Vol. 14 No. 2 (2023): MEDIA EDUCATION – Studi, ricerche e buone pratiche

(Re)thinking gender in cyber-violence. Insights from awareness-raising campaigns on online violence against women and girls in Italy

Chiara Gius
Dipartimento di Scienze politiche e sociali, Università di Bologna

Published 2023-12-31


  • cyber-WAVG,
  • online violence,
  • gender,
  • social representation,
  • awareness-raising campaign,
  • sexting
  • ...More


Online violence against women and girls, known as cyber-VAWG, is a phenomenon that exacerbates dynamics of discrimination, marginalization, and exclusion of women from society. This is recognized as a form of violence with profound social, cultural, and economic consequences (EIGE, 2017; EU Parliament, 2021; Goulds et al., 2020). Rather than being an isolated phenomenon, cyber-violence is part of the continuum of violence, emphasizing how its various manifestations stem from a common cultural root and are inherently connected to each other. This study, by analyzing various Italian awareness campaigns focused on cyber-violence against women and girls, highlights the essentiality of a media-educational approach that integrates a gender perspective into the creation of media literacy pathways specifically aimed at digital environments. This integration proves fundamental in promoting media-educational strategies that do not just focus on developing skills but also consider the social and cultural context in which digital practices take shape (Cho, 2022; Taddeo & Tirocchi, 2014; Tirocchi, 2013).


