VIDEO: Feminists subjected to online abuse fight back

Dr Catherine O'Sullivan, UCC lecturer; Daisy Pemble,  Katie Quinlan, Ellie Mahony, Feminist Society auditor;and Sadhbh Corkery, pose with their posters as part of the UCC Feminist Society 'Rise Above It' campaign. Pictures: Emmet Curtin

Members of a college feminist group who have been subjected to sustained, vile, and lewd online abuse for almost three years have launched a fightback campaign.

University College Cork’s FemSoc has published a selection of the abuse it has received, which has seen its members branded as male-hating sluts and c**ts, and has vowed to ignore it and continue its campaigning work.

Backed by leading feminists including Mary Crilly of the Cork Sexual Violence Centre, law lecturer Dr Catherine O’Sullivan, as well as UCC’s students’ union, FemSoc hopes its ‘Rise Above It’ campaign will put a human face on the online accounts at the receiving end of the abuse, and encourage other students targeted by similar online abuse to dismiss it and carry on.

FemSoc auditor Ellie Mahony, said the society has received a steady stream of online abuse, mostly through Twitter and Facebook, on an almost daily basis since its foundation in 2012.

“Feminism can get a bad reputation because there can be extremists. But we’re not extremists. We fight for gender equality for all,” she said.

The abuse intensified last summer, driven in part by a stream of posts from the YikYak app which allows users post anonymously.

An image from UCC Feminist Society’s ‘Rise Above It Campaign’. The group has been subjected to vile online abuse for three years.
An image from UCC Feminist Society’s ‘Rise Above It Campaign’. The group has been subjected to vile online abuse for three years.

The abuse has included posts branding the group a ‘man hating dyke society’, and other posts making lewd comments about society members engaging in intimate sex acts.

The society has reported some of the abuse to Facebook and Twitter, but the anonymous YikYak posts are difficult to tackle.

Daisy Pemble, campaigns officer of FemSoc, said the Rise Above It campaign is designed to tackle the abuse head-on. “We are no longer going to allow this abuse to get to us or to bring us down — we will rise above it and continue to fight for gender equality, in UCC, in Ireland and beyond,” she said.

The campaign features posters, shot and designed by Emmet Curtin, which pair comments sent to the society with students who manage the society’s online accounts, and a video of FemSoc members reading some of the tweets.

FemSoc, set up to strive for gender equality, is planning a major breast cancer awareness campaign this month, and will be supporting the Movember initiative next month.


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