Women on the Front Line: A How To Guide on Surviving and Fighting Back in Digital Spaces

Mon 7 Nov

We all know how rough it can be sometimes to exist as women in online spaces. But if you’re a woman online who’s also actively confronting bigotry in 2016, there’s a good chance you’ll need to brace yourself for a truck load of hatred from an onslaught of idiots.

Celeste Liddle (unionist, writer, creator of blog ‘Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist’), Clementine Ford (author of ‘Fight Like a Girl’, Journalist, Activist), Mariam Veiszadeh (lawyer, anti-bigotry advocate, founder of anti-islamaphobia register),Van Badham (playwright, author, columnist, unionist) and Stephanie Bendixson (writer and presenter of ABC’s ‘Good Game’) have all been there, done that and not only lived to tell the tale but also have a habit of taking down bigotry  and trolls online and creating space for women in male dominated arenas. Together, they’re going to get into the realities of online engagement, activism, trolls and tackling abuse at Breakthrough 2016.


Each woman in this Breakout session is in the public eye, uses online spaces to forward discussions on equality and has had first hand experience with dealing with and responding to online abuse, trolls and cyber attacks. These speakers will be sharing their own perspectives and stories at the Trolls, Clickbait and Insta-perfection: How to Deal Online breakout session at Breakthrough in 2016.

Discover more about these amazing women and the ways they deal with online abuse before you see them on November 26th for Day Two of Breakthrough, where more than 100 speakers will gather to plan a path forwards for gender equality.


speakers_Celeste Celeste Liddle

Opinion Writer & Trade Unionist

Celeste Liddle’s blog, Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist is an incredible platform for this Arrernte woman to explore her own “proudly biased [,] Black opinion, feminist opinion and left-wing opinion” – a dedicated space to “not replicating that continual cacophony of white male right-wing opinion” where an Aboriginal feminist unionist could express opinions in a way that she would not have the opportunity to in Australia’s mainstream media. Liddle handles trolls in her own way- removing their voices rather than engaging in patronising discussions over the validity of her own experiences.

“Dealing with trolls is something I have a bit of experience with as I am not exactly a newbie when it comes to forum moderation. So rather than see inane abusive dribble written by those that have clearly drank away any IQ points they may have had all over my page, I decide… to filter these comments first.”


speakers_clementine Clementine Ford

Author, Journalist & Activist

Clementine Ford needs little introduction. She is a powerhouse – a columnist for Fairfax’s Daily Life, a regular contributor to newspapers the Age, Sydney Morning Herald, the Guardian, a prominent social commentator and has recently released her debut novel ‘Fight like a Girl.’

The self described ‘Feminist Killjoy to the Stars’ has consistently been targeted by trolls,  MRA groups and Australian conservative media for calling out double standards, toxic sexism and misogyny in her work. Rather than silently taking such abuse, Ford fights back – publicising examples of the abuse she receives and publicly calling out trolls. Crucially, Ford creates spaces for women to equip or reinforce  themselves with language, allies and drive to demand for real equality in their everyday lives.

“I say that to ‘fight like a girl’ is to be strong. It’s to know that you matter. It’s to understand that you have a right to call the world as you see it.”


speakers_mariam-v Mariam Veiszadeh

Lawyer & Activist

“I’m proof that you can get metaphorically smashed to pieces from every angle and still not lose hope #LoveTriumphsHate eventually.

The founder of the Islamophobia Register, ‘recovering lawyer’, advocate for diversity and inclusion, and opinion writer (with a large social media following) made headlines around the world when she found herself at the receiving end of months of cyber bullying and death threats in 2015 after calling out major supermarket chain Woolworths for selling a t-shirt that depicted the Australian flag and the words ‘love it or leave.’

For this she was targeted by trolls and hate groups (including internationally based White supremacist website the Daily Stormer)  who urged each other on to “be as nasty, hurtful, hateful, offensive, insulting and ‘vilifying’ as you possibly can.” Despite this outpouring of hate, thousands of Australians rallied behind Veiszadeh using the hashtag #IstandwithMariam to show not only their support for Mariam herself, but their rejection of hate speech and bigotry online and in Australian society.

In 2015 she was awarded ‘Role Model of the Year’ and ‘Woman of the Year’ at the 9th Australian Muslim Achievement Awards.



Van Badham

Journalist & Trade Unionist

“Any public feminist comment from any woman is likely to provoke a woman-hating vigilante to attack her weight or perceived lack/surplus of male sexual attention; they call it Lewis’ Law – that is, the comments that appear under any article about feminism justify feminism. “

Social commentator, playwright and novelist Van Badham is so attuned to trolls and the phenomenon of the ‘brosphere’ in online spaces that in 2014 she created a comedy festival show with Catherine Deveney called ‘Catherine Deveney is the Troll Hunter.’ A regular columnist for the Guardian and active Twitter user, Badham frequently confronts sexism and misogyny in her writing and public appearances and celebrates feminist victories. Badham is an expert at dealing with sexist abuse online and in real life (a fantastic example is her dealing with Steve Price labeling her ‘hysterical’ on Q&A as she attempted to speak about cultural attitudes towards women and domestic violence .

“Trolling is happening because there have never been so many women visibly engaged in public nation-making debate as there are online. In non-internet media, viewers and readers are presented a mainstream that’s long-normalised the under-representation of women to men — but no-one can actually administer women away from dominating discussions online. The shock to the established order is profound, a disruption to an expected pattern recognition that provokes intense disassociation, leading to hostility, insecurity and fear.”


speakers_stephanieb Stephanie Bendixsen
Gaming Critic, Author & Presenter

“The Gaming Space is still very much a male-dominated environment, and making games and gaming culture more inclusive to women is something I am very passionate about.”

Adult women now make up the largest demographic in video gaming. The gaming industry, however, still needs to catch up – and are yet to shift gamer content to be more gender balanced. This, of course, is old news to Gamer and host of ABCTV’s ‘Good Game’ and ‘Good Game: Spawn Point’, Stephanie ‘Hex’ Bendixson.

The ardent gamer has hosted both shows since 2010 and has spoken out about changing the boys club culture in back end gaming development, story line development and gaming culture. When Bendixson joined Good Game, replacing original host Jeremy ‘Junglist’ Ray, gender was a key point of issue with the competency and selection of the new host queried in online spaces. In September 2016, Co-host Steven ‘Bajo’ O’Donnell gave an interview on the first few months for Hex at Goodgame saying “When Hex came on board there was heaps of misogyny, and that’s what got me really angry…People were saying we got rid of him [Jeremy Ray] to put in a girl, which was really frustrating. We just wanted to make the best show possible.” Her passion, talent and love of gaming however, has made Bendixson the perfect fit for one of the AB’s most popular shows to stream, hosting the shows for over six years now. For Bendixson herself,

“Being a woman in the media generates an element of negativity I guess, but honestly I think it has more to do with simply being a person on television than anything gender-related. My gender may have been a bit of a point of contention in the beginning, but certainly not anymore. I think you’re always going to cop a bit of hate from some people. But I’m fortunate in that it’s largely outweighed by positive comments and feedback from people who watch the show and like what I do.”

Hear more about the work and perspectives of Celeste Liddle, Clementine Ford, Mariam Veiszadeh, Van Badham and Stephanie Bendixson in the Breakout session Trolls, Clickbait and Insta-perfection: How to Deal Online as part of Breakthrough 2016 – and join us in shaping the future of equality.


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