Ebba's Take - That Could Be Your Sister

For ten weeks, Global Kids is hosting intern Ebba Minas, an 18-year-old from Stockholm, Sweden on a gap year between secondary school and university. She had the opportunity to participate in That Could Be Your Sister, last week's event co-hosted with Radio Rookies, during which youth designed digital tools to combat sexual cyberbullying. Below, read her impressions of the event and her comparisons between conversations around "slut-shaming" in the US and Sweden.


Photo by Yasmeen Khan of SchoolBook
GK intern Ebba Minas (on the right) prepping for her group's presentation.
Photo by Yasmeen Khan of SchoolBook, see article.


As bullying over the internet has increased drastically, the “That Could Be Your Sister” organizers first lectured about the consequences of cyberbullying and shared real life stories. At the end of the presentation, they told us what our task was for the day; we were supposed to design a digital device, like a website or an app, with the  purpose to give support and spread awareness about cyberbullying. The group with the most creative and thought-through device would win a cash prize. We were given pens, paper and markers, and my group began to brainstorm ideas and discuss the topic of “slutshaming”.


We are all aware of the seriousness of the problem, and, growing up in Sweden, I could compare how it is viewed and dealt with there and here in the U.S. In Sweden there had recently been a case of cyberbullying that got a lot of attention in the media since it was one of the few cases where the police got involved and the bullies were exposed. In Gothenburg, the second biggest city in Sweden, two girls in their early teens began slutshaming girls in the city and writing about their sexual relationships via Instagram. However, unlike most cases, the girls doing the bullying were faced with massive protests, and were fined large amounts of money. This was heavily discussed in Swedish schools, as it was the first case of cyberbullying that actually got any attention. The focus in the discussions we had in school was that people should mind their own business when it comes to matters like this. While you are entitled to having an opinion, harassing someone based on their sex life is not acceptable. It also raised the question if a girl who sleeps around a lot really is a slut. People, especially the girls, became very agitated over the fact that it is socially acceptable for a guy to sleep around, yet not for a girl. 


What I noticed during the discussion at the “That Could Be Your Sister” design challenge was that the focus was more on the actual harassing than debating whether a girl deserves the label “slut” when she sleeps with many different guys. While everyone agreed that the bullying is very wrong, feelings were more mixed when the topic about the meaning of the word “slut” came up. One argument made by someone in my group was that at the end of the day, a girl is only hurting herself when she sleeps around, so there was no reason for people to get so upset about it. That comment would have raised some questions had it appeared in one of the class discussions we had in Sweden.


When faced with the task of dealing with this issue, we considered creating an app to spread awareness about sexual cyberbullying and establishing a Facebook page where victims could chat and support each other, but finally landed on creating a supportive website where girls could get the support they required. The group had the help of a moderator who encouraged us to think outside the box, and helped us take our idea to the next level.  She asked us what was needed to make this website work and to be as specific as possible. Did our idea lack anything or was anything missing?


While the groups were developing their ideas, the judges walked around the room and watched us work. We were also joined by reporters from Radio Rookies and Public Radio, who interviewed the participants on the workshop, on our ideas and on sexual cyberbullying. At this workshop, they had the opportunity to get the thoughts of both young teenage girls and teenage boys, who see the problem from different point of views.  We discussed what a slut actually is, and the different reactions boys and girls get for the same actions. For example, how come boys are considered cool when they sleep around, yet when a girl do the same thing she is labeled as a slut?


After a quick lunch break at noon, the groups gathered again to finalize their ideas and prepare for the pitch. While some groups prepared posters to showcase their device, others wanted to present theirs on the computer. One girl in my groups turned out to be a very talented artist, so she drew a great picture of a crying girl for us to present, while a boy in our group worked on a digital picture we would use on our website. During the last part of the workshop, our youth moderator worked with us to finish our posters and practice our pitch to make sure that we were as prepared as possible. We all had five minutes to present our device to the judges and demonstrate its use, then give them time to consider which group deserved the prize.


As the five groups held their presentations, you could see that the idea of a website was very popular, yet the groups had gone very different ways from there. One groups had the idea of designing a website based on human anatomy. Clicking on different sections of the brain would get you to different webpages, all with the goal of getting you back on your feet. The idea of bringing girls who had suffered from  cyberbullying together and giving them a safe place to tell their story was also something many groups had thought of.  As they face harsh judgement by so many who do not know what it is like to suffer from cyberbullying, the groups wanted to give them the chance to express their feelings without fearing negative responses.


As the judges made their decision, we had the chance to chat while snacks were provided. It was very interesting to hear peoples thoughts on this problem, and how it should be solved. Both age differences and differing cultural backgrounds of the participants gave everyone the chance to add something new to the discussions. In the end, my group did not win the competition, and while some were a little disgruntled as they watched the cash being handed to a different group, it had still been a very exciting and eventful day. I highly doubt anyone regretted attending the “That Could Be Your Sister” design challenge.