3 November: Dr. Tanya Serisier (School of Law, Birkbeck)
Title: Speaking Out Online: Has Social Media Changed Responses to Sexual Violence?
Abstract: Recent years have seen the growth of online feminist activism against sexual violence, particularly on social media platforms such as Twitter and Tumblr. This activism has been hailed as part of a ‘new wave’ of feminist activism, challenging victim-blaming cultures and confronting the failures of the criminal justice system, as well as other institutions such as universities, major sporting organisations, and the media and entertainment industries, to respond adequately to sexual violence. In the most positive depictions of the new wave of feminism, social media allows survivors to share their stories, find engaged and supportive audiences, challenge institutional rape myths and victim-blaming, and participate in activism leading to social and political change. There is, however, also ample evidence that online spaces are subject to the same power relations and inequalities as offline spaces, or even that these power inequalities may be amplified. Online feminist activism has been criticised for assuming the universality of white and middle-class women’s experiences. There have also been strong accompanying critiques about the fact that, in an age of mass incarceration and violent border policing, many online feminist campaigns continue to call uncritically for harsher penalties and more policing as a response to sexual violence. In addition to this, the social media platforms used by feminists and survivors for their activism, have become increasingly well-known for public displays of virulent misogyny, directed disproportionately against women of colour. This paper makes use of select examples to explore the impacts of social media on feminist activism around sexual violence, and social responses to accounts of this violence.
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