Hardly a Laughing Matter: Could Sexist Humor Amount to Dangerous Speech?

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Session Description

We wish to explore the link between sexist humor online and the concept of "dangerous speech", as expounded by Susan Benesch, particularly in different contexts around the world. Sadaf and I, as moderators of this discussion, will start off by having a conversation regarding the emergence of online sexist humor in Pakistan - from restaurant owners defending overtly sexist marketing strategies online and Pakistani Men's Rights Activists calling themselves "meninists" and berating women unapologetically, to a widespread display of homophobia (and misogyny) by Pakistani celebrities after the same-sex marriage verdict. We will then move on to the other invitees/speakers (mentioned above) discussing their experiences within their own countries and contexts. We will then discuss the idea of inflammatory speech driving people to harm one another and how sexist speech could potentially be a part of this. Later on, we will discuss solutions and limitations as to how such speech can be countered, while acknowledging that what works in one context may not work in another. This will include a discussion on whether or not to engage with 'trolls' by using counter-speech, how to react to such 'free speech' we otherwise wouldn't hear, the advantage of such speech being called out by other social media users, and more importantly, examples of such speech being effectively countered by feminists in an effort to reclaim public/online spaces. We will then divide the rest of the participants into groups and ask them to do the same exercise among themselves, and then each group will present their discussion, with examples, and the solutions that came from it. It is important for us to understand how such speech can be countered and called out; we wish to discuss and devise creative solutions and also discuss limitations to countering sexist speech online. It is also important for us to discuss the importance of online movements and action in the context of feminism, particularly how to counter the backlash they receive. We wish to engage more activists, particularly ones working on gender rights, and build an international network so that we can rely on more community-driven solutions for this widespread problem.

Hardly a Laughing Matter: Could Sexist Humor Amount to Dangerous Speech?
Presenter/s Zoya Rehman, Sadaf Baig, Lisa Garcia (FMA, Philippines), Bishakha Datta (Point of View, India), Anita Gurumurthy (IT for Change, India), Susan Benesch (Dangerous Speech project, USA)
Bio/s I work as Manager GenderTech for Bytes for All, Pakistan, whereas Sadaf Baig is the Programs Director of Media Matters for Democracy, Pakistan. I am a lawyer and gender rights activist (and a radical feminist). Sadaf Baig used to be a broadcast journalist before she started working as an internet rights activist.
Language English

Session Comments