I’m making a documentary about women and online harassment.
Specifically, I’m making an episodic documentary (that means you don’t have to wait for the whole thing to be finished, since it will be released in episodes) about harassment and civility in the online world, how it relates to women and how some women are fighting back. I'm also creating multimedia pieces around the project as I go.
While focusing on women’s stories in the modern, digital world and online spaces, I’m also including glimpses into historic examples of backlash against women’s voices (Think anti-Suffragist pamphlets and tactics, trolling letters to female literary greats and scientists, even corporate propaganda to get women out of post-war factories and back into the home). How did these previous attempts at silencing affect the way women conveyed information and organized for social change? By connecting past and present, I aim to find out how the conflict around who gets to have a public voice has (or, perhaps has not) changed over time, regardless of medium.
For the documentary, I’ve begun talking with women (and some men) about this important issue, and quickly, important stories are emerging. Among the questions episodes will raise: what is the range of online harassment and what forms does it take? Where else in history have we seen a similar narrative around shutting public voices down? Is the idea of avoiding online conversations that might become heated actually dangerous? Who harasses people online and why? Who thinks it’s perfectly ok and defends the practice? Who is doing work to change it? And, what’s actually working? In other words, there’s a lot here, and I aim to look deeply into this complex issue. I’m in search of causes and solutions. Because I believe our online lives can and should be better.
As a woman who works in print, online and broadcast journalism, I’ve experienced online harassment and abuse boldly, publicly and regularly, and loudly speak against it. I’ve been threatened, harassed, told to kill myself, told to change careers, told I have no right to speak, been sent violent and explicit sexual threats and harassment, had my personal information tweeted to me during a broadcast, and more. As President of the Chicago Association for Women Journalists, I’ve publicly responded and launched campaigns against misogyny in the media world, and as a Senior Facilitator at the OpEd Project’s Public Voices fellowship, I’ve seen some of the most credentialed female experts say again and again, I avoid the comments like a plague, or: I would say more if I didn’t think I would get beat up online.
The popular narrative around online civility (or, a lack thereof) is to stay away from risky online dialogues and “not feed the trolls.” Indeed, even as I’ve started this project, many supporters have expressed concern for me. Which to me, is only more reason to go forward. By avoiding these conversations, the only thing I’ve come to fear is that we risk ignoring this widespread issue and allowing it to continue, and we risk continuing to teach women and girls to limit their public voices. For that, and many other reasons, I’ve invested my heart, mind, time and my own dollars into the project. My goal is to explore this issue as fully as I possibly can, from as many different angles as I can, through stories, history, data, technology, and social experiments.
Here’s where you come in. Have you been the target of online harassment, or do you know someone who has? Do you actively work to develop solutions to combat it? I need your stories. I also need resources to bring this to the finish line. And, now, here’s where I hope I can count on your support: I have equipment, but I need a more. I need another set of hands in the form of another journalist to help me do all the necessary research. I need to travel to many more places to capture all of the stories that deserve to be captured. And, I need second and third sets of hands in those cities to do this well and right.
I’ve set my crowdfunding goal at $48,000, which will ensure that the film is filmed, travel happens to all the major cities I need to visit, and necessary research continues in an organized, efficient and quality way. It will also help pay for film insurance, as well as hard drives, server space and and footage storage and transfer.
But, I have two stretch goals.
For $77,500, I can add in a significant number of other cities, making sure even more interviews and stories are captured for the project, and can host events in many of these cities to help deepen community by uniting people across projects and causes around this issue. It will also help pay for licensing fees for copyrighted material I'd like to use (video clips, images, etc.), more research (access to archival material, as well as said travel for interviews), and production/post-production basics like web development, a sound engineer and editor.
For $112,000, my very big, big stretch goal, I can achieve my pie-in-the-sky goal of making serious headway into expanding the project to international cities, allowing me to interview and include so many others in this conversation about women’s voices and communication platforms around the world. And, this amount will help me with the considerable costs associated with getting projects into film festivals to helping to ensure a far reach for the project, with rental costs for specific equipment I'll need for certain shots, as well as allowing for more production and post-production resources (musical score, sound mixing, and color correction).
To be sure, there are millions of worthy causes in our world that deserve our support. But, with your help, I will create more than an episodic documentary, multimedia assets and some events-- with your financial and social media support, I’m aiming to capture a snapshot of this pivotal time in which we have greater access to public platforms than ever, and yet the din of fear, avoidance and self-censoring runs deeper by the day. And indeed, at a time when social media has the power the give rise to entire social movements, influence elections and so much more, I’m also aiming to create much-needed conversation and meaningful solutions around this issue.
And the time to do this is right now: with products coming into existence asking us to rate our fellow human beings like a business, with two women running for the highest office in the country and hard-pressed to escape conversation about their appearances, with diversity in tech simply not happening fast enough, and with important socio-political issues that impact women urgently on our minds, we must, must dive into these conversations, engage in impactful dialogue and look for historical patterns around the way we communicate.
Please consider supporting this project to help me reach the stretch amount goals, and keep this project moving forward. As you can see on the right, there are ways to support the project for every budget, from the price of a latte all the way to premier sponsorship of the project. But, if you are unable to help financially back the project, please consider sharing this funding page with your social media networks. And, please share your own stories on this topic with me.
Indeed, support comes in many forms, and all are deeply appreciated.
Thank you in advance for your support.
Risks and challenges
Having already invested sweat equity and my own dollars into the project, I already feel clear about what I'm up against, and gladly take it on.
The biggest obstacle is precisely why I'm asking for your support: I'm going to need more resources to keep going and do it well.
Many have asked me if I am worried that the documentary could cause me to fall victim to more of very type of online abuse I aim to document and explore. Short answer: it's quite possible that will happen, which is all the more reason this documentary series should exist as soon as possible.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)