How can video and technology fight patriarchy and misogyny?
Today, there are more answers to this question than ever before. Feminists have the ability to adapt the wisdoms of historical political struggles to central organizing tools of our time: camera phones, internet, and social media networks.
Feminist stories told through video help nuance understandings of gender-based oppression across the world–including how it is entwined with forces like capitalism, racism, and imperialism. Drawing out these linkages is crucial for expanding solidarity and dismantling the relevant power structures. These visual stories also increase the visibility of movements and advance social change. Activists taking care to ethically archive their videos increase the chance that future generations learn from the past and use the voices of the most impacted as their teachers.
The power of these digital tools come with risks. People who fight for women’s liberation can be stigmatized, discriminated against, harassed, doxxed, or targeted in other ways. This is why it is important to conduct digital security assessments whenever using video to fight for gender equality.
We fight for the respect, security, and autonomy of communities living in the shadow of patriarchy and misogyny. We see the light that is made from the fires of resistance. We use this light to find the future worth fighting for.
Fuel your own fights with the inspiration of these videos and victories made by communities across the globe:
In Latin America
The leadership of women in Latin America is especially pronounced in the land defense movement against the devastating impacts of megaprojects on indengous communities. As stewards of the land, women take care of sacred sites, ancestral wisdoms, community livelihoods, and the wellbeing of generations to come.
Part of this stewardship has involved turning to communications tools like video and social media campaigns to illuminate their efforts and invite audiences to better understand and support their movements. La Sandía Digital’s Spanish video poem, “Tejiendo Palabras”, affirms the strength of the spirit of women in Mexico who are involved in over 800 territory struggles. The poem highlights the traditions, beliefs, and values that are woven into why and how these women fight. This video was part of a #JuntasLogramosMás campaign imagined and created by women defenders to encourage all other women in Mexico and Latin America fighting for life.
“From the mountains to the cities, women organize to protect life and our territories.”
“Humanity must take into account that our territories, our forests and our knowledge are of vital importance to face the climate crisis.” Josefina Tunki – President of Shuar Arutam People Nationality in Ecuador
With escalating illegal mining on their lands in the biodiverse Cordillera del Cóndor, of the Ecuadorian Amazon, the Shuar nationality has used video to document over the last two decades their collective decision against big mining companies in their territory. In her last public intervention, Josefina Tunki, president of the Shuar Arutam People stands once again to voice the decision of the Shuar Arutam People, choosing and defending life and confronting mining companies to stop their threats to the members of their community. The threats towards Shuar Arutam People have grown over the past years; over the past months Josefina and other community members have faced death threats.
“Join our fight that is for forests, territory, water and collective rights of Peoples and Nationalities!”
If you’re inspired to use video for land defense, turn to our Spanish land defense guide, tip sheet for centering women in the production process, and this diagnosis on effective land defense narratives (made in collaboration with La Sandía!).
In the Middle East and North Africa
Despite the creators being targets of violence, Assault Police has been one of the most influential recent campaigns about women rights and sexual harassment in Egypt. This campaign was in response to Fairmont Incident, a brutal sexual assault in 2014 that was perpetrated by “well-connected members” in society and was only revealed in 2020. The campaign has now become a window and a platform for the most pressing women rights issue in the region.
The backlash to the advocacy efforts is an important reminder why digital security basics are especially important when women and others with marginalized identities are participating. Stakes are high in the region for women who challenge rigid social norms or speak out in videos or social media. In Egypt, young girls and women who posted videos of them belly-dancing on TikTok began being arrested in April 2020 on charges of “violation of family values.” All of these girls represented the working class and other disadvantaged populations, sparking critical discourse about who is truly at risk for violating the laws weaponized in “culture wars.” The campaign #بعد_اذن_الاسرة_المصرية (“Excuse us the Egyptian family”) criticized how authorities act quickly to punish “violation of family values” but fail to do so when it comes to crimes such as sexual assault. This exemplifies how collective advocacy efforts work to reclaim social media as a site of risk into a site of resistance.
Women across the African continent have been mobilizing against gender-based violence for generations. Jama Jack, a Gambian social and gender activist, joined the WITNESS Africa team for a Twitter Chat about how video and other strategies can be used to make justice for survivors a reality today. Through community screening of films such as MEBET that she helped produce, Jama has been at the forefront of using video to facilitate conversations on child marriages in The Gambia.
Advocacy efforts against GBV, in Africa and beyond, must be survivor-centered (this often means being survivor-led)! Getting stories from survivors can be a powerful way to show patterns of GBV and the social norms that uphold cultures of violence, as well as honoring the strategies that help survivors heal in the aftermath of trauma. If you are interviewing a survivor about their experience, be mindful of the risks of retraumatization. Our guide can give you some tips, available in English, Swahili, Xhosa, and Zulu.
In the US
“As a woman you look out for yourself and other women. As native women, we give life to our people.”
Native communities are facing a growing epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW) that is part of a broader problem of ongoing genocide. MMIW is driven by fossil fuel extraction and land exploitation, with pipelines becoming hotspots of MMIW incidents. The “man camps” housing workers have been directly linked with trafficking, violence, and sexual abuse inflicted against indigenous women and children. Reports are low due to founded mistrust of police. These stories are also ignored by mainstream media.
In response, indigenous women and allies have fought to make these disappearances visible. At events, direct actions and ceremonies, red dresses are hung to memorialize the thousands of Indigenous women and girls who have disappeared. Many indigenous women have turned to social media, leveraging advocacy videos alongside tactics like unifying under viral hashtags, starting social media trends for MMIW, highlighting #BLM actions to decry state violence, and generating community-based media as well as databases that allows them to better protect their stories.
Combine the strategies and guidance in our Indigenous Voices webinar, tip sheet on interviewing GBV survivors, and guide on interviewing survivors of state violence to elevate indigenous stories while safeguarding the dignity of interviewees.
Across southeast Asia, the LGBT community continues to face discrimination in their everyday lives. In Indonesia, government authorities willfully raid private gatherings to target and arrest queer individuals by manipulating an archaic, colonial anti-pornography law. Recently in Malaysia, religious authorities arrested a popular transgender actress for reciting verses from the Qur’an and charged her with defaming Islam. Despite the overwhelming sexism and violence that women and LGBT individuals face in the region, many are beacons of hope and catalytic reactors, that nimbly spark visible change in profound ways.
In Singapore, the lives of thousands of sex workers remain unseen–especially during COVID19. At FreedomFilmFest 2020, an annual international human rights festival hosted by the Freedom Film Network in Malaysia, filmmaker Jessica Lee cast a light on the community in her film, ‘Shades of Love’. An intimate journey into the loves, lives and losses of three Singaporean sex workers, the film takes audiences beyond the oft negative perceptions of the marginalised community that proliferates online and offline.
Two films that also premiered at the film festival were produced by a group of 16 young Indigenous women, mentored by festival director and filmmaker Brenda Danker. The films are part of a project that spotlights the lived realities of Orang Asli women. Malaysia’s Indigenous people continue to face socio-cultural and economic obstacles despite being custodians and descendants of ancient wisdom-keepers. Selai Kayu Yek or ‘Roots of My Land’ and Klinik Ku Hutan or ‘My Forest, My Clinic’ are poignant and much needed retellings of a community determined to recover their authentic voices and return to the ways of their ancestors, where true healing lies.
Selai Kayu Yek and Shades of Love are free for viewing on YouTube between 8th March to 15th March 2021.