Sometimes I’ll drop by Feministing to look at their link ups. Several days ago, I followed a link to a site I’d never heard of before, GenderIT, where I found the following article. I’m actually going to give you the full text right here.
Margarita Salas on 10 June, 2013 – 14:12
When we talk about freedom of expression we are within the paradigm of human rights. Human rights are indivisible, interrelated and interdependent, which means that the improvement of one right facilitates advancement of the others and the deprivation of one right adversely affects the others. This also means that they should not be hierarchized, that freedom of expression does not trump the right to live a life free of violence. It also means that there are limits to freedom of expression that are legitimate in order to strike a balance with other human rights. As a society we seem to have been able to understand this very clearly when it comes to hate speech and racism, but for some patriarchal reason the issue becomes subject of debate when we talk about hate speech and sexism.
The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers Recommendation defines hate speech as: “all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify racial hatred, xenophobia, anti- Semitism or other forms of hatred based on intolerance, including: intolerance expressed by aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism, discrimination and hostility against minorities, migrants and people of immigrant origin.”1 In this definition it is important to remark that gender is not mentioned explicitely as one of the risk factors for discrimination and hostility, and one really cannot be expected to place women under the category of minorities as we represent more than half of the world´s population.
In contrast, feminist Dona Lilian argues that: “sexist speech can be framed as hate speech, as it functions to denigrate women as a group, in the service, ultimately, of patriarchal subjugation. Therefore, no matter how unsophisticated it may seem to talk simplistically about ‘women’ and ‘men’, the world we live in is still organized around those categories. Moreover, it is organized in such a way that ‘women’ as a class are subordinate to ‘men’ as a class, and it systemically discriminates against women.”2
Given the popularity and presence of social networks in the everyday lives of millions, there are several iniatives that have dealt with the problem of hate speech online from the perspective of the users. The Lithuanian NGO Tolerant Youth Association created an autonomous system that allows people to report bashers directly to prosecutors. There is an anti-racist initative that promotes a bot in Twitter that retweets racist content tagging it as such. Also, Aktion Kinder des Holocaust has the project Internet Streetworking, which contacts the authors of pro-Nazi or anti-Semitic statements.
So commercial providers can regulate usage, but should they? Do internet intermediaries actually have a responsibility or a role to play regarding the content that circulates through their services? The second pillar of the Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework, developed by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, defines: “the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, which means to act with due diligence to avoid infringing on the rights of others and to address adverse impacts that occur.”4
Hence, internet corporations do have an important role to play in taking measures to ensure that human rights are not infringed. This includes women´s rights to live a life free of violence. In its 15 years Review of the VAW Mandate, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women addressed the issue of accountability for actions of non-State actors, including multinational corporations. The Special Rapporteur on VAW recommended gender impact studies, inclusion of gender as part of corporate responsibility, and the institutionalization of codes of conduct incorporating human rights within corporations or as part of social responsibility of corporations, rather than complete reliance upon enforcement by States. Also, the second key principle of The Guiding Principles of the Telecommunications Industry Dialogue on Freedom of Expression and Privacy, recommends conducting regular human rights impact assessments, which could open the door for the gender impact assessments recommended by the UN Special Rapporteur on VAW.
There is growing awareness about the importance of these issues from the perspective of internet corporations, although it is not always clear how to move forward. In this sense it is relevant to approach the issue in partnership. Jermyn Brooks, Independent Chair of the Global Network Initiative, United States, stated that: “companies need not face these challenges on their own. By working together with civil society organizations with expertise on the ground in challenging markets, academic experts and technologists with in-depth expertise on emerging issues, and investors who see the profit opportunities in a socially responsible approach, companies can more accurately gauge risks and identify opportunities to advance rights.”5
The one thing we cannot do is shelter under the false paradox of freedom of expression to remain passive while online violence against women advances. We must recognize that sexist hate speech is a form of violence and just as we have done with racism or xenophobia, we each must play our part in putting a stop to this form of gender based violence.
I was infuriated by the time I reached the end, ready to write up a scathing rebuttal, but first I decided to have a look around the website. What is GenderIT? From About GenderIT.org:
GenderIT.org emerged from the Association for Progressive Communications Women’s Rights Programme‘s advocacy work in information and communications technologies (ICTs). The need to have examples of national policy gender-sensitive language, tools for lobbyhttp://www.genderit.org/es/glossary/12/letterl#term783″>ing, and an understanding of the impact of poor or positive policy all within easy access has been expressed by ICT advocates and policy makers alike.
The APC WRP also developed the Monitor for gender advocates – women’s organisations and movements across the world who are just beginning to explore gender issues in the deployment and application of ICTs, and need to understand the intersections with key women’s issues such as violence against women or economic empowerment…
Here are some of their official goals. Understand that they considered “sexist language” to be part of violence against women.
1. Recognition of technology-related forms of VAW
Technology-related forms of violence must be recognised as a form of violence against women and be integrated in monitoring, prevention and response mechanisms, including in public policy and in expanding the implementation of anti-VAW laws. States, inter-governmental institutions and other actors must address technology-related forms of violence against women in their response and prevention efforts.
