The Wheeler Centre
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Girl on a Wire: Women and Social Media
The problem of verbal and emotional violence against women online remains insufficiently – or often, mistakenly – addressed. Headlines about online harassment continue to focus on victims rather than perpetrators, while platforms like Twitter and Facebook struggle to define and act upon the difference between free speech and abuse.
But there’s also the upside: social media’s potential for women who are seeking to mark out a space of debate, discussion and disagreement. Largely unmediated, social platforms offer the promise (if not always the purest realisation) of ideas being able to speak for themselves. Women are able to connect with each other, and with their publics, in ways that transcend the ‘motherhood penalty’ and other gendered factors of the traditional workplace.
Jane Gilmore, Rebecca Shaw, Yassmin Abdel-Magied and Lucy Valentine are writers who put their words, beliefs and opinions on social media – with the intention of connecting, challenging others and pursuing change. With host Sophie Black, they talk about #writingwhilefemale. How do women participate in digital discussion? How do they end up in arguments, decide when to continue them … and what do they do when argument becomes abuse? And, in this odd amalgam of public and private space, how do women edit their own balance of the political and personal?
‘Women have many reasons to be wary, depressed or downright terri ed of the internet. No guaranteed safe space exists for a woman online. Especially a lippy one. And yet ... as a tool for social change, the internet, to the extent that we can still refer to it as a single entity, still offers immense possibilities.’
Sophie Black is head of publishing at the Wheeler Centre where she has worked on projects such as the national to writers scheme The Next Chapter, the multi-award-winning podcast, The Messenger, and the ABC RN program, Talkfest. Previously she was editor-in-chief at Private Media, where she headed up titles such as Crikey, Women’s Agenda, Daily Review and SmartCompany. In 2013, she delivered the Adelaide Festival of Ideas as Director. She sits on the advisory board for Melbourne University’s Centre for Advancing Journalism and the human rights publication Right Now.
Yassmin Abdel-Magied is a Sudanese-born Australian mechanical engineer, writer and social advocate.
Jane Gilmore is a freelance journalist, with a strong focus on data journalism and male violence. She was the founding editor of The King’s Tribune, and now writes regularly for the Sydney Morning Herald. She has been published by the Guardian, Meanjin, the Age, the Saturday Paper, News.com.au and Junkee, among many others.
Lucy Valentine is a Melbourne based comedy writer and enemy of the state. She writes regularly for SBS Comedy and co-hosts the Boonta Vista Socialist Club podcast.
Rebecca Shaw (aka brocklesnitch) is a writer and creator of the parody Twitter account @NoToFeminism, which was developed into an illustrated book. She was on the writing team at Tonightly with Tom Ballard and has written for Hard Quiz and Get Krack!n. She was a writer for the Backburner and deputy editor at SBS Comedy. She’s a Contributing Editor at Kill Your Darlings and has written for the Guardian, Pedestrian, Junkee, Ten Daily and most other places you can think of. In 2018 a song she co-wrote won the 2018 ARIA for best comedy release.