In Online Social Networks and Global Women’s Empowerment, Ineke Buskens argues that social networks like Facebook play a role in how users view gender roles and thus should adopt gender aware practices in order to combat the exploitation of women online.
In the article, Buskens explains cases in which online Facebook disputes have had lasting consequences for women. In the case of Zambian women creating Facebook groups to initiate conversations surrounding sex, many saw the spaces created as revolutionary the society as a whole. However, because the pages were reported and Facebook took them down, it can be argued that Facebook gave into the male dominant demands and ultimately implicitly stated that women should not have sexual agency. Buskens also explains cases in which Zambian women have been exploited both online and off-line due to the existence of their sexual content on the internet. At the end of the article, Buskens argues that Facebook must commit to being gender aware in order to have a neutral stance in a gender-imbalanced world, and that by not doing so they are continuing the imbalance. The gender aware stance will require moderation in policies and systems, but Buskens has faith in the computer scientists to make these changes.
I find Buskens argument valid and important to combatting the gender imbalance that plagues many aspects fo our society. I often do not realize the privilege I have in regard to online interactions and my place in society, as I have never really felt restricted in what I could post on social media in fear of the more serious societal implications it may have. I think this topic is important to discuss and be aware of, and it is not talked about enough. In a sense I feel that we can all play a role in supporting the gender aware practices of all of the platforms we use.