The WMC Speech Project is dedicated to raising public and media awareness about online harassment. The past several years have seen an increase in news, as well as a growing understanding that online harassment is a social, civil rights and workplace issue. However, many people, and institutions, think of harassment as “bullying,” instead of its much more complex and dynamic reality.
While online abuse can and does happen to anyone, the focus of this project is on the ways in which women’s rights and expression are affected by intersectional harassment related to their gender, class, race, sexuality and more. The internet is a transformative space for girls and women, allowing us to transcend national boundaries, and obstacles to our equality. However, while we can, today, publically engage in unprecedented ways, the very qualities that make the internet a revolutionary space also enable powerful variations on old themes: violence against women and the cultural policing of girls and women, because we are girls and women.
Online harassment is a social problem that requires a social response. Our goal is to increase understanding of the nature, scope and costs of online misogyny and abuse in order to contribute to new frameworks that will ensure that free speech is a right that extends equally to all. When girls’ and women’s freedom of speech is constantly degraded and sometimes violently suppressed, when challenges to our freedom of speech are treated as trivial and inconsequential, or a problem that we are expected to solve individually, democracy and equality are are threatened. We are committed to the creation of a robust and safe public commons that will expand freedom of expression and engagement in the public sphere instead of limiting it.