Online GBV Or Not?

About this learning activity

This activity is designed to spark debate and discussion, and give the trainer / facilitator an opportunity to clarify concepts relating to the experiences of women, women-identified and queer individuals on the internet and online gender-based violence (online GBV). This is specifically aimed towards speaking about the less obvious forms of online GBV, and to discuss the participants´ assumptions on how they define what GBV is.

The main methodology in this activity is to show examples of experiences of women, women-identified, and queer individuals online (hyperbolised to encourage debate or discussion) and memes, and have the participants react with online GBV or Not GBV upon reading / hearing / seeing the example meme. Then participants will be asked to defend their initial position through a set of guide questions.

It is essential to frame this activity as a vacuum where ALL opinions and viewpoints are allowed (for as long as they are expressed in a manner acceptable to the group; assuming Participant Guidelines are established earlier in the workshop), and that what the participants say during this activity will not be quoted / publicised / shared with others. It also a good idea, especially if the group has a lot of experienced feminists, to encourage others to play Devil´s Advocate in order to enrich the discussion.

For the trainer / moderator, this activity can be used to learn more about the participants' level of understanding and appreciation of online GBV.

Learning objectives this activity responds to

  • an understanding of the forms of online gender-based violence (online GBV) and its impacts on the survivors and their communities
  • an understanding of the continuum of violence from the offline and the online spheres, and the power structures that allow it

Who is this activity for?

Ideally, this activity is for participants who have an understanding of women´s rights, violence against women, and general feminist principles.

Time required

Depending on how many examples are showed, this activity can take from 30 minutes to 90 minutes.

Resources needed for this activity

  1. Boards (not bigger than half a 4A sheet of paper) with Online GBV and Not Online GBV! printed on each side. One per participant.
  2. A way to present the examples of women´s experiences on the internet. It could be:
  • a poster of the printed memes
  • a projector to show the memes

(See Resources for sample memes)


The trainer / facilitator can shows the meme or example of an experience that women, women-identified or queer individual have had online.

Tip: Perhaps start with a glaringly obvious example of online GBV, then move to more nuanced examples.

After each example, the trainer / facilitator asks: Is this Online GBV or Not Online GBV?

The participants then raise their boards to show which they chose.

Once everyone has made a choice, the trainer / facilitator then asks: Why do you consider this Not Online GBV / Online GBV?
Then get an opinion from someone who had the opposite opinion, and allow the group to ask each other questions.

If there is not much disagreement among the group, then dig deep into the example through these guide questions:

  • Who is being attacked in this meme? How will it impact them?
  • What are the values underpinning this meme? What is the meme creator (and anyone who shares and likes this meme) really saying about women, women-identified, and / or queer individuals, and their communities?
  • Does this meme reflect the values in your communities? How so?
  • If you had come across this meme, how would you have reacted? How do you think we should react to it?

The trainer / facilitator then ends the discussion with a bit of synthesis, and then moves on to the next example.

To synthesise each example, the trainer / facilitator can:

  • do a quick summary the discussion that the participants had over the example
  • name what the example is — or the various ways the example has been called
  • point out the gender stereotyping, gender bias and / or misogyny that was reflected in the meme

Note: It is important, while the activity is still happening, that the trainer / facilitator does not take a side in the discussion that the participants would have. Having a facilitator siding with a group of participants is an effective silencer of discussion and debate.

At the end of the entire exercise, the trainer / facilitator then does a bigger synthesis of the activity. In this synthesis, she can go back to the examples that got the most debate and discussion from the participants, and summarise the discussion and then share her own thoughts and opinions on the matter.

Key points to raise in the main synthesis:

  • the relationship between ¨real world¨ values and the creation of such memes
  • the power structures that exist, patriarchal values, gender bias and bigotry that are showcased in the examples
  • what constitutes constitutes gender-based violence

Facilitator preparation notes

From the start, the trainer / facilitator needs to decide if they are playing a trainer (one with the knowledge and experience to provide answers), or a facilitator (one who guides discussions, and keeps herself from sharing her own opinion) in this learning activity. Being both will not be conducive to a good discussion or a safe space for the participants. If you are being a facilitator, you would not want to provide answers at the end of the discussion, and make participants defensive. If you are being a trainer, you wouldn´t want to be so strict in your opinion on the matter that it silences the participants.

Another thing to prepare for is your own assumptions about what online GBV is. Take a refresher by reading Good Questions on Technology-related Violence.

Note: This activity is not just to show examples of obvious cases on gender-based online violence, but to have a discussion with the participants about a nuanced understanding of what is online violence and what is not. So, in the examples, include examples of common experiences that women have on the internet — and not just the ones that are glaringly violent.

Additional resources

Sample Memes

Kim%20Davis%20meme Kim Davis is the county clerk in Kentucky, who refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses. For more info:
Lisa%20Biron%20meme Lisa Biron is a lawyer who was a member of the anti-gay Alliance Defending Freedom, who was found out to be a child molester and pornographer. For more information:
Transgender%20and%20Transfat%202 (perhaps a less triggering image than the previous one)

When a woman complains about the lack of women´s representation in video games, a sampling of the reactions she gets:

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