I had the pleasure of live streaming the panel discussion and video launch called “From Selfies to Self-Care: Resources for a safer digital world” this week and I wanted to share some of my reflections with you. While this web-based event was primarily created for people working in the field to end gender-based violence (my day job) it is easy to see how these issues are faced both within the context of intimate partner violence and also from people who we don’t know at all, like trolls. Plus as the creator of #SelfiesForSelfLove, it just seemed like an obvious connection and I had to share some of the content that was presented. Taking and sharing selfies can be empowering as fuck but it can also be scary because of the potential to be harassed. While my practice has always been to report, mute, block, it still happened and while I am strong enough to handle the abuse, not everyone has reached this stage yet. But that isn’t the point at all, the point is that you have the right to be online, even posing in your underwear, without experiencing cyberviolence in any form.
Thanks to organizers YWCA, femifesto, Project Slut, and my friend from college, Susan Tiihonen, for putting this event together and for allowing us to attend for free through Facebook live video. It made the event accessible to many more people than it otherwise wouldn’t have been. Shout out to Facebook for holding this event at their Toronto offices. I simply couldn’t justify driving 3 hours each way, a total of 6 hours to be there for 2 hours of learning and networking. Many people find online events more accessible due to varying abilities or mental wellness challenges. It is great to have options! Of course, technology has its own issues so there was a significant delay in the live streaming actually getting started. While we are being critical, Facebook was present and spoke but what are they really doing to solve the problem? How often have we heard of women being abused online, trying to get their friends to report it, and then getting banned themselves? We need reporting tools that are run by real people who are educated in issues of oppression so they can recognize what is at play when people experience racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, etc. We need a way to appeal decisions that are problematic.
Digital harassment and violence is no less damaging than the type that occurs offline, the pain it causes is real. You won’t see me use the term in-real-life, although the short form can be pretty useful because I think it reinforces the idea that the online world is not real. If the online world is “not real” then it is easy for people to dismiss the abuse we endure simply by trying to have a public social media account. In fact, even having a private account won’t necessarily keep you safe from bullying because it often comes from people you do know offline. This is especially true for students who are abused online and then bullied at school, they get no respite from the emotional violence. This only emphasizes the problem with dismissing online harassment because it often continues during in-person interactions. Telling people to stay off the internet or specific social media sites doesn’t solve the problem, in part because the abuse continues whether you are present to see it or not. We should actually be talking about how cyberviolence ensures the violence has maximum impact and that it will literally never go away. For example, in the case of nude pictures being shared without consent, it is almost impossible to ensure that image has been removed from the internet, simply because of how the internet works.
Since we’ve established that getting offline will not actually solve anything, we also need to talk about victim blaming. It is so common in all forms of gender-based abuse and that doesn’t exclude cyberviolence. In fact, telling someone to stay off social media or not post certain content is the definition of victim blaming and it is all a part of the rape culture we live in. When someone tries to blame women for taking nude photos instead of blaming the person who shared the nude photos without consent, that is victim blaming. Whether or not you agree with nude photos is not the issue, the issue is consent and the lack of it. I’ve heard more time than I can count that I should “expect to receive dick pics based on the photos I post” but the funny thing is, I often get them after posting fully clothed photos. By fully clothed I mean no cleavage or leg, with a jacket on. I shouldn’t even be describing that because it doesn’t matter at all. It isn’t about what the woman, victim, or survivor does, it is about what the abuser does. You need to understand that even abusers know that. It isn’t about what you said, did, or wore, it is about them gaining power and control over you. It is about them hurting you and it is not your fault!
Neon Moon has provided me with this lingerie as a part of our collaboration agreement. I wanted to include photos of their brand here because of their support of feminist causes such as keeping cis and trans women and girls safe while they are online. Neon Moon also supports the cause of filter free selfies and uses no editing in their ad campaigns or on their site. My photos are never retouched but do often have a brightening filter applied to boost the colours. I believe that we are all entitled to our own choices but that we need to be honest about them. Neon Moon believes that your body makes their underwear beautiful, not the other way around. I love that! They are sweatshop free, locally made in the UK, and a woman owned company. If you want to order a set for yourself, use the coupon code “MsLindsayM” to get 10% off your entire order.