Learning and doing for gender advocacy: A UniTWIN European teaching partnership on ‘Countering gender-based violence in and through the media’
Orange the World – End Violence against Women now!
Over the past three months, 14 students from the University of Vienna participated in the special action research and learning program organized in the context of the UNESCO UniTWIN Network on Gender Media and ICT. This Projekt was conducted in a partnership with the universities of Padova, Newcastle University, Complutense University of Madrid, University of Vienna. The starting points for this collaboration were the various perspectives on violence against women in the media – focusing on online and physical attacks against women journalists – and through the media – highlighting the mediated context and conditions of femicide and other forms of violence against women. Moreover, the project has addressed the UN Sustainable Development Goals referring to the fifth goal ‚Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’.
The seminar was a unique opportunity to learn about and practice gender advocacy under the direction of DDr. phil. et iur. Krisztina Rozgonyi MBA. It was carried out in the winter semester 2021 as voluntary part of the gender mainstreaming lecture (220105-1 VERBE: VO GENDMAI). The students worked on their projects from mid-October until the end of January.
Unfortunately, the brought spectrum shows how violence has many faces, many tormentors and many circumstances under which it arises. The reality of violence against women is staggering. The content presented in the media pair sad cases of gender-based violence with insensitive reporting. We want to be an example that there is also a sensitive way to report instances of gender based violence.
The Collaborative Events
13. October 2021 – Starting point
05. November 2021 – Violence against women journalists panel with Jennifer Adams (University of Vienna), Paulina Gutierrez (Article 19) and Arzu Geybullayeva (Journalist from Azerbaijan)
11. November 2021 – Work-In-Progress meeting with the universities of Padova, Newcastle University, Complutense University of Madrid
15. November 2021 – ‘A Dark Place: A SOFJO Documentary’ about the experiences of female journalists who have been targeted by online harassment
19 November 2021 – Submission of proposals and mutual exchange via GoogleDrive
25. November 2021 – Day of Action: International Day for the Elimination of Violence and continue the activism even beyond the #16days
„The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual international campaign that kicks off on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until 10 December, Human Rights Day. [ …] It is used as an organizing strategy by individuals and organizations around the world to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.„1
1. & 15. December 2021 – Presentation of the results and project status within the GENDMAI-lecture
10. December 2021 – Human Rights Day
12 January 2022 – Final meeting: ’Reflections’-workshop and guest presentation with Pamela Moriniére (International Federation of Journalists)
31. January 2022 – Project closing
The output contains eleven exciting projects, which can now be seen on the collaborative website as well as the Instagram channel @univie_unitingvoices. It includes two frame analyzes, a wide variety of case studies and multimedia discussions of particular issues. What they have in common is that all of them should raise awareness.
About the Projects
The headings of each project are also links that take you to the article on the website.
„Escape the grip“ is a pedagogical role play to experiment being trapped in an abusive relationship by Ade Barbier. This game is not meant to be fun. A lot of people who have never experienced abusive relationships think that it is easy to leave a violent person and don’t take into account all the control mechanisms they can use such as the isolation of the victim, the various forms of gaslighting, the inversion of the guilt or the progressive building of fear. The goal of Ade’s role play is to make all of these processes visible. Therefore, you are locked in an apartment during the entirety of the simulation which symbolizes the relationship with someone who has a grip on you – mental and physically. A detailed description of the rules and explanations can be found on the website. Pamela Moriniére from the International Federation of Journalists particularly highlighted Ade’s role play as outstanding.
The multimedia project „The Game She Always Loses“ by Laura Kalidz and Marie Rathmann talks about the spike of domestic violence against women during or around football games to bring light to the violence women face in these specific circumstances. The output contains a blog post with general information as well as an infographic and short podcast sequence made up of a discussion around the issue and possible solutions. Based on the quotation „We hear you, we see you, we believe you. You are not alone”2 by UN Women this projects combines impressions of listening, seeing and reading. By raising awareness, we can take a step towards preventing women from experiencing this kind of violence.
“Aus meinen Augen” (eng.: Through my eyes) is a comic about an incident of sexual harassment, that was published by Blank-Magazin (Passau, Germany; 2020). A friend of the editorial group told her terrible story – Blank-Magazin decided to present it as a graphic memoir, as they believe that this very visual approach gives the most accurate insight as to how it happened. The face of the harasser is left blank, because assaults like this have many faces. It doesn’t matter who the perpetrator is but sexual assault against women happens. Everyday. Everywhere.
In the article „More than just words – When online hate speech turns into murder – the „Bierwirt“ case and its legal aftereffects“ Katja Magdalena Müller analyzes the „Bierwirt“ precedent as a case in which the system failed tragically in protecting women online and offline which finally pushed new hate speech regulations in Austria. It links misogynistic online hate speech to offline violence against women like no other case by showing the difficulties of addressing online perpetrators and how this legal vacuum sets the basis for hate crime. The large-scale blog post should be supplemented with a podcast and expert interviews, regrettably this could not be done due to lack of time.
