The internet can be an ugly place, especially for young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or queer. Cyberbullying is difficult to combat, because the bullies are often anonymous. And toxic debates can fester on social media: the 2017 Stonewall school report found that “two in five LGBT young people are bullied online”.
Then came Harry Brewis. The young YouTuber – also known by his handle, Hbomberguy – raised £265,000 for the UK charity Mermaids to support gender diverse young people, by streaming his 57-hour Donkey Kong 64 marathon online.
Public figures including US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and activist Chelsea Manning reportedly attended Brewis’ stream via online platform Twitch, which allows viewers to chat and cheer on their favourite gamers while they play.
Aside from blowing his £3,000 funding goal out of the water, Brewis’ actions have shone a light on how young people are breaking new political ground on the internet – and especially in the male-dominated sphere of online gaming – by carving out space for the marginalised voices of LGBTQ young people.
My own research has uncovered a huge diversity and abundance of social media and online forums, where LGBTQ young people are creating new civic and community spaces from the privacy of their bedrooms.
There’s been very little investigation into these emerging forms of online activism, in part because researchers and journalists are fixated on mainstream social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and are all too often directed by the data generated by these sites’ own analytics tool.
In other words, they often assume that the most-clicked YouTube video or the most shared tweet is particularly meaningful to users. But if you talk to young people directly, a very different picture emerges.
The LGBTQ teenagers I spoke to in my research explained how they explored issues around trans identities and queer sexualities through subcultural online community websites. These included Fur Affinity (a fan forum with an interest in animal fantasy writing and art), trans community subreddits on Reddit, Sherlock fan fiction and online comics. These platforms are not widely recognised as online activist spaces, as such.
LGBTQ teenagers also made use of Facebook and YouTube, of course, but they were very aware of how the values, interests and opinions of straight, cis-gendered people prevail on these platforms, as in society at large.
They used a range of strategies to negotiate this, including turning to online counterpublics – alternative public spheres where challenges to dominant views can be expressed, shaped and shared (Tumblr would be the place to look for queer and trans counterpublics).
They also took a creative approach to overcoming the built-in constraints on sites such as Facebook – for example, the highly structured process of setting up and maintaining a user profile, which limits the way people can construct their online identity (for example, the rule that people must use their real name) – and creating their own content such as YouTube vlogs and humorous political memes, gifs and mashups.
In these ways and more, young LGBTQ people are pushing the frontiers of what’s recognised as activism and creating new strategies to combat oppression. One fascinating example of this is the way new categories are emerging in online social media culture.
Take, for example, the term “hater”. It’s used to describe those posting hyper critical or hurtful comments on Facebook posts, blogs or YouTube videos, typically involving homophobic, racist or sexist attacks or bullying. Labelling these people “haters” makes it possible to name them, talk about them and open up their behaviour to critical analysis.
As young people increasingly talk back to “the haters”, this creates opportunities for those targeted by hate speech to form alliances and develop new strategies for dealing with homo and transphobia. Indeed, addressing haters is emerging and evolving as a whole genre of social media activity in itself.
An example of this might be reading out haters’ comments and meeting them with your own experience, as teen vlogger Brendan Jordan does, using humour to call out the stupidity of the online hate.
It’s important to recognise how young people negotiate – and sometimes subvert – the values and norms incorporated by online platforms, to explore issues around gender, sexuality and identities through activism and community formation.
They are aware that the very DNA of the social media and digital technologies at our disposal are coded straight and cis – and this hidden fact has real-life consequences. Imagine being young and gender questioning, and googling “trans” to explore alternative gender expressions - the image that the internet will reflect back at you is not a bright or positive one.
The Mermaids charity has been under attack lately, not only in the tabloid press but also online. So much so that the Big Lottery Fund announced it would review its decision to award a £500,000 grant, after Father Ted sitcom writer Graham Linehan rallied opposition to the charity on parenting website Mumsnet. But Brewis’ efforts offers significant funds and a much-needed counterbalance to transphobic rhetoric, and proves that online subcultures should not be underestimated as a space for social activism.
