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'Instagram slut shaming riot was healthy'

Published: 20 Dec 2012 08:00 GMT+01:00

When I was a teenager in the 80s, it was common to find sexist graffiti in the bathrooms at my schools. It wasn't rare to find that someone had called a girl a whore or a slut. Or that people left comments about their appearance for all to see.

As I recall, none of the adults ever commented on these public messages left on the school walls. I can't remember a single teacher addressing the content of the scribbles, nor discuss what they said about dignity and respect and how we treat each other.

What I did sometimes hear was a mumbled complaint about the graffiti per se, the actual act of vandalism, and whether that was acceptable.

The content, however, never came up. It didn't matter if the pencil marks spelled out insults or cuss words, or whether they instead formed a sketched outline of a heart containing the name of a loved one.

I was reminded of all this when local Gothenburg politician Robert Hammarstrand asked, in the wake of the Instagram 'slut shaming' riot, if the schools in Sweden's second biggest city ever discuss values with their pupils?

Because what happened in Gothenburg isn't a story about Instagram. It isn't a story about the internet. It's the story of how people treat one another.

We're talking about ancient social structures where a few try to gain popularity by making others feel bad.

This is a story about bullying, which existed long before the internet.

Of course, the internet plays its part. Rumours can spread in the blink of an eye with the internet, in this case setting of a demonstration that turned riotous in part. But let's remember that the internet is not the cause, it's a mere tool.

The internet mirrors what is going on in society at large. In a way, the internet helps us to detect, and hopefully to deal with, problems that we never acknowledged before, or that we somehow thought were beyond our control, or some sort of given.

When I was a teenage girl in the 80s, I never once thought to protest those scribbles on the bathroom wall. I never thought to question that someone had scrawled "the school's biggest boobs" across the dining hall door, with my name written beside it.

It didn't matter that every time I saw those words I wanted to hide, to hide my breasts.

The riot in Gothenburg is a healthy expression of teenagers refusing to accept that others have the right to name, shame, and abuse them.

Of course, we have to question how they decided to stand up and say it, but protests are in and of themselves good. In this case, they hopefully signal the start of something new.

But in order for it to be the start of something new, us adults cannot fear the internet because that is not the underlying problem - dignity and respect for your fellow human beings, that's where the key lies.

And we must question ourselves and how we, even as adults, address each other. What signals we are sending to today's teenagers and to our children.

We won't achieve that by spinning into a moral panic about the big bad internet.

We need to understand what our youth get up to online but also offline.

And one more thing, and an important thing, to remember....

To turn around and point our fingers accusingly at young girls and tell them not to upload "provocative" pictures of themselves is not helpful. It is the equivalent of telling a rape victim that she has herself to blame because she wore a short skirt.

The solution is not to ask our teenagers to adapt to the rules of the games written by their abusers, the solution is to change the rules of the games by questioning the abusers' values.

Sofia Mirjamsdotter

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Your comments about this article

09:58 December 20, 2012 by RobinHood
Ms Mirjamsdotter's intelligent piece fails to cover two important points.

Firstly, it's one thing to make a "healthy expression" of outrage against bullying, it's quite another to hunt down a girl, beat her half to death, and then hang her from a lamp post. There was no beating or hanging only because a quick thinking teacher hustled the girl out the back door.

Secondly, the angry mob were not the victims of bullying, healthily expressing themselves. The mob were the actual bullies themselves. They thought their postings to the Facebook and Instagram accounts would be anonymous, but in fact they were public and they were exposed as the nasty backstabbers that they are.
10:04 December 20, 2012 by Mxzf
"I can't remember a single teacher addressing the content of the scribbles, nor discuss what they said about dignity and respect and how we treat each other"

You forget that at that time, teachers weren't there to raise the kids, like they seem to be these days. When we were in school, teachers were there to help us grasp the school subjects. Raising kids were left to parents or fritidsledare (or in worst case, kurator or psychiatrist).
12:29 December 20, 2012 by djkroo
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
12:45 December 20, 2012 by TG22
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
17:01 December 20, 2012 by Nomark
This is a bizarre article. As pointed out above the demonstration was actually an attempt to mob one person; as such it resembled a lynch mob rather a principled stand. Furthermore, the demonstrators consisted in no small part of bullies who had their anonymity removed and were annoyed about this.

Furthermore, the internet played a crucial role in all of this; perhaps even the key role. Previously, this type of bullying was localised. A far greater community is now involved and, as seen above, involves the systematic removal of an anonymity which someone who scrawls on a toilet wall need not fear.

In amongst all of this there were of course some people there who genuinely concerned about the whole issue of mobbing. However, the author ought to remove her rose tinted glances and see it for what it is rather than what she would like it to be.
18:41 December 20, 2012 by redfish
When people get offended about the idea of telling the girls they should change their behavior, it reminds me of Americans who get offended by the idea that their foreign policy causes enemies abroad.

No, Americans aren't responsible for terrorists who kill them, and girls aren't responsible for people who bully them. But a "war on bullying" won't end bullying more than a "war on terrorism" will end terrorism. Bullies will always exist, terrorists will always exist.

"Ancient social structures". Please. In her ancient history of bullying, the author starts in the 1980s. Yet, when parents and school teachers had less tolerance for lewd behavior by students, they also had less tolerance for shaming and name-calling.
14:39 December 21, 2012 by godnatt
Yes, public lynchings and vigilantism are very healthy things...

I didn't see crowds of girls out there "protesting". It was a crowd of thugs looking for blood.

Once again the violent offenders are victims according to the sheltered lefties safe in fortress Vasastan.
01:25 December 23, 2012 by Lars Porsenna
Sure; it would have been even healthier if the police had beaten the soul out of those "protesters".

>The riot in Gothenburg is a healthy expression of teenagers refusing to accept that

>others have the right to name, shame, and abuse them.

I still can't understand how healthy can be a angry mob that in search of a scapegoat would not mind of beating an innocent in the street. (And I can't see the connection with jumping on cars).
22:43 December 27, 2012 by mungo
The slut-shaming itself IS a questioning of values - the values of licentiousness and loose sexuality where any sense of spirituality and sacredness of ones sexual persona is thrown away and girls/boys act out as animalistic - in the sexual realm. Any Tom , Dick or Harry will do and why be so narrow-minded as to exclude the basketball team ! ... freedom !

While sex is not a perversity ....the animalistic and 'anyone can do me' type attitudes are not sex at all ...but a spiritual perversity.

kudo's to those who Do possess values, are affronted by casually perverse sexuality ... and are willing to call a slut ....a slut. Notice that the offended 'sluts' want to be left completely free from criticism or outing ...in fact...they appear only too willing to beat their critics senseless. Freedom doesn't reach as far as disagreeing and pointing out people's actions that you do not agree with.

Everyone in their social circles apparently knows what these girls are up to ....they are no doubt locally famous ...at least with all the boys ...so why be ashamed ?
00:11 January 3, 2013 by Bentham
@mungo

according to what i've read nobody knew these girls personally. it started out with an argumentation between somone/some people and the girl who got to take the blame. according to her her antagonists had created an facebook account with her name to make it look like she had spread all the (false) rumours and then the snowball began rolling with an call to demonstration which then was used by hoards of stupid thugs that had nothing to do with it other than just for the sake to make a riot.
16:58 January 4, 2013 by jvtx3232
Typical lefty twit. Imagine! Defending & rationalizing rioting, disturbing of the peace, violence, property destruction, and other sundry offenses associated with this immigrant riot! That's pretty sick. Her article is without value.
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