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Thursday, October 11 • 9:00am - 10:30am
Ambivalent Affordances: Women, Harassment and Empowerment Online

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Shandell Houlden, George Veletsianos, Jaigris Hodson, Chandell Gosse
Online spaces have become powerful locations for developing and disseminating research, both in terms of connecting with colleagues and students, as well as with the broader public. While researchers have noted the many positive impacts that the Internet offers to scholarly practice, online spaces can be notoriously unwelcoming to marginalized people, including women. In this study, we conducted 14 semi-structured interviews with women who self-identified as scholars having experienced online harassment. Throughout the interviews, participants described numerous coping strategies.

Participants employed multiple coping strategies. We categorized these strategies based on individual responses, and what those responses suggest about an interviewee’s orientation toward the harassment. This accounts for the potentially conflicting use of coping strategies as these strategies are employed with different ends in mind. The scholars who were interviewed coped with online harassment by engaging primarily in reactive, problem-focused coping like self-protection and resistance, and emotion-focused coping, like acceptance, and more negative experiences of coping like self-blame. No single individual engaged in one single strategy, while nearly all of them engaged in at least two of these approaches.

The main coping themes that emerged were self-protection, resistance, acceptance, and self-blame. While efforts to engage in emerging forms of scholarship that include digital and networked means are often seen with a positive light, this research demonstrates the contested terrain that some scholars face online.

Chandell Enid Gosse, Jaigris Hodson, George Veletsianos, Shandell Houlden
This paper contributes to understanding the impact of online abuse and harassment on women scholars. We draw on data collected from 14 interviews with women scholars from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, and report on the types of supports they sought during and after their experience with online abuse and harassment. We found that women scholars rely on three levels of support: the first level includes personal and social support (such as encouragement from friends and family and outsourcing comment reading to others); the second includes organizational (such as University or institutional policy), technological (such as reporting tools on Twitter or Facebook), and sectoral (such as law enforcement) support; and the third includes larger cultural and social attitudes and discourses (such as feminist support and the mantra ‘don’t feed the trolls’). While participants relied on social and personal support most frequently, it was also common to rely on multiple supports across all three levels. We use an ecological model as our framework to demonstrate how different types of support are interconnected, and suggest that support for targets of online abuse must integrate aspects of all three levels.

Priya Kumar, Anatoliy Gruzd, Philip Mai
According to a 2015 report released by the UN Broadband Commission’s Working Group on Gender, 73% of women across the globe have been exposed to some form of violence online. Much of the current understanding of online VAWG and its psychological and cultural impacts have focused on Western democracies. This study analyzes VAWG in a non-Western context, in India, a country with a population of 1.2 billion. We focus on 101 Indian women of influence—politicians, journalists, celebrities, and businesswomen—leaders who may experience a disproportionate amount of online violence and abuse compared to men. We employ a mixed-methods approach, combining automated text analysis, manual content analysis, and social network analysis. Data was collected in November 2017 (study period), comprising of 931,363 tweets mentioning at least one of the women from our sample. The research shows different women of influence receive different types of online harassment. Women politicians receive offensive tweets that engage in explicit swearing and ‘Islamophobic’ slurs, commonly expressing discontent based on public policies, statements and agendas. Businesswomen conversely receive offensive tweets insulting financial decisions, investments, and partnerships. Offensive tweets received by women celebrities are more gendered and sexualized, engaging in body/‘slut’-shaming behaviours. Women journalists receive more direct forms of online sexual harassment and ethnic/racial slurs, often based on their social commentary. The research provides new methodological and empirical insights on the challenges associated with online VAWG. Failure to acknowledge this rising global problem may hinder women’s participation in public life, which carries lasting socio-political, and economic impacts.

Tannaz Zargarian
Access to the Internet in 1998 created a unique sphere encompassing both public and private characteristics while offering a new form of communication, identity, and political participation (Rheingold 2000). As a result, access to the Internet provided women with an alternative way of defying the traditional masculine culture through "connection and communication" and "identity transformation" (Nouraei-Simon 2005).

The Internet ameliorated Iranian women's ability to contribute to the accelerating development of an online culture that offers a significant change to the definition of empowerment as it shifts the boundaries of the public and private realms, allowing Iranian women to seek self-determination despite Islamic ideology (Jones, 1997).

This work shows how the weblog has become one of the key tools to challenge social barriers in the quest for Iranian women's rights (Sreberny & Khiabany, 2010). This paper will critically examine the use of weblogs by some Iranian women to break the gender oriented restrictive rules imposed upon them by the patriarchal elements in higher education by exploring how and in what ways women advocate for their own and others' rights and equality?

This paper incorporates a critical textual analysis of primary and secondary academic sources. It integrates a critical feminist approach and have collected data from the work of female scholars, activists, bloggers, and filmmakers and have brought forth the unheard experiences of some Iranian women in higher education.

avatar for Anatoliy Gruzd

Anatoliy Gruzd

Associate Professor, Ryerson University
Canada Research Chair in Social Media Data Stewardship, Director of Research at the Social Media Lab (http://SocialMediaLab.ca/), Associate Professor at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University

Thursday October 11, 2018 9:00am - 10:30am EDT
Sheraton - Drummond East