Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

#endtabloidmags : How to Use Twitter to Campaign without Triggering Survivors

I was pleased to hear the news that the campaign group Child Eyes UK has convinced the British Retail Consortium (BRC) to change the guidelines on how magazines are displayed in shops. As a feminist and mother, I have quite serious concerns about the types of magazines which are visible to children. The images and subject matter in "lad mags" is deeply problematic, as are those classed as "women's magazines" such as Take a Break. Lad mags objectify women's bodies whilst Take a Break sensationalise and glorify male violence against women for profit. They are equally harmful. However, I have quite serious concerns about the campaign Child Eyes UK.

I only came across the campaign this weekend when I read EVB's concerns about the tag #rapemags that Child Eyes UK was using to advertise their success. The tag itself is sensationalises male violence against women; the exact concern Child Eye UK claims to have with the magazines themselves.

I was extremely disappointed to see Child Eyes UK dismiss EVB's concerns about the tag.  Suggesting that EVB had concerns with the word "mags" was clearly ridiculous. It was quite obvious that EVB was objecting to the entirety of the tag and not the word "rape". It is entirely different to the use of the tag #rapeculture which is used to contextualise male violence against women and girls within the patriarchy. The tag #rapeculture is used to define where the tag #rapemags is used encourage voyeurism. There are any number of tags which could have been used to campaign against the sensationalising of male sexual violence: #endtabloidmags would have covered Child Eyes UK's campaign against lad mags and women's magazines without triggering survivors.

It was equally disappointing to see Child Eyes UK dismiss the concerns of a survivor of sexual violence. This was Child Eyes UK response to an individual seeking clarification over their response to EVB's concerns:

 Sorry but we're not going to stop using word 'rape' because it is triggering in a context helping stop sensationalist mags

I was genuinely shocked by this tweet. A survivor of sexual violence explained that they were triggered and a campaign against triggering rape victims said they weren't concerned about it. When a survivor asks you not to tweet at them because they are finding the tag triggering. You stop. That is basic kindness. A campaign concerned with the triggering of rape victims through the placement of magazines using salacious headlines should know that. It should be part of their social media guidelines; as should not using tags like #rapemags.

When a survivor of sexual violence informs you that they find your campaign tactics triggering, you should reflect on that rather than immediately dismissing their concerns. When an organisation within the field tell you that your hashtag is inappropriate, you should listen. Not get defensive, particularly when none of the founding members of your campaign seem to have training in child protection, rape crisis, or women's services. Campaigns such as Child Eyes UK need to be grounded in this training or they risk replicating the very harm they seek to end.

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6 thoughts on “#endtabloidmags : How to Use Twitter to Campaign without Triggering Survivors

  • Unfortunately a percentage of campaigning organisations are set up by officious egotists with not much understanding of the people they wish to help. This campaign sounds like a good example: someone with an initially sincere wish to ‘do something’ gets all carried away with how wonderfully righteous s/he and his/her pals are, and proceeds to make a bad situation potentially worse. The proleporn mags such as Take A Break, for instance, may have lurid coverlines and some distasteful content, but also do offer support and advice to readers (and some have a history of useful campaigning on issues such as ‘food deserts’)

  • Admin says:

    Thanks for writing this piece, Louise. As campaigners, one of our most important considerations with everything we do is ‘Couild this cause harm?’ and ‘Is it ethical?’. Only when we are certain that we can answer No, and Yes do we proceed.

    Survivors of sexual violence are used to not being listened to – but when we are actively ignored (and even responded to rudely, with a repeated use of a # that we’ve already said was triggering!) it damages both the campaign referenced above and a survivors recovery.

    Thanks again for this piece.

  • […] night, I submitted a piece detailing my concerns about the campaign group Child Eyes UK and their use of the tag #rapemags because I felt it was a […]

  • I have worked on this campaign to ensure that children are not exposed to this material. I researched the harms that derive from normalisation of rape and although I am focused on children, I was contacted by many rape and child abuse survivors. I have been asked by many to campaign about these mags and have been told by Rape Crisis that many who sell stories are traumatised. These issues are never simple but the aim of the campaign is to protect children from material that can affect their attitudes towards sex and rape. These magazines distort rape and turn it into a titillating story for profit. I am saddened to hear your objections to this although I do know many supporters are pleased that the campaign has made such progress in just a few weeks.

    • Your campaign achieved important recognition from the BRC however these types of campaigns should not be undertaken without input from specialist service providers. This can’t just be reading about a topic because reading can never cover the experience of working with survivors and understanding the implications of triggering survivors. Dismissing the triggering of a survivor, as a member of your twitter account did, does not speak to a full understanding of the effect of sexual violence.

  • Hannah Buchanan says:

    Great piece Louise. I am still disgusted by the arrogance of Child Eyes response. I cannot stand that people could not even listen to a triggered survivor. I hope we do not see a repetition of these events.