The French researcher Blandine Mollard is responsible of the latest investigation of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE, for its acronym in English), titled Gender equality and youth: opportunities and risks of digitalization. After presenting the work of the body dependent on the European Commission, he answered the questions from EL PAÍS.
Question. What advantages does young people give to the Internet?
Answer. It is a place where you can meet people with your interests. If you suffer from a disability and you have many difficulties to get out, you find a space to express yourself. But the ways in which women are judged in the physical world, by their ages, by their appearances, by their femininity, are repeated in the networks. The idea is that digitalization brings opportunities and equality, but you can see that many women self-censor when it comes to expressing themselves. We believed that the Internet served to empower young women, but this is not always the case.
R. To avoid criticism, hatred, sexist discourse. It's something we did not expect to see with such intensity when reviewing the data.
P. And they insult them mainly for being women?
R. It's what we find in the discussion groups. When they express opinions, they often receive answers about their physical appearance. The gender norms by which we judge men and women intensify on the Internet. And it happens more among young people because they are very active. They use mostly Instagram, a network based on the image. We are saturated by images everywhere. If you want to express anything that happens in your life, you have to accompany it with a photo.
P. Do you understand the difference between private and public?
R. Many say that when they were younger they had less feeling of intimacy in the networks, they would upload more photos. Now they are embarrassed. And they are more careful.
P. In what sense?
R. The tendency is to become a Finta[mergeroftheterms[fusióndelostérminosFake / false and Instagram, the social network]. They suffer a lot of pressure to have followers and appear popular, accept people they do not know and who can judge them every time they upload a photo. The tendency is to create a second account, a little secret, with your closest friends. It is a symbol that they are very exposed, especially them. They use a lot of energy and time to build an appropriate and feminine digital presence. You must be beautiful but not too much because others can embarrass you for being too sexy.
P. What do they do with the intimate contents?
R. They consider that sexting [intercambio de contenidos sexuales por redes sociales] It's fun if there's trust. In general, it is very clear when to share between couples. But there are very different consequences for them and them. Boys usually send pictures of their penis, you can not know who the owner is. For them it has many more effects on their reputation and mental health.
P. They say in their report that they also receive pressure to upload sexual photos.
R. Yes. It has surprised us. We thought that the boyfriends put pressure on the girls, but we did not expect the boys to put pressure on their friends to send pictures of their girlfriends. It is a form of mobbing and it is difficult for them to resist.