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The Intercept has just released "A Message From the Future," a short science fiction movie narrated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and drawn by Molly Crabapple, describing the coming "Green New Deal Decade," when Americans pulled together and found prosperity, stability, solidarity and full employment through a massive, nationwide effort to refit the country to be resilient to climate shocks and stem the tide of global climate change.
It's an astonishingly moving and beautiful piece, and deploys a tactic that has been surprisingly effective at mobilising large groups of people: creating a retrospective describing the successful project to inspire people to make it a success. Famously, this is the tactic that Jeff Bezos insists on at Amazon for the launch of new internal projects: ambitious internal entrepreneurs must submit a memo describing the project as a fait accompli, and if the description is compelling and exciting enough, they get the resources to make it happen.
But it's not just Amazon: as anthropologist Gabriella Coleman describes in Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy, her seminal 2014 study of Anonymous, this is how Anon ops get started: an individual Anon makes a video announcing victory in some op that hasn't taken place yet, and if enough other anons are inspired by it to make it happen, then it happens.
In her article accompanying the video, Naomi Klein describes the audacity of other projects on this scale, like FDR's New Deal, and how much skepticism they were met with at their outset -- and how, as the vision caught on, it spread like wildfire through the population, so that something that was once impossible became inevitable.
"One reason that elite attacks never succeeded in turning the public against the New Deal had to do with the incalculable power of art, which was embedded in virtually every aspect of the era’s transformations. The New Dealers saw artists as workers like any other: people who, in the depths of the Depression, deserved direct government assistance to practice their trade. As Works Progress Administration administrator Harry Hopkins famously put it, 'Hell, they’ve got to eat just like other people.'
Through programs including the Federal Art Project, Federal Music Project, Federal Theater Project, and Federal Writers Project (all part of the WPA), as well as the Treasury Section of Painting and Sculpture and several others, tens of thousands of painters, musicians, photographers, playwrights, filmmakers, actors, authors, and a huge array of craftspeople found meaningful work, with unprecedented support going to African-American and Indigenous artists.
The result was a renaissance of creativity and a staggering body of work that transformed the visual landscape of the country. The Federal Art Project alone produced nearly 475,000 works of art, including over 2,000 posters, 2,500 murals, and 100,000 canvasses for public spaces. Its stable of artists included Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Authors who participated in the Federal Writers Program included Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, and John Steinbeck." (A Message From the Future With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Last February, Facebook announced that it will release a donation sticker feature on Instagram, giving its users the possibility to support charitable organizations through Instagram Stories.
The move is part of Facebook conglomerate’s increasing interest in philanthropy. If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably already come across a fundraiser from a friend, asking you to donate to a charitable cause. Or maybe, you set one up yourself for your birthday. This Charitable Giving feature on Facebook raised over $ 1 billion as of November 2018.
It seems that Zuckerberg’s plan is to transform his social media into the go-to virtual place for charitable donations. The endeavor appears nothing but noble and laudable.
On Facebook, donors enjoy a smooth experience that allows them to donate to their favorite organizations in a matter of seconds and to share their philanthropic efforts with friends and followers. Moreover, Facebook does all of this for free, having abolished its transaction fee in November 2017. There are no reasons to suspect that Instagram’s upcoming donation sticker will be anything but another sleek and convenient feature of the Facebook family.
However, over the years, we have learned that when Facebook says “it’s free”, it might mean you’re paying in currencies different than a direct monetary transaction.
Again, there are no reasons to suspect that it will be any different when it comes to Instagram’s new donation sticker.
To explain my point, let’s look at the bigger picture and consider the general direction Instagram is going towards. Last March, the social network rolled out a new feature called “Checkout”, which enables users to buy directly from select brands on the platform.
Users can shop for items on their favorite brands’ Instagram profiles and head to an in-app payment screen to order them, paying with the credit card information they have stored on the platform.
