Women Online: The intersection of technology, gender and sexism
The Internet can be a vehicle for the perpetration of violence and for reinforcing behaviours and attitudes that promote and enable violence against women. Although women and men both experience cyber violence, women overwhelmingly experience online harassment and abuse from male perpetrators and are more likely to report experiencing sexual harassment (Powell and Henry, 2015).
According to a new paper by Women’s Health East – Women online: the intersection of technology, gender and sexism– a culture that supports gender inequality and harmful gender roles has emerged online, mimicking and reinforcing the drivers of violence against women in the offline environment and creating an intersection of technology, gender, sexism and violence against women.
The way in which women are represented online contributes to a culture that sexualises and objectifies women. Smart phones, the Internet, and new technologies have increased exposure to stereotyped, sexualised depictions of women. Exposure to this type of content can have profound effects on the health and wellbeing of women and girls, the report states.
This paper describes the key drivers of violence and how these interact with the online environment to create ‘cyber violence’. It identifies the various online spaces which make up today’s online environment and explores the content and actions facilitated by online spaces which are harmful to women and girls. The ways that these online spaces can provide a valuable space for women and girls and assist feminist activism are also explored.
Using the primary prevention framework, Change the Story, the paper presents a case for action to prevent cyber violence against women and girls through recommendations for change at individual, organisational and societal levels. It is critical that the Internet, and the online spaces and content it hosts, be a safe space for all women.