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No Homophobes Project Launches PSA

nohomophobesby Jarrah Hodge

Back in December I interviewed Dr. Kristopher Wells of the University of Alberta’s nohomophobes.com project, which uses a website tracking homophobic language on Twitter to act as a “social mirror” drawing attention to everyday homophobia.

This week the campaign started a new phase by launching a PSA that asks why homophobic language is still widely used and often accepted. The language could be considered NSFW, so fair warning:

Global TV donated the PSA production and the clip was created by No Homophobes partner Calder Bateman. Jeff McLean of Calder Bateman told Global News: “We thought the PSA or the TV spot would be a visual representation of the tweets that are coming in on the website…Hearing it from these people is quite shocking.”

In a statement Wells said, “We no longer tolerate racist language, weʼre getting better at dealing with sexist language, but sadly we still see and hear homophobic and transphobic language in our society. While this language might not always be meant to be hurtful, we must not forget that words like “faggot” contribute greatly to the continued alienation and isolation of sexual and gender (LGBTQ) people, especially our youth.”

The PSA has already started getting international attention and will hopefully contribute to raising awareness and increasing constructive dialogue about homophobic language use in Canada and around the world.

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, LGBT Leave a comment

U of A’s “No Homophobes” Project Confronts Casual Homophobia

nohomophobesby Jarrah Hodge

The first time I visited nohomophobes.com it was an emotional experience. The site acts as a “social mirror”, capturing real-time use of homophobic slurs on Twitter, and it quickly becomes clear just how staggering a problem casual homophobia is.

I spoke to Dr. Kristopher Wells, Associate Director of the University of Alberta Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, which started the project earlier this year, about how this relatively simple Canadian idea has had such a wide impact.

Wells told me that the idea for No Homophobes came out of research on casual homophobia and how it manifests in our public education system. EGALE Canada’s national national climate survey on homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in Canadian schools, for example, found that 70% of LGBTQ youth hear phrases like “That’s so gay” every day in their schools. 10% of the time the phrases are actually coming from teachers.

“Sadly, for many LGBTQ youth this kind of casual homophobia is part of their daily reality,” said Wells.

The challenge was to put something together to bring public awareness to the issue of casual homophobia – not just in schools, but also in our society as a whole. The idea was to create a website that compiles tweets, using our four key words (“faggot”, “so gay”, “no homo”, and “dyke”), in real time, from all over English-speaking world. Wells and the iSMSS turned to their community partners, getting help from Calder Bateman in Edmonton and Burnkit in Vancouver to set up the website graphics and technical aspects.

Wells explained: “We wanted to do something different that was actually going to target and speak not only to youth, but also to the broader community – and we figured out pretty quickly that we needed to do something with social media, which is where most youth seem to live.” Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, LGBT 2 Comments

How Twitter Reflects the Themes of Our Society

This was originally posted at A Nerdy Feminist. Cross-posted with permission of the author.

Let me set this all out from the get-go: I love social media. I’m an early adopter and heavy user of the biggest platforms. I was Facebooking it back in late 2004 when you had to request your college to be added to the network and I’ve been a regular tweeter since 2008. In fact, I’ve racked up almost 6000 tweets. I’m even into Tumbling now. All of this is just to demonstrate that the following is not me hating on social media or fearing progress. (We know how I feel about that.)

Besides, Twitter has been proven to be hugely influential in some really big things, like the Arab Spring, as well as many other grassroots, activist movements including Occupy. It also regularly allows me to connect with feminists from all over the country and world, making the theory feel united, my thoughts more widely informed, and allowing me to be supported and lend support.

But the fact of the matter is that for all the good Twitter can do, it is still is a direct reflection of the “-isms” that still exist in our society. A vast majority of its users are not necessarily engaging in activism, but rather sharing “funny” quips or personal thoughts. Unfortunately, racist, heterosexist, classist, and sexist hashtags often are amongst the top trending topics. So much so, that as a self-preservation tactic (read: I don’t want to get pissed off all the time) I’ve stopped regularly looking at them…which is a damn shame, since it could keep me from knowing about the great stuff I just referenced.

Despite my recent decision to ignore trending topics, I took a little glance last night and, of course, one of them was problematic.

#ImTheTypeofGirlfriend

But more on that particular trending topic in a moment. Read more

Posted on by A Lynn in Feminism Leave a comment

My (Online) Real Life

A couple weeks ago I hit up the 2011 Northern Voice conference at UBC, which was a great opportunity to learn more about blogging, podcasting, social media, and other web-related activity, as well as a chance to meet a bunch of cool folks I’d only known through Twitter.

I attended lots of great presentations but the most inspiring was Alexandra Samuel‘s “Stop Apologizing for Your Online Life.”

In her session, Samuel took on the whole idea behind the acronym “IRL” (In Real Life). In her related Harvard Business Review post, she writes: “if we still refer to the offline world as ‘real life,’ it’s only a sign of deep denial — or unwarranted shame — about what reality looks like in the 21st century.”

The way I’m seeing it applying to me is twofold.

The first part is dealing with the criticisms that portray online activity as not real. I am proud of my blog and I promote it to my offline friends and family, but I don’t generally tend to disclose that I used to write fanfiction, and I avoid talking about my Twitter friends to my offline friends. Even when I do talk about my online life I can get a little defensive or downplay its importance to me.

That’s partly because I keep hearing this idea that somehow online experience isn’t real experience, that the friends you make on Twitter aren’t as legitimate, that blogging isn’t real writing, and that being hooked into the internet through laptops and mobile devices is somehow preventing people from engaging in society in a healthy way. I’m sure I’m not the only one who remembers being a teen gamer and fanfic writer and having a parent harp at me to spend more time away from the computer screen.

But what I’ve learned and what Samuel helped articulate is that our online activity is just as “real” and important as what we do offline. For example, my blogging has let me engage with feminists around the world, in a very real and dynamic way and I’ve learned to much from these interactions.

Writing fanfic has not only been an outlet for creative expression but working in an online writing community has helped me develop my writing, editing, and collaboration skills. I have online friends around the world who I’ve never met in person, but there are many I’d love to go for coffee with if we were in the same physical location, and I have a few great long-term offline friends who I first met online.

The second component comes out of Alexandra Samuel’s recommendation to fully embrace your online presence and make it more authentic.

This may mean purguing some Facebook not-really-friends and treating the remaining ones as you’d treat offline friends. For me, it also means taking my writing and photography seriously as art and using my online time on things that are valuable and important to me like helping promote feminist causes, engaging in an online feminist community, and more deeply exploring my other interests.

One of the 10 reasons Samuel sites to stop apologizing for your online life is: “When you focus on creating real meaning with your time online, your online footprint makes a deeper impression.”

That’s why she suggests an alternate acronym to IRL: RLT or “Real Life, Too”.

Though I haven’t purged my not-so-real Facebook friends lest it inhibit my ability to publicize my blog, I am determined to try to live the RLT idea better, to stop downplaying my online life, and to make sure my real self comes through in this world of real life, too.

-Jarrah

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Pop Culture Leave a comment