YDME: Landscapes of Empowerment and/or Disempowerment: Black Girls’ Fluid Crossings between Institutions and Cyber-Space


The focus of this panel is to discuss the “crossings” of both online and offline landscapes of empowerment and disempowerment that shape how African-American girls’ understand their ability to learn new forms of new media, that shape how African-American girls construct identity on the web, and that shape how African-American girls view their agency when confronting structural inequalities and oppressive systems like cyber-bulling and sexual violence. In general, we emphasize the term “crossings” because it speaks to the fluidity and at times the merging of racialized, gendered, heteronormative social practices that occur within institutions (i.e. school, church, home, and government) and in digital space which helps to create a type of learning ecology of black girl empowerment and/or disempowerment.

Disempowering Landscapes:

Fallon Wilson will provide a general overview of what we know about African-American girls’ sexual harassment at school and online and where there are needs for future research.

Elonda Clay will describe three types of cyber-bullying and interrelated offline violence that are experienced by black female youth in institutions such as school and work: same-gender peer aggression or conflict, opposite-gender peer aggression or conflict (including electronic dating violence), and hyper-heteronormative peer aggression or attacks on queer, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered youth, usually initiated because of either gender non-conformity or gender performativity. Second, stories collected from interviews of black female youth and adult youth workers involving cyber-bullying and its intersections with more traditional forms of physical violence are used to identify situations (dilemmas of practice) as well as limited institutional actions that occur in response to peer offenses. Lastly, the agency of black female youth themselves in their use of social media and other forms of new media to combat their own victimization online and offline is considered. Here, Black female youth are asked in what ways does new media empower them to: 1) construct a positive self-image; 2) combat bullies or offenders online and off; and/or 3) be advocates against cyber-bullying and sexual violence against young women. 

Empowering Landscapes:

Nuala Cabral will present on her work with FAAN Mail, an online media literacy and media activism project designed to promote active audiences that critique and create positive media about black girls. She will also share her work on My Pop Studio which is a free digital learning through play website that takes students “behind the scenes” to think critically about how media is created and to question the messages we see.

Scheherazade Tillet will discuss the work she does with A Long Walk Home and Girls/Best Friend on creating multiple spaces online and through new media to address sexual violence that happens to black girls’ in offline communities and other institutional settings.