Cancel the culture of misogyny, sexism offline and online; use technology for activism!
International Women’s Day is a global day of celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to continue women’s activism and use technology for empowerment and gender equality amid continued threats to women’s freedom.
The pandemic crisis has proven the significance of the internet in the lives of Filipinos. Developments in information and communications technology (ICT) in the Philippines continue to be promising as policymakers and legislators, private sector, and government, among others, make moves to strengthen internet infrastructure. However, much is left to be desired on how the internet is being used and how inclusive it actually is to promote pressing issues that impact marginalized groups such as women.
Gender-based abuse and harassment continue to plague online spaces, especially ones in which women are highly engaged, as evidenced by the following issues:
Non-consensual sharing of images online. In 2021, non-consensual use of intimate images was the most prevalent manifestation of online gender-based violence in the Philippines. FMA mapped multiple reports of women and girls being blackmailed with their own nudes, a lot of which were taken and shared without their consent by known and unknown perpetrators. Some perpetrators even faked the nudes that they used to blackmail women. Such cases show how women’s sexuality is being targeted to police them online, showing just how violent even disinformation can be used against women. Women are also being manipulated and used as subjects of exploitation in ‘cybersex’ dens. Girls likewise face threats on their safety and freedom with the internet as child pornography continues to proliferate.
Cancel culture. Cancel culture is simply a new way to manipulate women and other vulnerable groups into behaving as society deems they should. Women journalists, human rights defenders (WHRDs), and personalities vocal of their opinions and dissent, are being ‘canceled’ for articulating their opinions and advocacies on social media [2,3]. In one case, even just sharing a post triggered a virulent reaction against a woman content creator . This kind of action and misuse of mass mobilization prevents the de-platforming of harmful individuals and puts women and other vulnerable groups to a higher standard of conduct than their male counterparts by instilling fear in them.
SIM card registration. Even policies that appear to ease our day-to-day affairs may do more harm than good for women’s rights. Such is the case of the SIM Card Registration Bill that FMA calls for the current president to veto. Women’s data privacy is put at risk especially as the bill mandates that social media accounts be linked as well to users’ SIM cards. Many vulnerable groups, including domestic violence survivors and members of LGBTIQ+ community benefit from being anonymous while exercising their freedom of expression and ensuring their ability to freely enjoy their right to impart and receive information, free from state control and from their abusers. Anonymity allows many women, especially victims-survivors of violence, to seek help while distancing themselves from possible tracking by their abusers. SIM card registration also poses serious risk to WHRDs who may likewise be subject to surveillance and sexual harassment by state.
Filipino women not only rests in our ability to continuously take up spaces online but also in resisting and combating the culture that enables online gender-based violence. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us be reminded of such power. Let us seek accountability from perpetrators, may they be kins, entities, platforms, or even leaders.
FMA calls for a wider use of technology for activism for women’s empowerment and gender equality. Cancel misogyny and sexism, and carry on the call to nurture online spaces for women and girls towards free and safe engagement online!