The University of Bristol Business School is delighted to announce the publication of ‘The Threat: How Digital Capitalism is Sexist – And How to Resist’ by Dr Lilia Giugni, Lecturer in Social Innovation and Strategy.
The book explores the tight embrace between patriarchy and digital capitalism, and what we should do to resist. Here, Dr Lilia Giugni discusses her new book and the explanation she offers for the current state of things grounded in the tight intersections between technological developments, patriarchal culture, and capitalistic ways of productions.
We have long known the Internet is not always kind to women. Social media threats and sexist hate speech against female politicians, activists and public figures. Intimate videos or pictures distributed on the web without the consent of the women appearing. Unsolicited pornography and unwanted approaches on dating apps, and endless other forms of digital gender-based violence. And precisely because online misogyny is by now a well-known plight, we have witnessed over the last few years many a media and policy debates on how to tackle it. But there is an elephant in the room which has so far received considerably less public attention. And it concerns the safety and wellbeing of the women on the other side of the screen.
Let us take, for example, “content moderators”: the tech workers entrusted with the job of “cleaning up” social media platforms from online abuse. A few pioneering studies as well as journalistic inquiries have revealed shocking details about their working lives, and the mental health pathologies many of them develop on the job. Even less known, however, are the specific challenges of women moderators, who are forced to cope with the heavy impact of being regularly exposed to violent and misogynistic content.
Nor is content moderation the only segment of the global tech supply chain that deserves to be analysed through a gender lens. Suffice it to think of the so-called “influencer sector”- a largely female-dominated, hierarchically organised industry, where many young, underpaid (at times unpaid) female workers create valuable online content hoping to become one day a darling of the web. The “platform economy”, too, includes several, increasingly feminised portions, where beauticians, cleaners, and other female “gig workers” are subjected due to their gender to even harsher conditions than their male colleagues.
In my book Threat – Why digital capitalism is sexist, and how to resist, I attempt to connect the dots between these seemingly disparate phenomena. And I offer an explanation for the current state of things grounded in the tight intersections between technological developments, patriarchal culture, and capitalistic ways of productions. Based on this, I also try to offer a few suggestions towards reclaiming technology for women and for all: from developing alternative, non-commercial devices, to some much-needed policy reforms, from educational interventions at all levels to supporting feminist mobilisations globally.
Threat – my readers may be interested to learn – builds upon five years of research and activism, which I carried out between the UK, Brussels, and my native Italy. Its language and structure are not those of an academic book (even though it summarises and speaks to several streams of academic research), since my purpose in writing these pages was to make ideas and practices surrounding gender, social and digital justice as widely accessible as possible. But it is my hope that my academic colleagues – and, above all, our students – will find in my work some food for thought, and a compelling call to action.
Buy The Threat – Why digital capitalism is sexist, and how to resist