KCL Intersectional Feminist Society aims to combat online abuse – Ben Jackson sits down with Shanice McBean to shed light on the plans.
KCL Feminist Society, despite only turning one this year, is growing in numbers and spirit. An exciting new committee is looking to improve upon the past, armed with ideas to solve the problems faced by last year’s team.
The main problem is moderation of the society’s Facebook group, which boasts over 400 members. With great numbers, comes great responsibility. I spoke with FemSoc’s president, Shanice McBean, who commented on the issues facing moderation of the Facebook page.
“Tensions have emerged between those who rightly want the society to be a place where you can be as free as possible from everyday oppression and those who come into the society not necessarily holding the strong political views (particularly anti-racism) that others do. This meant that in discussion we often got a clash of people and with no rules to moderate discussion it often exploded.”
Faced with the threats posed by users who are ignorant about issues surrounding feminism and the society’s cause, nine members met in July to come up with a solution. They convened on a round table at ULU and resolved to create new policies for the group.
The members discussed the difference between people who join the group to learn and those who are there to antagonise. However, critically, one member announced during the meeting that they planned to leave the group because “having to explain race in discussions is tiring, it’s exhausting.”
Some said they were happy about the idea of a wall of shame for banned members, but this point was not voted on.
To address the problem of Facebook trolls, McBean says the society must introduce “rules and a removal system, defining clearly what the society and Facebook group is for.” The round table voted to introduce a survey that prospective members must read and sign before they are eligible to join. “The survey is meant to give people knowledge about the aims of the society so they cannot pledge ignorance about what the society is for when they get into heated discussion.”
Asked whether she had a problem with people equating the society to the Facebook group, McBean says, “I think this was inevitable over the summer period when we’re not active on campus doing material political things. But I think when we kick off with campaigns and real-world activity in the next term that will change.”
A more politically active society is envisaged for the coming year, which should take focus away from the society’s Facebook group. “On Facebook it’s easier to express anger and frustration. In real life, people tend to be a lot more patient with each other. Facebook also doesn’t facilitate discussion in a way face-face does so its easier on Facebook for tensions to rise.”
The nine members also voted in favour of renaming the society – a bold move that makes their intentions explicit. From September, the group will be ‘rebooted,’ with a striking new name and clear terms and expectations of its members. “We’ve agreed to kick start a new page in September called KCL Intersectional FemSoc which clearly outlines the political position of the society: we’re against all oppressions and won’t tolerate any kind of oppressive behaviour in the society.”
You can follow Ben Jackson on Twitter at @bjacksonuk