eGirls in the news – eGirls conference pulls back the curtain on teen selfies, sexting and social media practices

University Affairs has published an article on the eGirls conference: “eGirls conference pulls back the curtain on teen selfies, sexting and social media practices”. Click here to read more about some of the great discussions that happened at this event!

Professor Steeves presents before the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women

Valerie Steeves appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women on March 3, 2014 as part of their study on eating disorders. Our eGirls findings provided a window into some of the systemic factors that intersect with eating disorders such as the kinds of marketing messages that are inserted into social media and the pressure girls report about conforming to an idealized version of the feminine body.

Announcing eGirls public conference – eGirls, eCitizens: Girls’ Experiences of Gender, Privacy and Equality Online

The eGirls Project is thrilled to announce that the eGirls public conference – eGirls, eCitizens: Girls’ Experiences of Gender, Privacy and Equality Online – will be held at the University of Ottawa on 28 March, 2014. The event is free for anyone who wishes to attend.

The eGirls, eCitizens Conference will put theory, policy and education into dialogue with the voices of girls and young women. Together, researchers, policy-makers, youth group representatives, civil society groups and members of the public will discuss the latest research findings on girls’ experiences on social media, and best practises to promote girls’ and young women’s equal participation in digital society.

For complete information on this not-to-be-missed event (including a list of guest speakers) and to RSVP your attendance, please click here! Looking forward to seeing you there!

Bill C-13: The Victims of “Cyberbullying” and Canadians Deserve More

Jane Bailey shares her insights on the recently proposed Bill C-13:

Last Wednesday the federal government introduced Bill C-13, the “Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act” – a law that is supposed to be about “cyberbullying”. At a press conference Justice Minister Peter MacKay asked, “what wouldn’t you do to protect an innocent child?” Bill C-13, he said was the government’s way of saying to the targets of the “horrible crime of cyberbullying” that “help is available and that hope is everywhere”. The Minister reminded us of the government’s priority to “keep Canadians safe”, “particularly our children”. If this is so, the government has a funny way of showing it. Not only does the Bill fall short in terms of meaningfully addressing “cyberbullying”, it makes even the limited response offered conditional on accepting increased state surveillance writ large.

“Cyberbullying” has become an umbrella term for a wide variety of issues and behaviours – everything from repeated insults about someone’s shoes to invasive attacks on the personhood and identity of those targeted. Given the wide variety of behaviours and consequences involved, it is highly unlikely that one kind of response will even begin to meaningfully resolve the issues. As a result, many people have called for development of a comprehensive national strategy that breaks down the umbrella term to identify more specifically what kinds of behaviours, practices and consequences need to be addressed. Once we know exactly what must be dealt with, we can then develop responses that are designed to address each of the problems we identify.

For example, studies show that those who are seen as “different” are more likely to be targeted by “bullying” and “cyberbullying” behaviours. The kinds of things that make someone “different” include race, ability, sexual orientation and sexual identity. Getting at the root of that kind of “cyberbullying” will require strategies that address underlying issues like racism, ableism and homophobia. In contrast, to the extent that certain kinds of “cyberbullying” situations involve individual behavioural issues, we will need responses that address those individual behaviours, including educational initiatives that teach attackers other ways of behaving. Overall then, a meaningful comprehensive strategy is likely to incorporate a variety of responses, including: policies aimed at inclusion and respect for diversity, human rights education, behavioural approaches, restorative practices and, in some cases, punitive approaches.

While captioned as a response to “cyberbullying”, Bill C-13 addresses only certain kinds of behaviour with criminal sanctions: non-consensual distribution of intimate images, hate speech based on sex, age, national origin and mental or physical ability, and false, indecent and harassing communications using a telecommunications system. A number of these provisions may be of particular relevance for women and girls. Studies suggest that girls and women are more likely to be targeted by online threats of sexual violence and attacks alleging sexual promiscuity than are heterosexual men and boys. Imposing a criminal sanction for this behavior could be understood as a meaningful statement not only about the safety of youth, but about our commitment to gender equality and to minimizing barriers to girls’ and young women’s full participation in our emerging digital society. However, with no commitment to proactive initiatives designed to change prejudices that leave women and girls open to these kinds of attacks, we are left with only reactive criminal provisions. Historically, while criminal law provisions have been a way for the community to make a statement against sexual violence, in practice they have done little to actually change girls’ and women’s vulnerability to it.

