Feminist Online Activism: An Alternative Utopia or Same Old, Same Old?
This paper reports findings from a national UK study of experiences of online abuse amongst people who debate feminist politics. Rather than focusing on definitions or categorisations of abusive communications, it will examine the experiences of those receiving them, asking: how do they describe their experiences? How do they respond to them? What impacts do these experiences have, especially in terms of their use of online space and engagement in feminist politics?
Drawing on a tradition of feminist research about sexual and domestic violence, it will explore whether online abuse is usefully conceived as a form abuse or violence towards women. Following this tradition, in which women are conceived as ‘survivors’, rather than ‘victims’, this paper will acknowledge the agency that survivors enact and will explore the strategies and tactics deployed to confront and challenge online abuse. Their reasons for, development and use of such strategies will be examined as a form of ‘community policing’ to understand how the community regulates itself, and how self-regulation connects with regulation by official social and legal agencies (Williams, 2006). In examining the consequences, the paper will address experiences of fear and women’s engagement with on-line and off-line space, in the context of scholarship about the impact of fear and the gendering of space (Pain, 1991).