2. Multi-sectoral prevention and response mechanisms
Holistic, multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral (primary, secondary and tertiary) prevention and response mechanisms must include private sector technology actors, state telecommunications and communications institutions, and the technical and internet rights communities.
3. Evidence building: Reporting on technology-related forms of VAW
Systematic reporting and monitoring of technology-related forms of VAW must be instituted at all levels. National statistics and indicators on VAW must include a component reporting specifically on ICT-related VAW, so that trends can be monitored and addressed.
4. Capacity building for actors in the criminal justice system
Capacity building for public officials in the areas of education, health, social welfare and justice as well as the judiciary and police must include awareness, understanding and responses to technology-related forms of violence against women. Accountability mechanisms must be established and strengthened to ensure compliance of public officials with laws and regulations that respond to these violations.
5. Engaging intermediaries to build safer online spaces
Internet intermediaries including internet and mobile service providers must be called upon to develop corporate policies, practices and tools that respect women’s rights and condemn online practices that are harmful to women.
This organization has some kind of support from the U.N. They were given a platform to make a statement during the U.N.’s most recent meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women. I encourage you to take a moment if you have time to read this entire document: APC’s Women’s Rights Programme statement to the CSW 57th Session. Here is just an excerpt of the document:
Emerging forms of violence against women: defining harm
The emergence of technology related forms of VAW has not happened in a vacuum, but are part of the continuum of violence against women that “occurs in all countries, contexts and settings… is one of the most pervasive violations of human rights” and is a “manifestation of the historically unequal power relations between men and women and systemic gender-based discrimination”.
Culture, norms and practices that reinforce prejudice
When women suffer violence online, the aim is the same as violence offline – to keep women out of spaces that men feel belong to them, to silence women’s voices and to stop women’s participation in an increasingly important sphere. The pain that is inflicted is real. As is the case offline, cultural norms and practices that perpetuate and reinforce damaging stereotypes and prejudice and subordinate women, abound online. In fact, the levels of sexism and misogynist behaviour and speech online dwarfs what occurs in the public sphere offline.
Strategic objective 2 of Section J of the Beijing Platform for Action calls for action to be taken to promote a balanced and non-stereotypical portrayal of women in the media. This extends to online spaces where women in particular have used the openness of the internet and ICTs to confront and resist damaging stereotypes through creating their own media and positive representations. However, misogyny and online harassment is increasingly used to police women’s behaviour which prevents them from being able to fully participate in online life.
Prominent women bloggers are regularly subjected to online abuse and violent threats that attack their sexuality and right to express an opinion, especially when it is related to fields where men have traditionally been held as experts, such as gaming, politics and technology. One of the highest profile cases of misogyny and harassment recently is the case of Anita Sarkeesian. Her ‘crime’ was to raise money for a series of video “exploring female character stereotypes throughout the history of the gaming industry”. A campaign against Sarkeesian began which included calls for her to be gang-raped and emails sent to her that contained images of her being raped by video game characters. It culminated in the ‘Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian’ ‘game’ which allowed gamers to punch her image until the screen turned red with her ‘blood’. Sarkeesian’s own analysis drives to the heart of what makes online harassment and misogyny, even in its extreme forms, acceptable, when similar actions offline would be condemned – and that it is more than just the anonymity of the harassers, but also the online misogynist culture that accepts and even celebrates it. However, it should also be noted that this case is one on a continuum of virtual violence against women who speak out against male dominance of ICTs.
An article in the Guardian, ‘How the web became a sexists’ paradise’ documents the concerted campaign against women occupying public spaces online. The normalisation of violent behaviour and the culture that tolerates VAW – such as that exercised against Sarkeesian – mimics trends offline. Gender-blind or misogynist policies by some private sector actors contributes to the impression that the individuals can engage in sexist behaviour online. An example is Facebook, which censors breastfeeding photographs, but allows pictures of bare breasts if they are for male sexual edification (such as on the page ‘Boobs, Breasts and Boys who love them’). This allows individuals to mutually reinforce sexist and violent behaviour, and contribute to norms, attitudes and behaviour that makes online spaces hostile towards women.
No evidence is presented that Facebook censors breastfeeding photos, and frankly I do not believe that it does. This strikes me as, well, a lie meant to manipulate a sympathetic audience into consenting to increased feminist censorship of online speech with which they don’t agree. Here is Facebook’s official statement:
Once I started poking around GenderIT, I realized that this is a massive NGO. They employ large numbers of people, mostly women, and serve as an umbrella for hundreds of smaller organizations throughout the world. The amount of money required to run this NGO must be enormous.
Who is funding this?
I searched and searched online but could find no information about their funding. Given the number of organizations and countries involved, this has got to be in the multi-millions of dollars. They brag about their involvement with foreign governments and their ability to influence policy. They have the ear of the United Nations. They are well-funded. They don’t mind playing loose with the truth.
One of the ideas I see batted around the manosphere and the wider reactionary sphere is Oh, but now we have the internet. The Cathedral (or feminism or whatever) will surely crumble now because we will say The Truth! They can’t stifle us on the internet!