The blog post “What is Sexual Surveillance and why does it Matter?” was published by GenderIT.org and accompanies the issue paper on big data and sexual surveillance I authored for the Association for Progressive Communications. It engages with the desire for a snappy definition of sexual surveillance and shows why it is important to keep the frame broad enough to account for the gendered, racialised and sexualised effects of surveillance practices and the power relations that sustain them.
Read the full article here.
(…) Sexual surveillance, you may have guessed, cannot simply be reduced to a distinct instance where x happens to y (f.ex. where men surveil women). Instead, we can think of the expression “sexual surveillance” as a shorthand to talk about an assemblage of several interdependent gendered, sexualised, and racialised modes and effects of surveillance. And suddenly, the last question becomes the most useful one because it prompts us to think about all the ways in which intersectionality is relevant to surveillance.
Sexual surveillance potentially takes place anywhere surveillance at large takes place – be that mass or targeted surveillance by state actors, corporate surveillance for marketing purposes, or peers like family, spouses, friends or strangers monitoring one another. Sometimes it indeed takes the shape of men surveilling women. After all, surveillance has long functioned as a powerful patriarchal tool to control women’s bodies and sexuality. Online harassment, stalking, and other forms of sexualised violence often directly rely on practices and technologies of surveillance. The connections between surveillance and violence against women are substantial enough to think of surveillance in itself as a form of violence. (…)
Illustration designed by Paru Ramesh.