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The UN combats gender-based "cyber violence" with a blunt instrument


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Writing in Pacific Standard, Melissa Gira Grant details efforts by the UN and NGOs to combat online harassment of women, which the UN has characterized as an epidemic. But as Grant argues, these well-intended efforts collapse different varieties of online harassment into the monolithic category of “cyber violence,” which “obscures more than it clarifies” and has the potential to exclude forms of online harassment endured by people of color and gender-nonconforming folks. Here’s an excerpt from Grant’s article:

If online harassment is going to be theorized primarily as violence against women, we may limit ourselves to the same compromised responses from the fax and pager era. Rather than again working to “raise awareness” within the state, to “empower” police with tougher laws, perhaps the first step in fighting violence is confronting our own power to define what violence is. This is how we signal who makes an acceptable target. Otherwise, whatever we call “fighting violence against women” will remain as it is today: “fighting violence against some women, some of the time.”

“See, the assumption of safety is all too often an assumption of sameness,” wrote Mimi Thi Nguyen (for Punk Planet in 2000 and also on her blog, where she wrote about punk and sometimes fashion and also politics), “and that sameness in riot grrrl – and in other feminist spaces – depended upon a transcendent ‘girl love’ that acknowledged difference but only so far.” There is no universal woman, and to construct our visions of safety around one will produce danger: Some women can gain entry to the sanctuary, but only so many can fit. The rest will remain exposed and neglected outside the door