The aim is evidently to transform Instagram into an e-commerce app, adding another revenue stream next to the ad dollars.
Soon after Facebook announced the “Checkout on Instagram” feature, Deutsche Bank wrote a note to investors highlighting how the move could enable an “incremental $10 billion of revenue in 2021”.
Wondering if the average user would be willing to hand payment data to Instagram, the Deutsche bank memo fconcluded that many people already use Facebook for charitable donations through the app’s giving tools, and might be willing to extend that to shopping.
From this perspective, the upcoming Instagram donation sticker would certainly facilitate the acquisition of users’ credit card information. After all, you’re much more inclined to give up your payment data if a trusted friend asks you to support a human rights organization rather than if you have to buy the umpteenth pair of sneakers from a large, anonymous corporation. But, of course, once your credit card number is stored in the app that alluring pair of sneakers becomes literally just a click away...
In a way, it seems that Facebook will use philanthropy as a lubricant oil to ease its transition from a social media platform to an e-commerce one.
I’m not saying that this is the only reason Instagram is adding a donation sticker to its deck (they also just like to monopolize your digital life) or that the donations made through it will be tainted. This is just an invitation to reflect on the way social media are reshaping the world of philanthropy and whether we like it or not. Full disclosure: one of the reasons I've been thinking about this is that also here at Kinder we're trying to build some digital tools to make donations to charities more convenient and rewarding.
Obviously, we don't have Facebook's firepower so I hope that Facebook's donation tools will continue raising generous amounts of money. It's just that they're also part of the company's bigger expansion plans. Since philanthropy really is a noble undertaking, it would just be better if the donation tools were clearly separated from Facebook’s more commercial functionalities.
But Instagram’s donation sticker has yet to be implemented on the platform, so there’s still plenty of time to fully remedy the situation.
Credit header image: Wikipedia
In March 2019, Mozambican professor Emília Nhalevilo took office as dean of the recently-created Púnguè University, becoming thus the first women to ever lead a public university in the African country.
She was nominated by President Filipe Nyusi, but the decision about the recently-created universities was announced by the Council of Ministers on January 29. Nhalevilo will remain in office, in principle, for a period of four years.
Born in Nampula, the most populous province in Mozambique, Nhalevilo holds a doctorate and master's degree in education from the University of Perth, Australia, and a bachelor's degree in science education from Pedagogical University (UP).
From 2005 to 2007, she worked as Professor at Curtin University of Technology, in Australia. In 2008, Nhalevilo became the head of the chemistry department at UP, and then took office as deputy director of the Center for Mozambican Studies and Ethnoscience, a research center at the same institution.
In 2017, she was a fellow with the Fulbright Visiting Scholar Program at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development of New York University, in the United States.
Nhalevilo was the vice-dean for research and extension in the UP since 2018.
As dean of a public university, her current position is equivalent to that of a minister in Mozambique.
In Mozambique, women still face challenges in accessing leadership and management positions. But there have been improvements: in the current parliament, for example, both the president of the assembly and the heads of the two largest political caucus are women.
But gender inequality still prevails in the southern African country.
The UNDP's 2016 Africa Human Development Report, whose title is “Accelerating Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Africa,” revealed that Mozambican women and girls continue to suffer from inequalities, such as poor access to justice, poor access to school and health care, and repeated acts of violence.
In 2018, there were 25,356 cases of domestic violence in Mozambique, of which 12,500 were against women and 9,000 against children.
Mozambique ranks 10th in the world for child marriages, according to a UNICEF report from 2015. The organization defines “child marriage” as a marital union in which at least one person is under the age of 18.
In mid-2018, pilot Admira António became the first woman to ever captain a flight in Mozambique, while in December 2018, an all-female flight crew took to the skies for the first time.
In 2014, when the Police of the Republic of Mozambique turned 39, Arsenia Massingue was presented as the first woman general in the corporation.
This article is republished from Global Voices. It's written by Alexandre Nhampossa and translated by Dércio Tsandzana. You can read the original article here.