In 2019, we started on a research process to answer two dangerous assumptions, that:
- access to, and exercise of freedom of opinion and expression, is equal for all, and;
- social media platforms enable social and political freedom for everyone, women included.
Being neutral is not the same as enabling equality, given how, historically, the idea of being neutral in effect generically adopts the status and experience of cisgender heterosexual men and overlooks the experiences of other groups, i.e. differentiated by gender identity, sexual orientation, social class, etc. Any assumptions that presume everyone starts on an equal footing and has equal access to opportunity and power tend to deny rather than enable a diversity of voices.
Social media has significantly reduced the barriers to online public participation and expression in various forms. Today, we can easily engage with our Members of Parliament through Twitter, or self-publish written articles at a relatively lower cost. Digital technologies open up spaces for women and queer people to challenge the dominant discourse of entrenched sexism, push forward their own narratives from their own voices.
This research, “Power X Expression X Violence: A Research on Women’s Expression on Social Media in Malaysia”, examines the power dynamics of various forms of expression and the intersecting identities of women; how our current understanding and practice of freedom of expression on social media has allowed online gender-based violence to grow with impunity and to the extent of normalizing violence. This research owes its deepest appreciation to the 23 women who had so generously and trustingly shared their lived experiences with us. It is their stories that led to the new insights on online gender-based violence and the feminists’ collective resistance against gender discriminatory norms in the digital spaces.
Read more about the research summary here:
The full research can be downloaded below:
Researcher: Serene Lim
Editor: Angela M. Kuga Thas
Design and Layout of Full Report: Ezrena Marwan
Design and Layout of Research Summary: Jane Law