Day 5: Offline activism | Uncensor your phone booths!

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Saturday, November 29, 2008
There is little doubt that there are a lot of sexually explicit material on the internet. There is also little doubt that a majority of it caters to male heterosexual desires. At the same time, the increasing ease of self-publishing on the internet as well as how it facilitates networking also means that more and more hidden, marginalised, and silenced forms of sexualities are finding a space to express, connect, and articulate diversity.

Women in particular, having been long understood and defined as passive objects in the story of sex, are taking matters in our own hands by creating erotica made by women for women, publishing disarming and frank blogs about our sexual encounters, self-authoring what it means to be a sexual subject. This has great potency to disrupt many ideas and cultural norms about sexualities. This can in turn, challenge the perpetuation of sexual violence against women that relies on the logic of men as sexual actors, and women as sexual objects.

However, there is increasing attention given by governments, the private sector, internet service providers and civil society actors to control what information and content becomes available on the internet. Pornography and sexually offensive materials are commonly cited as legitimate reasons to block websites, implement content filtering software, introduce internet content codes and more.

Often, these mechanisms block not just sites normally understood as "pornographic", but also critical information related to sexual and reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and diverse sexualities.

Women are at the heart of this debate, and are sometimes equated with children in the need for protection. Yet, women are not loudly present in the discussions where such decisions are made.

Take Back The Tech! Speak your right to sexualities, to information, communication and community. Bring back stories and information silenced in online spaces to the physical spaces you occupy!

Make a calling card:

  • Public telephone booths are often covered with small stickers and cards advertising for various things. In some places, calling cards are placed there by sex workers and their agents as a means to publicise their services.
  • Take over and change the landscape of sexuality where you live. Make your own calling card!
  • You can make them on small pieces of cardboard, whether by writing them in pen, colour pencils or crayons, by designing them on a computer and printing them out, by cutting out newspaper headlines and turning them into collages or making stencils.
  • Fill them with information about sexuality rights issues that are often censured and muted, for example:
  • * Headlines related to HIV/AIDS
  • * Quotes by women with disabilities about their desires
  • * The link to your favourite erotica for women site
  • * Snippets of reality and life by lesbian and bisexual women that is not just about sex
  • * Telephone helpline of a local sexual and reproductive health organisation
  • Anything you can think of that disrupts allowed and censored sexualities!
  • At the bottom of each calling card, write: "Call: 1-000-takebackthetech-net!"
  • Take a walk, and stick them on your nearest phone booths.

Change the landscape of what is seen and heard about women's diverse sexualities, and keep the information flowing!