While I certainly do not dismiss the potential for criminal prohibition of non-consensual distribution of intimate images as a community statement against this kind of “cyberbullying”, I worry that unless incorporated into a more comprehensive strategy its impact will be more symbolic than real. It would serve us well to directly address the reasons why it is that displays of women’s sexuality or even recordings of acts of sexual violence against women are understood as a way of shaming women. This is particularly perplexing given the mediatized culture that surrounds us with the message that girls and women need to be “sexy”, but only in a limited, predefined way – basically in a way designed to sell them everything from diet pills to cosmetics to plastic surgery and more. Perhaps this too is an activity upon which we should proactively intervene. For example, we might consider what role the online business model that uses our personal information to profile us and then market to that profile plays in perpetuating myths and stereotypes about women and girls, as well as other social groups.

Finally, whatever one thinks of the potential of the new criminal prohibition in terms of meaningfully addressing “cyberbullying”, it is exceptionally objectionable to see the government advancing once again the state surveillance agenda on the backs of the very people the government claims to be most interested in protecting – our children. If, indeed, Bill C-13 is about our vulnerable children, then at minimum we should expect to see these expanded powers tied to the specific provisions that are supposed to protect our children. Can we expect that, as with Bill C-30 (the lawful access bill), an omnibus bill will be used once again to portray those concerned about expanding state surveillance to be unconcerned about the vulnerable in our midst?

If the government actually cares about our children, if they actually care about the equality of those disproportionately targeted by “cyberbullying”, why is it that they have not advanced that agenda on its own? Why don’t we have a bill that addresses gendered hate speech, non-consensual distribution of intimate images and criminal harassment via telecommunications systems without tying it to increased state surveillance writ large? And why don’t we have a commitment to a broader strategy for addressing so-called “cyberbullying” in all of its forms in a way that doesn’t just react to certain kinds of instances with punitive measures, but also takes a meaningful proactive approach to the social and behavioural factors that contribute to the multitude of situations encompassed in the unhelpfully broad term “cyberbullying”? The victims of “cyberbullying” and Canadians as whole deserve more. When can we expect to get it?

Call for Papers – eGirls, eCitizens: Putting Technology Theory, Policy & Education into Dialogue with Girls’ and Young Women’s Voices

CALL FOR PAPERS

 

eGirls, eCitizens:  Putting Technology Theory, Policy & Education into Dialogue with Girls’ and Young Women’s Voices

Deadline:  31 December 2013

       —-

 

Online connectivity is rapidly becoming essential to social, cultural, economic and political participation, especially among girls and young women who are leading producers of online content.   Interestingly, initially utopic predictions from policymakers about the pot of gold sitting at the end of the information superhighway and from critical scholars about the emancipatory potential of participation in digital media are increasingly interlaced with dystopic concerns associated with the mass uptake of networked technologies by youth, particularly girls and young women.  Policymakers have tended to focus upon issues such as online child pornography, online luring, cyberbullying, and non-consensual disclosure of intimate images.  Critical scholars, in turn, have raised concerns about misuse of personal information, online misogyny, racism and homophobia, poor digital literacy skills, and underlying economic models that shape users into consumers, rather than citizens.  And yet, all too often, girls’ voices are left out of theoretical, policy and educational dialogue about online issues that directly affect them.

 

The goal of this collection is to reframe the discussion in ways that make space for more equitable and empathetic responses, rather than polarized utopic/dystopic debate.  We aim to bring together cutting edge interdisciplinary insights that:  explore the first hand wisdom of girls about their online existences (including new empirical findings); critically analyse the equality, privacy and gender performativity implications of the digital environment and its impacts on girls’ online participation; critically assess the ways in which stakeholders construct girls in theoretical, policy and educational discourses; and suggest future approaches and best practices that are premised on girls’ own understandings of their needs and aspirations in an increasingly digitized society.

 

This call for papers seeks innovative, emancipatory scholarship for an interdisciplinary edited collection of original works.  We welcome submissions from a variety of perspectives and academic disciplines, including:  law, communication studies, criminology, sociology, education, public and administrative studies, politics, women’s studies and media studies.  We encourage authors to consider the impact/importance of interdisciplinary collaborative efforts to better ensure opportunities for girls and young women to meaningfully participate in digital society and in public life more generally.

