While a bit dated, there has been research done for many years on the disparities in society between women and men. It has evolved as society has, from the blatant relegation to the home sphere, the historical disparity in wages, the passive aggressive forms of ‘normative’ inequality displayed through television shows and advertisements, to the current disparity in wages. Now, the newest space to perpetuate this inequality seems to be in the online sphere.
Harassment of women online is at risk of becoming “an established norm in our digital society”, with women under 30 particularly vulnerable, according to the creators of a new Australian study (via Ellen Hunt, the Guardian)
How is this possible, given the long standing work of feminism? How can society continue to perpetuate the inequalities against women (among other groups who fall outside of the ‘norm’)? Why, when work is being done in the ‘real’ world to combat inequalities- are we seeing an insurgence of ‘male dominance’ online?
The fact that anyone in our society is seen as ‘less than’ anyone else is something that bothers me deeply. Beyond being ‘seen’ as less than, is what is seen as acceptable forms of behaviour in an online space. While it is “no longer” acceptable for women to be demeaned to their faces, online forums- as Jannae also discusses, especially those that come with the premise of anonymity seem to breed malicious, slut-shaming comments that are accepted and in some cases, touted.
As a woman, mother, and a teacher – there are many ways I grapple with this.
I am woman
“I am smart, I am strong, caring, organized, beautiful – and I can do it all and I can have it all!”
That’s the NeoLiberal perception that many have inevitably subscribed to- and women work hard to get through it all, balance it all, and do it all, without ‘needing’ anyone’s help.
This is often seen as the ‘acceptable’ form of how to perform a ‘successful’ woman.
Academically successful girls, Harris (2004) notes, are offered up as evidence that structural constraints are no longer relevant within educational debates. Smart girls are girls who ‘can-do’ anything and be anything they want. They have the ability to pull themselves – and their grades – up by their bootstraps; but the corollary is that if girls fail to succeed, it is their fault alone. (Pomerantz and Rabi)
How do I use my knowledge of the ‘norms’ of a ‘new age’ woman, to fight against the inequalities that are surfacing in the online realm?
I am a Mother
How do the inequalities that exist, affect my children? It affects them both, even though they are not both female. How do the norms I enact form their perceptions? What am I doing to empower women, and what am I doing to perpetuate the norms?
I know that how I raise my children is probably one of the most impactful ways that I can make a difference in in the perceptions of women, (and inequality in general). That requires ‘swimming upstream’ against media, advertisements, societal norms, and now, the online stratosphere (should be relatively easy, I’m sure).
I am a Teacher
As a teacher, there are many things I can do to help my students understand appropriate online behaviours. Raquel Bellefleur offers a comprehensive list for teachers to fight the slut-shaming phenomenon.
Ensuring students have the background knowledge to appropriately navigate themselves in online spaces, is imperative. How do we teach about the ‘dark’ side of the internet (read: trolls and slut-shaming, etc) without intriguing students to find/try these spaces out? Where is the line between what I need to share, and what parents need to have discussions about? How can I best work to help include parents in this learning?
I don’t think it’s impossible, but there are many questions that need some careful consideration to appropriately help children to learn about these things in appropriate ways.