Day 4: Cloud up violence | The power of words

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Friday, November 28, 2008
Much of the world we live in is constructed by strings of words. What makes a woman? What is her role? How does it change from home to the workplace to the parliament? Which is legitimate and acceptable? Which are deviant and punishable? Who are not even recognised as 'real', ordinary people?

How do some words justify violence against women as part of our everyday life?

woman = sexually muted = moral = good = protect
woman = sexually expressive = loose = bad = asking for it
woman = loves man = reproduces = mother = natural = nurture
woman = loves woman = abnormal = deviant = control = destroy

Who speaks these words? Who has control and access over the channels that declares, repeats, discusses and is heard?  

Historically women have been hidden, muffled and underestimated in prevailing discourses. Indigenous, lesbian, immigrant, and poor women, sex workers, women from marginalised religions and ethnicities, girls, young women and elder women, and women with disabilities, amongst many others, have had their right to a voice diminished and denied all their lives.

The book "Turn to women for the word" by Yadira Calvo brings to light the histories of women who transcended their times through the courage borne in their words, and in the mere act of having managed to write them: Charlotte Brönte (1816-1855) who set aside the Jane Eyre manuscript to peel potatoes. Jane Austen (1775-1817), who hid her papers whenever someone came in the room, out of embarrassment at being seen writing. Fanny Burney (1752-1840), who burned all of her originals and put herself to doing needlepoint as penitence for writing.

What words do you speak? What kinds of stories do you construct about the world and how we occupy it differently?  

Part of the power of the internet to transform social and power relations is by enabling everyone with some level of access and connectivity to speak. Emerging developments in internet applications and platforms are also gearing towards facilitating user-generated content. For example, video sharing platforms like youtube are meaningless without its millions of users creating their own videos, self-organising them, and sharing them with each other.

What kinds of communication spaces do you have access to? And how are you using them to disrupt existing language and definitions of what makes a woman, and our relationship to violence?

Take Back The Tech! invites you to sustain and strengthen the journey of words that empower, and that transform gender relations. Cloud up what is acceptable and normal about violence against women, by playing with tags!

What are tags?
A tag is a descriptive word used to categorise internet content, whether to describe a blog entry,  news article, photo, audio, video, tweets etc. You can share tags with other online users through different platforms that are developed to facilitate pooling of similar interests and content based on shared keywords or categorisation, such as Technorati.

What are tag clouds?
A tag cloud is a visual representation of those words. Keywords or tags which are used more often, or has more content, are bolder and larger in size. Each tag links to the collection of content that are categorised under that keyword. When a site features a tag cloud you can get a sense of its content at a glance. It also gives you a sense of the prioritisation of topics and subjects that is of interest to the community of users on a particular site or even on the worldwideweb.

Cloud up violence against women!
Today, take action by tagging content that disrupts power relations, challenges sexism, and speaks about violence against women.

To make it easier for you to create a snapshot of your blog's or website's tag cloud, play with wordle!

  • Go to http://wordle.net, and click “create”.
  • Type in the address or URL of the website or blog that you find inspiring or motivating.
  • Click “submit”, and a visual tag cloud will be generated
  • You can change how it looks by changing the language, colour, font and layout.
  • Decide if you want to share your tag cloud on the Wordle Gallery, for all visitors to see. NOTE: Once it is saved in this gallery there is no way to delete it, so make sure no private or personal information is in the cloud if you decide to publish it.
  • You can also print out your tag cloud, or save it in a digital format

See an example of a tag cloud here:  http://www.takebackthetech.net/content/ict-and-violence-against-women

You can also build your own clouds out of words that have meaning for you - personal clouds for you to express yourself, your interests, in your own language. Cut and paste a poem, a song, a jumble of provocative and transformative words. Design you piece of the sky free of violence and share it!

Take a snapshot & send your clouds as postcards

  • Make a screen shot of your tag cloud and and save it as a jpg or gif file.
  • Send your screen shot to: ideas AT takebackthetech DOT net, OR
  • Post it on your blog or photo-sharing account, and tag it as “takebackthetech”, OR
  • Publish it directly to the campaign website! Create an account on the site, click on “create content”, then “media” and simply fill in the form. 
  • Once published, the your tag cloud postcards can be sent by other campaigners and users to amplify our collective words for a world without violence.

Cloud up the world with your words! Share your thoughts about combating violence against women using this tool. Inspire yourself to inspire others.

"Why am I compelled to write?... Because the world I create in the writing compensates for what the real world does not give me. By writing I put order in the world, give it a handle so I can grasp it. I write because life does not appease my appetites and anger... To become more intimate with myself and you. To discover myself, to preserve myself, to make myself, to achieve self-autonomy." - Gloria Anzaldua