The Internet as an Organizing
In the past three modules, we have looked at serious social problems
involving violence against women and the role of the Internet in
perpetuating it. In this Module, we will turn the tables and explore
the power of the Internet as an organizing tool to fight violence
The Internet has become a critically important form of media. News
dissemination through the Internet is unprecedented. Never before
has news been distributed so widely and instantaneously as it is
currently on the web.
All of us have had experience with Internet activism in some way.
Friends send emails asking us to sign petitions; news services inform
us of something important happening in the field; or a political
organization tells us about some impending crisis, like an environmental
group updating its listserve on the possibility of drilling for
oil in Alaskan nature reserves.
In the field of women's advocacy, a terrific and indispensable
source of news is women's enews.
Women's enews, however, does not always supply an avenue for activism,
even when it presents its "Outrage of the Week" feature
articles. A news medium connected with an activist component would
be particularly useful in harnessing the organizational potential
of the Internet to fight male violence against women.
With the idea of internet organizing in mind, let's revisit some
of the issues raised in the first three Modules. First, we'll look
at organizing to prevent and address rape on campuses. Then, we
briefly look at organizing against the dissemination of pornography
(including child pornography) on the Internet. Finally, we look
at some work that has been done to stop sex trafficking on the Internet.
At the end of this, we consider a site that engages in stalking
of women for men and will discuss what we can do to address it.
SEXUAL ASSAULT ON CAMPUS (AND OFF)
In the first Module, we looked at sexual assault on campuses. It
is obvious that this is a huge problem-one that universities seem
to have a difficult time addressing. Activists have used various
methods on the Internet to unite forces against rape on campuses.
Sexual assault survivors, educators, and activists have harnessed
the Internet to help break the cultural silence around issues of
sexual assault. By grossly underreporting and egregiously misrepresenting
news of rape cases and other incidents of domestic and partner violence,
mainstream media have further isolated and sometimes traumatized
victims while failing to educate the public about the magnitude
and pervasiveness of such violence. (For a brief discussion of how
newspapers can unfairly report rape cases, see http://www.grrlactivistas.org/frameset.html.)
Several websites combat this media problem by providing space for
survivors of rape and sexual assault to post testimonials of their
abuse, thereby validating survivors' voices and offering readers
personal experiences that often debunk the myths about rape that
we looked at in the first module. A superb example of one such website
a relatively new site that collects and posts survivors' testimonials
and provides links and advice for hosting a Take Back the Night
event and launching other activist projects. Grrl Activistas, a
website started and maintained by a group of survivors who met online,
is a global non-profit campaign network that works to eliminate
misrepresentations of sexual assault in media, government, and educational
The Rape Blog (http://gloomsday.net/therapeblog/)
maintains a log of sexual violence related stories from in the media
(and sometimes throws in a refreshing bit of sardonic commentary).
In addition to publicizing personal experiences and undermining
cultural myths, activist websites provide support resources for
victims of assault and preventative action ideas and projects for
budding activists. The Vday website, which has been collecting "Success
Stories" for over a year, provides a good cyber-center of testimonials,
news, assault resources, and anti-violence activism opportunities
The Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (www.rainn.org)
lists the steps that victims should take after an assault and locates
counseling centers in every zip code.
The National Crime Prevention Council's website also has a section
devoted to preventing sexual assault in your community (http://www.ncpc.org/1pro5dc.htm#protecting).
Some men's groups are active on the web in stopping violence against
women. This is particularly promising, and we invite you to peruse
their sites, sign up to participate, and join their efforts to help
teach other men that violence against women is cowardly, not "manly."
The following links are examples of men's groups that have websites
devoted to combating sexual assault. These websites represent some
of the examples of connections and communities that the Internet
can facilitate. Many of the websites link to each other revealing
the communities of advocates and activists that the Internet can
help sustain. These websites also showcase the Internet's function
as a clearinghouse for information.
(Men for Change website. Men For Change is a Canadian group "dedicated
towards promoting positive masculinity and ending sexism and violence."
Men For Change also links to numerous other websites in Canada and
in the United States.)
(Men Can Stop Rape - was the Men's Rape Prevention Project. MCSR
provides resources to universities, agencies, and organizations
to address sexual assault. They offer trainings and outreach programs.)
(MSV's website offers numerous articles about male entitlement,
sexual assault, domestic violence, and the intersections of race,
class, gender, and sexual orientation.)
(Jackson Katz's website contains information on his video Tough
Guise: Violence, Media, and the Crisis in Masculinity and offers
information about his Mentors in Violence Prevention Program.)
(Tulane Men Against Rape website)
(University of Rochester's Men Against Sexual Assault website)
(Haverford College's Men Against Sexual Assault and Rape website.
MASAR's website details its on-campus campaigns to raise awareness
about sexual assault.)
Organization for Men Against Sexism)
The Internet has functioned as a medium where advocates for children
have gathered to respond to the problem of child pornography. Activists
have used the Internet as a medium for creating coalitions of advocates
and for reporting child pornography to officials. These links represent
just some of the many groups that are devoted to combating this
(ACPO is devoted to stopping the exploitation of children on the
Internet. They focus on preventing the spread of child pornography
and on educating organizations and law enforcement on combating
(A website that encourages the reporting of websites containing
(The FBI's website devoted to child pornography.)
(Another website for reporting child pornography.)
Furthermore, the Court's recent virtual child pornography decision
suggests another arena where online activism might prove extremely
important. To read about responses to the Court's decision, see:
The Internet was also used as a way of forming a coalition of activists
when thousands of Internet users protested Yahoo's decision to sell
pornography. In December 2000, Yahoo created an online store devoted
to selling pornographic videos and DVDs. Just a few months later
after receiving over 100,000 emails from Internet users, Yahoo decided
to remove the portion of its website that sold pornography and to
stop accepting advertisements from pornographic websites. In May
2001, Yahoo decided to make it more difficult to find sexually explicit
chatrooms and online clubs. Click here for
an article about Yahoo's decision.
One of the unique aspects of sex trafficking is how easy it would
be to track down the traffickers through the information given over
the Internet. By seizing, for example, the Internet files of a trafficker,
law enforcement could easily track the people who used the services
through their credit card information. One example of a site being
disabled was examined in Module Three
called "Welcome to the Rape Camp." That site was taken
down by Thai authorities after complaints received.
Thanks in part to a strong Internet presence, in recent years the
anti-trafficking movement has attracted the attention of major donors,
government organizations, and the media. In an effort to eliminate
the trade in women and children and take back the Web from the sex
industry, anti-trafficking organizations, sex workers rights groups,
government agencies, and international bodies have made available
information about the scope and dimensions of the problem. Their
campaigns seek to raise awareness of typical trafficking patterns
and abusive practices in the sex industry among both women and children
at risk of being trafficked and the general public. Click
here for an annotated list of groups. To date, most of these
websites offer a wealth of information about trafficking, but aside
from soliciting donations, they fail to offer concrete suggestions
Consider the following site:
Please read through the site. Then, discuss any potential problems
you see with this site.
What might we do to about this site? Can they legally engage in
stalking? Can the Internet be used to perpetuate blatantly illegal
activities? What can law enforcement do about this? Does the woman
have any rights in this situation?
Think creatively about your solution to this problem. We will consider
implementing a strategy suggested by the participants-so here is
a chance to do something concrete and meaningful. Good luck!
Go to the Discussion