Interview with Guylaine Maroist, Director of ‘Backlash: Misogyny in the Digital Age’

By Chiara Cimenti and Femke Marloes van Wanrooij – Festival volunteers at Global Health Film Days 2023

Technology-facilitated gender-based violence is a global phenomenon that threatens gender equality and women’s right to free expression. One of the first steps to address this complex issue is creating awareness. This is the objective of the documentary Backlash: Misogyny in the Digital Age, which will be screened at Cinemateket in Copenhagen on April, 21st, at 19:00. Here, we offer you a sneak peek of the film event through a brief discussion of the topic and a video clip with the film director Guylaine Maroist.

Guylaine Maroist, one of the two directors of Backlash: Misogyny in the Digital Age. Photo by La Ruelle Films.

As our society continues to evolve, so does our digital world. Digitalization is a global trend that is shaping the lives of nearly every individual. It has revolutionalised our way of communicating, learning, and working. It holds the potential to accelerate sustainable development and economic growth and give a voice to those that traditionally have been left out. Yet, technologies and platforms have also exacerbated gender-based violence. Today, at least 38% of women have directly experienced cyber violence globally and the number continues to rise. This phenomenon has been named technology-facilitated gender-based violence (TFGBV) and it takes countless forms. TFGBV can manifest itself as online gender and sexual harassment, cyberstalking, image-based abuse, online sexual abuse, doxing (publication of private personal details), hacking, impersonation, hate speech, and control of victims´ use of technology. All women who use technology – cis and trans women , as well as those who identify themselves as feminine, non-binary or gender-diverse individuals –  are a target. However, certain groups of women have been more affected by TFGBV. They include – but do not limit to – politicians, journalists, activists, feminists, and academics, because of their role of power, which has challenged patriarchal societies. They also include young people and women of minority groups, such as LGBTQIA+ and people of color, as they are generally more vulnerable and less represented. 

The poster of Backlash, Misogyny in the Digital Age, the new feature-length documentary directed by Guylaine Maroist and Léa Clermont-Dion and produced by La Ruelle Films. The film takes a relevant look at the impact and the scourge of cyberviolence.

It is a hideous phenomenon. It goes against women’s right to express themselves freely. It also slows down the progress towards gender equality and contributes to poor mental health outcomes, including depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and panic attacks among the victims of TFGBV. This is unacceptable. We need to take action as a society and the first step towards a societal shift is greater awareness. As the majority becomes more educated about TFGBV, we can demand appropriate political changes and transform gender norms and attitudes. Identifying forms of sexism and nurturing the public discourse about TFGBV may be fundamental steps ahead, though not straightforward ones. While abusive language is a historic phenomenon, sexism has become more covert and complex in the last five decades, partly because of social media. Personally, I was unaware of TFGBV until a few months ago. Fortunate enough not to have been a victim of TFGBV or naively ignorant? Perhaps a bit of both. 

TFGBV can be very insidious as much as any other forms of gender-based violence and harassment. A group of researchers from the IT University of Copenhagen conducted a large-scale research project about online hate speech in the Danish language and pointed out the cross-cultural differences in digital misogynistic messages. As an example, stereotypes and objectification dominate digital misogyny in Italian culture. Quite alarming are the findings from Denmark, where we encounter “neosexism”. The majority of Danes believe that discrimination against women does not exist because “women have already achieved equality”. As a consequence, many are more likely to accept and support subtle sexist beliefs. TFGBV and other forms of gender-based violence also continue to remain largely unreported. For example, in Canada only 6% of cases of sexual assaults are reported to the authorities, making it the most underreported crime. 

The film director Guylaine Maroist highlights some of these issues in her new documentary Backlash: Misogyny in the Digital Age. In an inspiring interview with us volunteers at Global Health Film Days she describes the story behind the documentary and how film-making can generate positive change at a large scale. At the Global Health Film Days, we want to ripple these effects by screening the film at Cinemateket on April, 21st, and by keeping the conversation about TFGBV alive and growing (full details about the event and link to buying tickets can be found here). The film will be followed by a panel debate with three experts on this area and you will be allowed to address any questions. For now, we would like to offer you a sneak peek at the film event through a short and inspiring interview with one of the two film directors, Guylaine Maroist.

“This is what documentary making is also about: making the world a little bit better”

Guylaine Maroist
The interview with Guylaine Maroist, director of Backlash: Misogyny in the Digital Age.

Do you want to take a more active role in the fight against cyber violence? Start here.

Global Health Film Days

Global Health Film Days 2023, the third edition of the festival dedicated to films about global health, runs from 15-23 April at Cinemateket in Copenhagen, Denmark. You can see the full festival programme and book your tickets on our website and on Cinemateket’s website. Student discounts and special prices for organizations are available. Follow our social media (Facebook and Instagram) and stay tuned for more information about the events.

About the authors

Chiara Cimenti (primary author) and Femke Marloes (co-author) van Wanrooij are both volunteers of the Global Health Film Days 2023 at the School of Global Health, University of Copenhagen. Chiara Cimenti is a global health graduate from the University of Copenhagen and is currently a PhD student at the University of Southern University. Femke Marloes van Wanrooij is a medicine graduate from Leiden University, currently pursuing a master’s in Global Health at the University of Copenhagen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.