Where's the party at? and Our Virtual Histories: Research and reflections from Ikhtyar

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Cover image of report titled "Where's the party at" by Ikhtyar African Feminist Collective

Where's the party at?

Ikhtyar African Feminist Collective officially joined the global feminist internet movement toward the end of 2017, with the aim to forge a widely accessible path for Arabic-speaking feminists to join forces and support internet freedoms from an intersectional feminist standpoint. 

Ikhtyar partnered with the Association for Progressive Communication (APC) through its Women’s Rights program to conduct a piece of research. Through this research, Ikhtyar takes a closer look at el-hafla — a term meaning “party” that is used in Egyptian slang term to refer to an online trolling practice. The drive behind this research endeavour is to understand how el-hafla is used to undermine feminist discourses online in the Egyptian context. 

Ikhtyar takes a closer look at el-hafla — a term meaning “party” that is used in Egyptian slang term to refer to an online trolling practice.

The research team chose el-hafla in particular as it manifests different forms of online gender-based violence, such as trolling and online shaming, carried out by more than one online user to shame and discredit outspoken women online. The study looks at harmful social norms perpetuating gender-based violence online to help understand and analyze internet cultures. It does not seek to be comprehensive with regard to the complexities of women’s realities. Rather, this research forms an essential step in Ikhtyar’s feminist organizing online, with a keen invitation for its community and interested Arabic-speaking feminist groups and collectives to join. 

The research revisits a brief history of blogging in Egypt, followed by a contrasting glimpse of what it means to be online in Egypt today. Ikhtyar intentionally resourced women’s experiences to guide our understanding of el-hafla and the mapping of potential strategies to challenge the practice. The research team interviewed eight outspoken feminist Egyptian women to document and analyze their online presence, their understanding of el-hafla, as well as their tools and mechanisms to deal with and survive haflas. We also explored whether their experiences with el-hafla influenced their online activity and expression. The research is followed by an annexe including the interview questions, a glossary defining certain terms used by the team and an outline of the quantitative data scraped from Twitter.

Our Virtual Histories

At Ikhtyar, we wrote a research paper that outlines the impact of digital abuse, especially cyberbullying, on feminists during the period of July 2017 to November 2018. Alongside the publication of the research, we wrote this text as a way of reflecting on our personal experiences and political activity on the internet, experiences that gave us the opportunity to express ourselves outside the confines of the society in which we live and enabled us to develop an imagination that extended beyond our daily realities.

"We wrote this text as a way of reflecting on our personal experiences and political activity on the internet..."

We explore how we express (or don’t express) ourselves during various stages of our lives and during different political eras, how we search for the meaning of life, and how political awareness is shaped online. We go back to how we educated ourselves during the revolution and before it, beginning with the birth of blogs in Egypt, when our horizons began to expand to personal and political narratives, previously available only in the dark corners of the internet, followed by those with insatiable curiosity.

Publication date: 
Monday, January 20, 2020
Year of publication: 
2020