FemiFinal – The Final Proposition

By Courtney Brookes

Project title: The Feminist Dictionary (Punchier name TBC)

Emergent Practice: Service Innovation and Social Action

Issue: The accessibility of Feminist discussion created through the emergence of New Age Feminism and their use of online platforms and social media has seen a growth in intolerance towards the movement. This is predominately seen through the backlash in comments and opinion posts which include hostile, aggressive, and abusive language towards women and the movement. This type of degrading language distracts conversation from the real issues facing women as well as bullying them. The harassment is now inseparable from the online movement and its incessant occurrence has seemingly removed the meaning of the comments or phrases as it is easy to just ignore or scroll past them, therefore allowing them to be acceptable.

Design Action: To re-establish the meaning of these words and remove them from the Feminist discussion I am creating a service innovation accessible through web and mobile platforms. There are two aspects to my yet to be named design:

  1. An online database and plug-in which can be accessed through computer or phone which will allow users to input replacement words or phrases for those they find offensive and unnecessary. Once applied the application will search for those words on all websites or applications open and immediately replace them with what has been previously set. The user can decide whether they want the unwanted comments to read as gibberish or as a reflection on the person commenting with poignant statements relevant to the Feminist movement.
  2. Accessible through the same online medium will be a Feminist dictionary and thesaurus. This will be a database filled with the definitions of the words added by users with a satirical thesaurus immediately below revealing the ‘common-place’ synonyms. For example the word ‘slut’ is automatically defined as a sexually promiscuous woman with many casual sexual partners, the common-place synonyms for this could simply be ‘girl’, ‘woman’, ‘someone who is sexually empowered’. This will highlight the saturation of online forums with inappropriate and derogatory words in place of those which are neutral and positive.

The design action will be proposed through a video showing use of the application by two different characters through the various mediums. It will also display basic layouts, modules, and modes of the service.

Audience: The audience to be addressed is quite broad but will include those participating in the online Feminist movement, those posting the backlash, and people who have not contributed or are not aware of the issue. The tone of the design will be humorous and sarcastic, mocking the perpetrators and their actions. Through this the relevance of the service will be made apparent.

The possible change: Generated awareness of the extreme, inappropriate, and saturated use of abusive and derogatory language towards women will hopefully be achieved. Individual and group reflection about what words should be used to describe girls and women could eventuate in a reduction in the ‘slut-shaming’ trend over time.

Design Proposal : Naming or Shaming

By Courtney Brookes

Project title: Naming or Shaming

Emergent Practice:  The emergent practice that the design project lends itself to is a combination of social action and experimental process. The end product will be a call for social action and the content will be created through what I consider to be something experimental.

The issue: As Feminism has evolved as a movement we have seen a New Wave emerge which heavily relies on modern technology, specifically the Internet, to share their cause. Using Social Media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tinder, and Personal Blogs issues such as Body Image, Sexualisation, and basic gender equality are challenged and opened for discussions in mediums the contrast the traditional protests and essays of the traditional movement from the 1960’s. The accessibility of the Feminist discussion now has opened the movement up to a large amount of backlash and shows high amounts of verbal abuse against individuals sharing their opinions and the entire movement. The degrading language and comments is now almost inseparable from New Age Feminism and highlights the necessity of the movement, but is also simultaneously holding it back through stopping the discussion.

The possible change: The possible change that can occur is a reduction in derogatory and abusive language used towards woman who identify as Feminists, as well as, common place names used for all girls and women. The effects of the ‘slut-shaming’ will be made prevalent and also be reduced overtime.

The design action to the support change: The design action to support the change in language surrounding Feminism and women will be in the form of a video. It will be a structured and scripted short film, which will go for 3-5 min and use dialogue, which I have created, and some from the comments section of various Feminist social media accounts.

The Brief: The project ‘Naming or Shaming’ will be a 3-5 minute video, which utilises humour to address the serious issue of derogatory and abusive language, which is affecting the Feminist Movement, and overall perception of women. The video will consist of a number of scenes all filled with vulgar dialogue which can be labelled as ‘slut-shaming’.

The everyday scenes will contrast reality, as the normal reaction to this language will be removed, showing a speculative future but also highlighting how frequently this type of language is used to describe women and the Feminist Movement.

The video will have to be storyboarded and scripted using dialogue created and collected and then locations scouted to film the variety of scenes. The scenes will interchange quite frequently and create a humorous and punchy video that has quite an obvious and serious underlying message. The video will be easy to share online which will assist the Feminist Movement also attempting to fight this issue.

A Playful Design Possibility

By Courtney Brookes

A design possibility that I could explore focuses directly on the question I proposed in my previous blog post, around opening the discussion about Feminism on online platforms. What I want to focus on specifically within this is Internet driven intolerance and the backlash to the conversation that has been started.

Through breaking apart the various audiences to this intolerance as the witnesses, the perpetrators, and those who aren’t aware, I was able to acknowledge and understand who to direct my concept and design too. Whilst all of the audiences will be addressed the main targets will be the perpetrators and those who aren’t aware. From our discussions in last week’s session the first consideration for my design possibility was the importance of understanding the audience.

The approach I am looking to take will be playful as I believe the current Feminist discussion is quite direct and serious, this tone can be attributed to the stigma’s the movement holds and also encourage the antagonising resistance. I would like to explore the design possibility through the medium of video, a short film which will explore ‘removing the reaction’. The video will host a variety of conversations either quoted from other sources or generated by myself to highlight what the future could hold for Feminism and Gender Equality if the conversation does not shift.

