Social media has easily democratized feminism. By removing its barriers, it opens a whole new level of intersectional discourse that is being participated by many online. This, in turn, has either made a platform for awareness, or as we women are more familiar with, a venue for online trolls besieging on our person.
Recently, in the Philippines, women have been using social media to report cases of sexual harassment by posting status and taking videos of their abusers and posting it on their page. While it has indeed shown that this is a problem that needs to be address, it being a double-edged sword, has caused many women to hide in terror, unable to share their experiences with the world.
To share their insights on this experience are Cha Roque, the communications director of Dakila, an artist collective that uses art to insight social change; Raymond Campiglio, the admin of the page, “Catcalling in the Philippines,” a platform to discuss experiences of being abused, catcalled, and harassed; Eunice Gatdula, also known as HuhSmile, an artist that makes comics about women’s experiences and that tackle sexual harassment; KV Rojas, a graduate of Lyceum of the Philippines who posted a recent harassment case online that went viral; Marika Callangan, the founder of Woman, Create, an arts movement to empower women through creative living; Effy Elmubarak, a singer-songwriter that is famous on twitter for educating people on sexism, societal injustices, and LGBT rights.
When did women start using social media as a platform to report sexual harassment?
Raymond: [I think] it started when people realized they could complain online, when people felt like, “Oh, I have somewhere I can share it in.” […] They realize there is this community out there that people don’t know [who] are more than willing to understand what they are going through rather than the people who know them very well. So, I think, you know, it gave them a voice and it’s been there for a while now.
Marika: After many months have passed and many stories have come out, I feel like there’s this point now where women are fed up with this justice system failing us, of people who keep tolerating it, and of people who keep doing it.
Is social media a beneficial or harmful tool in sharing women’s stories?
Raymond: Any item that creates progress works both ways. For pros, it opens a wider market for people who would listen, but at the same time, it creates an opportunity for them to prey on because they have to put themselves out there.
KV: In my experience, it’s a bit of both. I received a lot of support, but there’s [the other side where] they’ll discredit your character. I think I’d lean towards more on beneficial.
Marika: Maybe it’s our responsibility to create safe spaces where women could openly talk about their issues and we could give counsel. There’s this feeling of helplessness when you get catcalled, raped, and we don’t know what to do.
Effy: We need more advocates like this because we could never go wrong with numbers.
Have you ever shared your story of being harassed online? What happened?
KV: I shared my abuse very recently. I tried to seek help from people who want to [lend a hand], but nothing came out of it. Some people still believe he is a good mentor. Some have even told me I shouldn’t post something like [this] because it isn’t the proper venue. I went to the “proper venue” and no one [listened] to me. No one [wanted to hear] the story. I’m still looking for the justice.
What good has social media done in all of this? Raymond: Well, the best that social media created [in all of this] was awareness.
Effy: I am [so grateful] to come across these ideals that I hone today. It’s cliché, but social media changed my life. It made me feel like I was valid as a woman in the Muslim community, who was raised by very devout people, as a member of the LGBT community. The opportunity to learn more and to educate more; we need to acknowledge the fact that social media holds so much power.
Cha: The kids now are very lucky to have this platform where they can not only share their experiences, but also discuss, ask questions, have meaningful discourses with other people who may not be directly related to them, but share the same sentiments towards a certain issue.
“They’re not the sum of the tragedies that happened to them. They’re the living, breathing proof that the pain and the struggle don’t get a final say.”
What is your advice to women who have gone
Eunice: There’s something I can’t stress enough, if you’re a woman and you’ve gone through varying degrees [of harassment], you are never alone. They’ve been getting away with this for a really long time, and it’s about time that you actually speak up. We’re right behind you with this.
Marika: What I usually tell women who go through this is that: they’re not the sum of the tragedies that happened to them. They’re the living, breathing proof that the pain and the struggle don’t get a nal say. Their story matters, every story matters, and people should have the courage to take that step.