„İstanbul Sözleşmesi yaşatır“ (eng.: The Istanbul Convention saves lives). This sentence stands for the article and the video by Özben Önal which explain why femicides in Turkey are political. Spreading information is key to combat this issue. The project delivers an introduction to the country’s political, economic and legal environment and examines its link and contribution to the mindset in which violence against women can still thrive. A special focus is set on the effect of Turkey’s withdrawal from the European Council Istanbul Convention, a human rights treaty to prevent and combat violence against women.
#HOWNOTTTO is a frame analysis by Lisa-Sophie Staß on how to report on femicides in a more respectful and honorable way towards the victims. To analyze and evaluate the articles the Ethical checklist for news reports dealing with violence against women by Belén Zubano Berenguer and Mar Gracía-Gordillo is used. Journalistic frames have the potential to leave out real, structural problems behind femicides and the importance of talking about those structures. Even more frightening is the fact that almost all articles fail the ethical checklist. There is a huge difference between quality newspaper (f.e. derStandard) reports and attention-seeking tabloid press (f.e. OE24), the latter fail all the checklist’s checkpoints most of the time. A positive aspect that emerges from the analysis is that more and more newspapers now inform about helplines, where victims of domestic violence can look out for help.
„Does Austria have a problem with femicides?“ is a frame analysis of the Kronen Zeitung reporting on fatal violence against women by Phelia Weiß.In 2021, more than 28 women were killed by ex-partners or men close to them. The phenomenon has not only been a problem since last year but it has received increasing media attention. While some groups called for better preventative measures and help for women in need, others chose to instrumentalize the deaths of these women for their own political goals. The heated debate is fueled by insensitive, sensational and stereotypical reporting, f.e. by the tabloid Kronen Zeitung. Identifying problematic patterns and generating data on them can be one of many steps to lay a foundation and advocate for responsible media practices. The results of the quantitative data analysis were presented in an easy-to-understand infographic.
SEX WORK IS WORK! Arina Bychkova’s article was intended to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 measures on the situation of sex workers in Austria. During the multiple lockdowns, women who made money from sex services lost any kind of income and remain in existential fear to this day, with no right to compensation or social benefits. The aim of the research was to start a dialogue with the affected group, collect their stories and demands. The project could not be completed because the research field of those affected is extremely difficult to access.
Colombia’s history is marked by violence. In addition to a historical view of the country’s violent past, the high number of femicides cannot go unnoticed. There is also a large number of unreported cases. In order to take action against femicides, these cases must be clearly identified as pressing problem and incorporated into public discourse. Originally, Anna Heppermann had planned talks with members of the Fundación Feminicidios Colombia in cooperation with Cafèmme, which unfortunately could not be held as part of the project due to time constraints.
Based on her own experience, Anastasiia Krynytska wanted to work on the multimedia project “Rethinking female characters from the school literature list”. Examples of gender abuse from Russian and Ukrainian classical school literature should be analyzed from a psychological perspective in order to create a website where the identified female characters will receive digital ‚profiles‘. The profiles should be used to collect the thoughts and perspectives of Ukrainian and Russian students and open a public discourse and empower the young female generation. The project could not be completed.
„Why gender-based violence isn’t just physical – the many forms of abuse“ by Nija Würzelberger is a draft project that describes the broad spectrum of abuse, but has not been completed. Many physical attacks begin with or are accompanied by psychological violence. In addition to psychological violence against women, sub-topics such as toxic behavior, emotional abuse, gaslighting and similar problem areas must also be taken into account.
The projects shown call for an urgent and immediate need for action. Linking the theoretical input of the GENDMAI-lecture with the implementation of activism within the partnership is a step that is long overdue. In my opinion, we have all managed to outline violence against women with the utmost sensitivity.
In the GENDMAI-lecture we heard about the lack of data regarding gendered issues. Engaging in amplified research work therefore appears to be a logical consequence. In the partnership we generated data and looked for case studies to empower women. Constant exchange with fellow universities and students creates a bundled collection of forces with the respective different approaches. All students agreed that this international and mutually beneficial exchange should accompany us during our studies more extensively.
Our voluntary commitment as future media experts is a small but vital contribution to bring about change. Hopefully we will take this into our everyday work and carry the relevance further. The overall reach may not yet have been overwhelming, but the feedback we were able to receive most certainly was.
1 UN Women (2021). 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. See: https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/take-action/16-days-of-activism (30/11/2021).
2 UN Women (2021). @UN_Women: We hear you. We see you. We believe you. You’re not alone. #GenerationEquality. Twitter, 08.04.2021. See: https://twitter.com/un_women/status/138019753 0814779395 (30/01/2022).