Kim Ringmar Sylwander

In the dissertation Whores, hijabs and heart emojis: Affective explorations of aggression against girls online, Kim Ringmar Sylwander depicts how girls perceive and react on aggression and offences on social media.
- Few have previously studied young people’s daily online life based on what actually happens online. My research highlights how sexualised and racialized practices happen and how it causes certain young people to more often become subjected to offences than others. The dissertation identifies how minority youth are especially exposed – Kim Ringmar Sylwander claims that this perspective has been missing.

She points at the whiteness norm that dominates on the social media platform that has been studied and how negative stereotypical notions about Muslim girls are spread and reinforced through attacks and so called shaming.

Resistance Creates Friendship

The dissertation depicts a picture of how girls’ space online is limited by them constantly being subjected to offences. Digital meetings that are intensified connects to questions of identity and power relations based on gender, sexuality, class, age, religion, and race. By studying the resistance among youth that are exposed, Kim Ringmar Sylwander addresses how they deal with their exposure and make daily life online bearable.

Chance for Anonymity is Central

Technological design, norms, and anonymity are highlighted as important factors in order to enable conflicts – and as prerequisites to involve others in them.
- Technological functions contribute to enable conflict, but also play a role for the one who is emotionally vulnerable. An example is the possibility to share or be anonymous, “Bystanders” that otherwise would not be participants can enter and reinforce the situation. In this way, the amount of unifying voices become an important strategy and action of resistance.

Whore is a Loaded Word

Behind offensive and limiting actions in young people’s daily online life, the heteronormative world rule, for example through the picture of femininity and innocence. She describes how young people control and comment how others look and what is acceptable.
- It can be about how you dress or which expressions you can use, for example “how do you do makeup?”.

The word “whore” has in the dissertation been studied to come closer to young people’s actions online. “Whore” is described by many girls in the study as the worst thing you can be called, while it simultaneously is frequently used. Kim Ringmar Sylwander also describes how girls reclaim the word whore by using it on their friends – in spite of it having a troublesome meaning.
- Girls express that it is annoying and difficult that the word whore is constantly present, I call that kind of practice sexualised hate. One can be called whore whenever and wherever. It is, though, easier for some girls to dispose of the word than others.

What strategies do young girls use in order to deal with offences?

– Many and creative strategies! One strategy is humour. By expressing that you don’t get offended or by using emojis, one drives the norms while simultaneously showing that there is criticism. One can, for example, joke with the word whore by being specific and saying “a whore is a woman who sells her body and I don’t do that therefore I am not one”. 

The dissertation that has been published at the Department of Child and Youth studies at Stockholm University builds on an online ethnography that consists of 150 young people between the ages 11-15 that have been active on an open social media platform.

Download from DiVA: Whores, hijabs and heart emojis: Affective explorations of aggression against girls online by Kim Ringmar Sylwander.