Sexting and Sexism – Peter Aggar

The Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism (CLJJ) Seminar were delighted to hear a report from Professor Ros Gill on a qualitative study of young people’s use of mobile internet technologies in two London secondary schools, funded by the NSPCC.

Ros argued that we need to open up definitions of sexting beyond the focus on the ‘sexy selfie’. Based on focus groups, interviews and online ethnography, she locates sexting as a peer phenomenon tied in to a variety of offline practices and more established power relations. Education needs to move beyond familiar fears of ‘stranger danger’ and catch up with the rapid evolution of mobile internet technologies and changing media platforms. Ros highlighted the significance of class, race and sexuality to a full and proper understanding of the phenomenon known as ‘sexting’. She argued that it cannot be understood without reference to normalised sexism and homophobia in school contexts.

Ros is Professor of Cultural and Social Analysis in the Department of Culture and Creative Industries at City University London. She studied Sociology and Psychology at Exeter University, and completed her PhD in Social Psychology at the Discourse and Rhetoric Group (DARG), Loughborough University in 1991. With an interdisciplinary background, she has worked across a number of disciplines including Sociology, Gender Studies and Media and Communications. Her career has included posts at Goldsmiths and King’s College London, and she worked for ten years in the LSE’s interdisciplinary Gender Institute. She joined City University London in October 2013.

Ros is known for her research interests in gender and media, cultural and creative work, and mediated intimacy. For the last decade she has made a significant contribution to debates about the “sexualization of culture”. She enters this contested and polarized field bringing an emphasis upon difference – particularly the ways in which differently located groups (by age, class, gender, sexuality, vulnerability, etc) are positioned by and in relation to sexualization – and upon new ways of thinking about the relationship between culture and subjectivity – how what is “out there” gets “in here” to shape our sense of self.

She recently collaborated on a 4 year Marsden (Royal Society) project, led by Sue Jackson and Tiina Vares, exploring how pre-teen (9-12 year old) girls negotiate living in an increasingly sexualized culture. In 2011-12 Professor Gill was part of a team (with Jessica Ringrose, Sonia Livingstone & Laura Harvey) commissioned by the NSPCC to research ‘sexting’, as part of a wider interest in young people’s use of mobile internet technologies.

An interest in the dynamics of discrimination and inequality is also central to Professor Gill’s research. In the early 1990s she coined the term ‘new sexism’ to capture the ways in which discourses and practices of gender discrimination change and mutate under new conditions, and has developed this analysis with a sustained interest in post-feminism as a cultural sensibility. For many years she has been interested in the conditions of labour for people working in the cultural and creative industries, and particularly in the disturbing new (class, gender, age and racial) inequalities developing in fields (paradoxically) known for being ‘cool, creative and egalitarian’.

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