The mini-skirt of the Internet?

I’m going to attempt to live blog from the Social Media Week London “Women In A Room” event. When I say live blog, I really only mean “write while it happens so my laziness and short-timedness don’t mean I never write at all”. I will then, should this go ito plan, upload it pretty much straight after the event. You will of course then be captivated and simultaneously feel like you’ve been here all the time, while wishing you had been.

Great huh?

Well let’s just see how we go…

A hush descends … (Too theatrical?)


And now I’m on my train home. I didn’t write a jot of this during the event (I posted a few tweets though). Reason was, the event was excellent and I was too busy being a Woman In A Room. Plus there was much more participation than I’d anticipated and very little sit-back-and-think-of-feminism.

So here are my post-event thoughts.

Format: excellent. A couple of panellists, no presentations, just some questions to get them talking and to get the room warmed up. The wine was good too, for making friends. We then had a few questions (actually really informed comments more than questions) from the floor, before swiftly breaking into discussion groups. Brilliant chat followed, then more informal continuation of discussion and (ironically?) the socially normal closure by twitter name exchange.

Discussion: while the Laurie Penny article ostensibly started us off, the evening centred more on social media than I had anticipated. I was expecting something more broadly looking at women commenting and receiving comment online. I was imagining a couple of recent bad experiences I’d had commenting on articles in right leaning online papers.

So at first I confess to thinking the evening would be more basic, topic-wise, than I’d hoped. Oh ego-laden me…

The group I was part of included a community manager/PR person, a UI specialist and a feminist YouTube channel owner. And the topics we covered ranged from:

– the threat of the anonymous commenter, and the opportunities when using anonymity yourself

– the responsibility of media and community managers around moderation

– the ‘genderisation’ of language, tone and approach in social media

– the usefulness of multiple, disparate and fragmented social media channels to attempt to represent the many faces of a modern human (& the journeys they may be on)

The memorable bit: a question asking for the panellists’ opinions on a social meme which saw women tweeting and calling out abusive and rude names they are called under the #thingsyoucallme hashtag. One of the panellists said she’d be cautious of bringing attention to negativity and negative persons (disclaimer: I’m massively paraphrasing), and that by using their language (e.g. The C word) it reflects on you. Memorable? Yes, coz I got a bit angry and shakily told the room it reminded me of women rape victims being told that public knowledge of the rape will reflect badly on them. I stand by my comment and essentially….

Conclusion: …. I loved the event because it *wasnt* a bunch of women agreeing. Noone had an air of feeling they needed to agree for solidarity. We disagreed (often the commenting audience disagreeing with the panel) without aggression or accusation. But in the spirit of discussion and thought.

Well done Women In A Room. I’ll be back!

I’ll edit to add links when on a computer. Just google Women in a room for now!


4 responses to “The mini-skirt of the Internet?

  1. Was there tonight and really appreciated your questions, I thought they were intelligent and on-topic. The comment on the association of the event with the victim was bang-on I thought. Great blogpost too. I wasn’t inspired by one of the panellists (too ‘me myself and I’ for my liking) and I honestly didn’t know it was social media week so was initially a bit non-plussed by the emphasis there… I had to leave early so missed the group discussions, but for me the miniskirt reference on the topic was key – the implication that provocation implies blame/culpability, and a hint that personal responsibility (or lack of) is provocation, something beyond gender constructs… (wish I could have stayed and ranted) 🙂

  2. Great write-up.I agreed with your comments about rape victims and the potential for victim-blaming in what the panellists were saying. I also enjoyed the discussion but not sure the panellists were the right ones for the night but it was interesting and lively and worth going to!

  3. Emily, glad you decided against live blogging (unless you’re touch typing and able to live blog *and* maintain at least a bit of eye contact with the people at the front… it’s so disheartening to talk ‘at’ a room of people looking down rather than ‘to’ a room of people looking at you).

    I’m really glad you enjoyed the event. I learned a lot… which is the best kind of event to be involved with.

    I do actually agree (with Lori’s comment) that I possibly wasn’t the right person for the panel. Perhaps I should explain how I came to be there…

    I was invited after one of the organisers heard me speak at the launch of Web Heroines. The discussion at *that* event was around the future role of women in tech and design… quite a different topic to the WiaR debate. (At the WH event I’d mentioned that I get a lot more grief for being ‘disabled’ than I do for being a woman, and I think that’s why I was asked to take part in this event. I wouldn’t for one second suggest that I’m an authority on the female experience online, other than my own, very personal experience which is coloured completely by my illness.)

    The trouble with ‘me, myself and I’ was that we were briefed to talk from our own perspectives (panellists always are), and that our perspectives (I hadn’t met Kate prior to the event) were quite similar (I actually enjoy a good bout of verbal sparring, Jo, do not hold back on saying your piece next time!).

    As became clear, I really wrestled to relate to the questions, possibly because I’m from a different time (as in, when I started doing this stuff 17 years ago the issues women faced were very different) and also because I don’t post on blogs (well, apart from right at this moment).

    What I learnt through the debate was that women who do post on blogs can be on the receiving end of completely unacceptable treatment. A revelation to me as I don’t post on blogs, and don’t often read them either. This knowledge has changed my thinking (in an ‘opened my eyes’ kind of way), and that’s a good thing, and I’m grateful for that, so thank you.

    Jo, I think the ‘miniskirt’ article was just meant as a hook to hang a more general discussion on, rather than an in-depth discussion of the issues raised in LP’s piece.

    Emily, you’ve really put your finger on it with: “I was expecting something more broadly looking at women commenting and receiving comment online.”

    Ah, I wasn’t briefed that way at all. I hadn’t appreciated this point until the audience raised it. I’d thought the debate was to be about whether or not women could make themselves heard online, which is a different debate altogether.

    Sometimes these things happen at events. With hindsight, maybe we should have dispensed with the questions from the chair and gone straight to the audience for their points. Trouble is, audiences are often a bit shy at first, so questions from the chair get things going a bit.

    The best debates are those where everyone learns from each other. I certainly learnt a lot from the audience. The audience may not have learnt a huge amount from the panel on this occasion, but I got the impression that many of those present did enjoy talking with and learned from each other. And that’s a great result.

  4. Ooops, p.s.
    Lori, just to be clear, I said nothing at all that would suggest victim-blaming. Quite the opposite. I very, very strongly feel that harrassment online should be dealt with in exactly the same way as one would deal with it in the real world: robustly, immediately and directly.

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