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In brief: Riots in Sweden over ‘slut’ gallery on Instagram

Given a forum to instantly share thoughts and images, it’s inevitable that someone somewhere is posting something online that they’ll regret later. In Sweden, one teen’s gallery of ‘sluts’ led to riots that turned violent, reports The Local.

The unnamed high school student, reportedly from Gothenburg, started an anonymous Instagram account on which she posted pictures of her peers deemed sluts and whores. Followers were encouraged to contribute (also anonymously) and include details on each student’s ‘slutty’ behaviour.

The account had a reported 7,000 to 8,000 followers before it was discovered. Many of the students whose pictures and sexual history were submitted and posted were just 13 and 14-years-old.

The Instagram account was shut down but emerged again, this time on Facebook, where, reports The Local, commenters began to threaten violence.

Though the teen behind the account hasn’t officially been identified, classmates, some of them siblings of the teens targeted on the account, organized and rallied together in protest outside of Plusgymnasiet High School on 18 December. Photographs and video from the protests show pandemonium as students faced off against police, ran down streets and climbed onto cars. Police tried to control the mob by blocking off streets and directing passersby away from the mayhem, but the mob made its way to a local shopping mall.

The 17-year-old girl accused of starting the Instagram account was rushed to safety, the school’s representative told The Local.

The story is just one of many cases of people, particularly the young, using the assumed anonymity of the Internet to air personal grievances or make personal attacks (Anonymous recently exposed an unsettling video of a group of high school students in the United States mocking the rape of a 16-year-old classmate), and the high profile cases of Amanda Todd, Felicia Garcia, and Tyler Clementi are horrific examples of the repercussions of cyber-bullying and slut shaming.

Despite well-placed anger, the fallout from the account speaks to another issue in cases such as these: the pointlessness of responding to violence with violence.

Though the student who started the Instagram account should be reprimanded for her actions (which was both hurtful, cowardly, and possibly illegal), creating an environment of fear and danger around her school is neither responsible nor honorable. Similarly, Hello There, Racists! a blog dedicated to outing racism on Twitter, makes a risky and potentially dangerous choice by also publishing the names of the schools and hometowns of the teens featured.

What will come of this ‘march’ other than a few charges and damaged public property? How different might this incident have been if it became a peaceful demonstration against cyber-bulling and the sexual harassment of teenagers? Many of the protestors, according to police, covered their faces as they threw rocks and started fights. It was a similar scene in Toronto during the 2010 G20 riots where another cause saw its message lost in recklessness and violence.

What is clear is that schools need to adopt ways to handle cases of sexual harassment online, establish consequences, and follow through with them.

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4 thoughts on “In brief: Riots in Sweden over ‘slut’ gallery on Instagram

  1. Pingback: [link] Riots in Sweden over ‘slut’ gallery on Instagram « feimineach.com

  2. “What will come of this ‘march’ other than a few charges and damaged public property?”

    International news coverage that spreads the message far and wide.

    I agree that ‘violence is not the answer’ and that too often people use things like this as an excuse to engage in pointlessly reckless behaviour. But it’s hard to deny that if it wasn’t for the ‘riot’ element of the demonstration, we probably wouldn’t have ever heard of this event.

    • Thank you for your comment, Fatima. I agree. The rioting was what drove a lot of the media attention around this story. I strongly believe that though riots may grab headlines, the stories become more about the behaviour of some of the participants and less about the issue(s), whatever it may be. And then quickly fade away.

      Many of the social movements/marches that have been the most successful in terms of longevity, influence, and spreading their message have been peaceful and relatively organized: SlutWalk, Occupy Wall Street (in the beginning) and now Idle No More and the protests in India.

  3. Pingback: Feminist News Round-up 13.01.13 | News | Lip Magazine

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