 

Topics may include (but are not limited to):

  • Gender and online citizenship
  • Gender and commercialism
  • Gender implications of online surveillance
  • Media stereotypes, sexualization and online content
  • Gender and online safety
  • The performance of gender in online environments
  • Discriminatory online harassment
  • Cyberbullying
  • Non-consensual disclosure of sexual images

 

Abstract submission:

Interested contributors should send a 300-500 word abstract describing the paper they would propose to present at the workshop, along with a 200 word bio to jbailey@uottawa.ca no later than 31 December 2013.

 

Those invited to contribute to the collection will be notified by 15 January 2014 and full papers will be due 1 May 2014.

 

Please direct questions to collection editors:

Jane Bailey, jbailey@uottawa.ca Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, Canada.

Valerie Steeves, vsteeves@uottawa.ca Department of Criminology, University of Ottawa, Canada.

Call for papers from graduate students extended to 30 October

eGirls has extended our call for student papers to October 30, 2013. Here’s the call again, for those who haven’t seen it yet!:

We’re looking for paper abstract submissions from graduate students in law and legal studies who wish to be accepted for inclusion in an upcoming two day workshop and public conference, taking place March 27/28, 2014 at the University of Ottawa. Successful applicants will present their paper during day one of the workshop, each be eligible for up to $1,000 to assist with travel expenses, and are invited to attend the public conference on day two free of charge. Exceptional papers may also be selected for inclusion in an edited book volume to be published following the event:

eGirls, eCitizens:  Putting Theory, Policy & Education into Dialogue

 with the Voices of Girls and Young Women

Daily use of digital technologies is a key part of the social, personal, professional and recreational lives of millions of Canadians.  This is particularly true for girls and young women, who are increasingly revealing the details of their daily lives on online social networks and posting their own photos, blog posts, and videos online.  Many girls value their online presence as an important part of their lives, but their full participation in the online world can be limited by challenges such as online gender-based harassment, cyberbullying and sexting.  On March 27 and 28, 2014, the University of Ottawa will host a two-day event entitled eGirls, eCitizens that will focus on the pressing social issue of girls’ and young women’s equal participation in digital society.  On March 27, researchers will meet in a workshop to discuss papers to be drafted by participants in advance on issues affecting girls’ and young women’s equal online participation including the influence of media stereotypes and sexualization, racism and homophobia, and the monitoring and collection of personal information.  On March 28, a public conference will bring together policy makers, governmental agencies, educators, legal practitioners, community organizations, youths and researchers.  Conference participants will explore how best to create policy interventions, educational initiatives and new theoretical concepts designed to seize opportunities to enhance girls’ and young women’s participation online, while also meaningfully addressing the challenges that can undermine that participation. However, eGirls, eCitizens will not simply re-hash outsiders’ ideas on what girls and young women need.  Instead, event participants will focus on the firsthand experiences that girls and young women themselves shared during interviews with researchers from The eGirls Project in winter 2013.  In fact, eGirls, eCitizens will be the first occasion on which these findings will be publicly reported.  Girls and young women deserve equal opportunities to participate in digital society and public life more generally.  eGirls, eCitizens is designed to ensure that policy, educational initiatives and scholarly work aimed at achieving equal participation are informed by the perspectives of girls and young women themselves.

The Shirley E. Greenberg Chair in Women and the Legal Profession and The eGirls Project invite graduate students of law working from an equality-based perspective on issues relating to girls’ and young women’s equal participation in society to submit a proposal for participation in the Day 1 workshop on 27 March 2014.  (Proposals from third year JD/LLB students will be considered, although preference will be given to proposals from graduate students.)  Up to 5 proposals will be accepted for inclusion in the workshop.  Successful applicants will each be eligible for up to $1,000 to assist in defraying the costs of travel to the event and are also invited to attend the Day 2 public conference free of charge.  Exceptional papers may also be selected for inclusion in an edited book volume to be published following the event.

Abstract submission:

Interested law students should send a 300-500 word abstract describing the paper they would propose to present at the workshop, along with a 200 word bio to jbailey@uottawa.ca no later than 30 October 2013.

Those invited to participate in the workshop will be notified by 15 November 2013 and draft papers will be due 15 March 2014.

Please direct any questions you may have to jbailey@uottawa.ca.