 3 month jail sentence. A large portion of the tweets collected included links to memes, photographs and articles, often accompanied by a short, direct statement such as “this is rape culture”, “rape culture at its finest” or “proof that rape culture exists”. What these statements suggest is that there is no need to explain why these incidents embody rape culture, rather that the simple fact that these events exist validates its presence in our society. This in turn reveals that rape culture, is in fact a simple phenomena to not only understand but observe, all that it requires is a sensitive sociocultural lens to see its ubiquitous manifestations in many frameworks of society.

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This round of collaborative issue mapping served as a more developed extension of the first mapping tasks that outlined key terms in the vocabulary of gender equality. This mapping experience required a clear motive to specify and deconstruct agents and factors in the discussion of gender equality. The need to specify surprisingly made the exercise much easier and quicker to complete, resulting in a less overwhelming, cluttered stakeholder map. Each stakeholder was then connected to a series of emotions and sociocultural contexts which helped to outline relationships and individual influence in the gender equality issue. With each mapping task, we found that many actors and their functions overlapped in their connotations, demonstrating the intricate, multifaceted nature of the gender equality issue.

These tasks served as preparation for the personal actor mapping task where we analyzed our own individual position in our chosen issues. With any social justice cause, media tends to emphasise the enormity of the problem as a means to gather awareness and inspire action, however the issue can often be seen as intimidating within the context of the single individual. I found that the this mapping task could be used by literally anyone who shared these sentiments as a means to understand their place and influence in their valued causes. What was so insightful about this exercise is that it not only revealed individual capacities but also challenges and obstructions in my contribution towards my issue. Whilst the lack of media attention, budget and political power seem immediately obvious, I chose to focus this area on the privileges I possess and how they hinder my understanding of gender based violence. For example my identity as an able-bodied, able-minded woman makes me oblivious to how gender based violence affects the disabled community and the implications that from that context that shape the issue. I hope to return to this particular map later on in this subject with extended knowledge of how each factor can be harnessed and eventually contributed into action.

By Giselle Enriquez

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