Feminists Brainstorming Feminism

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By Courtney Brookes

The question I presented to my brainstorming group was “How might we open the discussion about New Age Feminism from circles that are majority females? So that it’s not so much of a one sided discussion.” Immediately this was broken down through understanding that the ‘we’ was (being current New Age Feminists using the internet) and giving a location to the said discussion being had (social media sites and online forums). Keeping a short time limit over the process allowed us to generate wonderful insights and design possibilities through breaking down the ambiguous endings of our questions.

  • Understanding the audience/ audiences of the issue is imperative to the success and reception of the design. As well as the obvious audience, what is important to recognize are the audiences, which aren’t participating. This is relevant to my question as my design possibility should not be directed purely towards women as that is where the discussion is already being held, but rather to the people who aren’t aware or the attempting to stop the discussion.
  • Making an informed and appropriate decision towards the design possibility. Recognise what voice is missing in the conversation that is happening.
  • Hypothesise and anticipate a response to all design possibilities. Through mapping out all the elements such as message, medium, audience the strongest design possibility will become evident.
  • Work with what you value, investment within a design possibility is going to strengthen the concept and reception of an idea. Personally I value the use of humour and playfulness so it is instinctively more relevant to use these tones, as my own comfort with this should translate to a greater audience.
  • Listen and value all opinions especially those you had not previously considered as these can highlight elements within you idea and add depth to you design possibility.

Mapping Feminism Again

By Courtney Brookes

 

The participatory mapping session was an interesting and highly informative experience, which left me inundated with issues and ideas about Feminism I had not originally thought about. The whole process was so overwhelming that our group did not even reach the stage of creating a final map but rather creating timelines and systems to further break down our issue. Despite not achieving the actual map, through the discussions we held between us and with the tutors we definitely developed the insights that were intended by the exercise.

The consistent element of ‘discussion’, which was highlighted, became a central focus in my mind. Discussion within Feminism is so pivotal to the movement and is something that is occurring but often not to the right audience, not on the right issues, or on equal forums or platforms. Often this conversation is one-sided and what I have noticed from my own research into Feminism’s use of the internet is the waves of abuse that arise from starting the discussion. This abuse is also sourced from a range of misunderstanding and misconceptions about the Feminist movement, which face not only men but also other women. We found this was a lack of acknowledgement that the movement itself has changed over time and now represents a new range of problems and a general lack of education about what Feminism means and stands for.

Through breaking down the stakeholders into systems we were also able to objectively recognize and breakdown the structures in which Feminism operates. What struck us immediately is that we had not considered the reproductive system as a non-human actor to list despite it being the biological reason for Feminism’s existence. The systems also allowed us to visualise what issues fall under specific systems in order for us to direct our research further and start developing ideas for our projects.

Interviewing a Fellow Feminist

By Courtney Brookes

Through researching into New Age Feminism I have noticed the shift from a quite scholarly-based discussion to one of open opinioned pieces and even moving beyond traditional discussion into the forms of image and film. With this insight in mind the ability to interview and seek out understanding from around me felt extremely valuable, however, only interviewing one person definitely did not deliver the range of results I was expecting. The focus of my interview and probe was centered on discovering these personal opinions about womanhood, feminism, and gender stereotypes.

11921949_10153541504933142_894616517_nThe questions asked during the interview all sought to uncover her position as a woman and a Feminist and the influences, which have shaped her beliefs. I also used the interview to gauge which of my two probes would be more suited to her. My preferred option was to post the text “I am a Feminist” on a variety of social media sites and document the response received from known friends and unknown followers from these sites. Within the interview she stated that being a Feminist was “Not something that I would shout from the rooftops” and so I established the other probe in which she had to document all the ‘names’ she was called by men and women and the context of these. The list I received back contained all of the names I expected but she did say that most of it was generated from other women at work and under the circumstances was generally nice. She did notice when being called the same name by men and sometimes strangers it did leave an uncomfortable feeling. I think this probe could have been more successful over a greater span of time and with a more established method of documentation.

Introducing Lenny Letter to Feminism

By Courtney Brookes

Lenny Letter is a brand new service innovation which comes in the form of an E-mail newsletter constructed by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner. It is due to launch in spring this year and is currently operating on several online platforms including their own website, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. The tagline of the service is ‘An email newsletter where there’s no such thing as too much information’ (Lenny Letter 2015) and aims to broach a number of topics including Feminism, style, health, politics, and many more.

The approach of the newsletter is to give information that has never previously been shared and is now readily available, aiming to create an inclusive online space. This addresses the issue of women’s representations of themselves and provides voices to many as well as information about many issues facing young Millennial. Inspiration for the service arose from the women met and who reached out following the publication of Dunham’s book ‘Not That Kind of Girl’ and seeing the existing female community, which could be further developed. Lenny Letter joins a multitude of other online feminist blogs, which will continue to generate audiences and awareness about women’s issues and rights. The newsletter will include a variety of different writings including essays, opinion and advice pieces, and general entertainment stories.

Lenny Letter certainly overlaps with social action with its Feminist core shown in their Instagram biography “Dismantling the patriarchy, one newsletter at a time”(Lenny Letter 2015). However, it is undeniable from the 96 500 followers they have acquired since their launch that they are satisfying an emerging need of the market.

References

Lenny Letter 2015, Introducing Lenny, accessed 8/8/15

< http://lennyletter.com >