  1. Abbatecola, E. 2021. Revenge Porn o D.I.V.I.S.E? Proposta per cambiare un’etichetta sessista. AG About gender, 10(19), 401-4013. https://doi.org/10.15167/2279-5057/AG2021.10.19.1325
  2. Almenar, R. (2021). Cyberviolence against Women and Girls: Gender-based Violence in the Digital Age and Future Challenges as a Consequence of Covid-19. Trento Student Law Review, 3(1),167-230. https://doi.org/10.15168/tslr.v3i1.757
  3. Amnesty International. (2020). Barometro dell’odio: sessismo da tastiera. Available at:
  4. https://www.amnesty.it/barometro-dellodio-sessismo-da-tastiera/ (accessed 10 October 2021)
  5. Bainotti, L., Semenzin, S. (2021). Donne tutte puttane: Revenge porn e maschilità egemone. Andria: Durango.
  6. Barak, A. (2005). Sexual Harassment on the Internet. Social Science Computer Review, 23(1), 77–92. https://doi.org/10.1177/0894439304271540
  7. Benedict, H. (1992). Virgin or Vamp: How the Press Covers Sex Crimes. New York: Oxford University Press.
  8. Belluati, M. (2018). Hate or Hateful? L’uso del linguaggio d’offesa nelle discussioni politiche. Comunicazione politica, 19(3), 373-392.
  9. Belluati, M. (2021). Femminicidio. Una lettura tra realtà e rappresentazione. Roma: Carocci
  10. Blumer, H. (1979). Social Problems as Collective Behavior. Social problems, 18(3), 298-306.
  11. Botto, M., & Gottzén, L. (2023). Swallowing and Spitting out the Red Pill: Young Men, Vulnerability, and Radicalization Pathways in the Manosphere. Journal of Gender Studies, 1-13.
  12. Buckingham, D. (2007). Digital Media Literacies: Rethinking Media education in the Age of the Internet. Research in comparative and international education, 2(1), 43-55.
  13. Bourdieu, P. (1998). La domination masculine. Paris: Editions du Seuils (trad. it. La dominiazione maschile. Milano: Feltrinelli, 1999)
  14. Caletti, G. M. (2019). “Revenge porn” e tutela penale. Prime riflessioni sulla criminalizzazione specifica della pornografia non consensuale alla luce delle esperienze angloamericane. Diritto penale contemporaneo, 3, 63-100.
  15. Cannito, M., Crowhurst, I., Camoletto, R. F., Mercuri, E., & Quaglia, V. 2021. Fare maschilità online: definire e indagare la manosphere. AG About Gender-Rivista internazionale di studi di genere, 10(19).
  16. Capecchi, S. (2021). Le campagne di femvertising e le reazioni delle audience online. Le contraddizioni del femminismo pop. Rassegna Italiana di Sociologia, 62(1), 131-163.
  17. Chayn Italia. (2022). Prevenire la violenza digitale nei confronti di ragazze e adolescenti. Available at: https://chaynitalia.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/REPORT-TeEN_2022_web.pdf (accessed 15 February 2022)
  18. Cho, H., Cannon, J., Lopez, R., & Li, W. (2022). Social Media Literacy: A Conceptual Framework. New media & society, 14614448211068530.
  19. Citron, D. K., Franks, M. A. (2014). Criminalizing Revenge Porn. Wake Forest.
  20. Cockburn, C. (2004). The Continuum of ViolenceA Gender Perspective on War and Peace (pp. 24–44). https://doi.org/10.1525/ california/9780520230729.003.0002
  21. Connell, R. W. (1987). Gender and Power: Society, the Person and Sexual Politics. Sydney Boston: Allen & Unwin.
  22. Corradi, C., Baldry, A. C., Buran, S., Kouta, C., Schröttle, M., Stevkovic, L. (2018). Exploring the Data on Femicide across Europe. In Femicide across Europe (pp. 93-166). Policy Press.
  23. Council of Europe. (2018). Mapping Study on Cyberviolence with Recommendations adopted by the T-CY on 9 July 2018, Cybercrime Convention Committee (T-CY). Working Group on cyberbullying and other forms of online violence, especially against women and children (T-CY (2017)10). https://rm.coe.int/t-cy-mapping-study-on-cyberviolence-final/1680a1307c.
  24. Cuenca-Piqueras, C., Fernández-Prados, J. S., & González-Moreno, M. J. (2020). Face-to-face versus Online Harassment of European women: Importance of Date and Place of Birth. Sexuality & Culture, 24(1), 157-173. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-019-09632-4
  25. CYBERSAFE project. (2020). Cyber Violence against Women & Girls Report: Changing Attitudes among teenagers on Cyber-VAWG. Available at: https://www.stoponlineviolence.eu/wpcontent/uploads/2020/06/Cybersafe_Report_200623_web.pdf (accessed 15 November 2022)
  26. D’Ambrosi, L., Polci, V. (2017). Social Media and Gender-Based Violence. Social Media and Gender-Based Violence, 334-343.
  27. Daniels, J. (2009). Rethinking cyberfeminism(s): Race, Gender, and Embodiment. Women’s Studies Quarterly, 37(1/2), 101-124
  28. Davies, S. E., True, J. (2015). Reframing Conflict-related Sexual and Genderbased Violence: Bringing Gender Analysis Back in. Security Dialogue, 46(6), 495–512. https://doi.org/10.1177/0967010615601389.
  29. Dunn, S. (2020). Technology-Facilitated Gender-Based Violence: An Overview. Supporting a Safer Internet Paper No. 1. Centre for International Governance Innovation. Retrieved October 2, 2023: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3772042
  30. EIGE. (2017). Cyber Violence against Women and Girls. Available at: https://eige.europa.eu/sites/default/files/documents/cyber_violence_against_women_and_girls.pdf (accessed 18 February 2022)
  31. EIGE. (2019). Understanding Intimate Partner Violence in the EU: the Role of Data. Available at: https://eige.europa.eu/publications/understanding-intimate-partner-violence-eu-role-data (accessed 18 February 2022)
  32. Eikren, E., Ingram-Waters, M. (2016). Dismantling ‘You Get what you Deserve’: Towards a Feminist Sociology of Revenge Porn. Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, 10, 1–18.
  33. Entman, R. M. (1993). Framing: Toward Clarification of a Fractured Paradigm. Journal of communication, 43(4), 51-58.
  34. European Parliament. (2021). Combating Gender-based Violence: Cyber violence. Available at: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2021/662621/EPRS_STU(2021)662621_EN.pdf (accessed 07 March 2022)
  35. ElSherief, M., Belding, E., & Nguyen, D. (2017). #notokay: Understanding Gender-Based Violence in Social Media. In Eleventh international AAAI conference on web and social media.
  36. Faith, B. (2018). Gender, Mobile, and Mobile Internet| Maintenance Affordances, Capabilities and Structural Inequalities: Mobile Phone Use By Low-Income Women. Information Technologies & International Development, 14.
  37. Faith, B., Fraser, E., (2018). What Works to Prevent Cyber Violence against Women and Girls ?. https://opendocs.ids.ac.uk/opendocs/bitstream/handle/20.500.12413/14764/vawg-helpdesk-report-212-what-works-cybervawg.pdf?sequence=1 (accessed 6 October 2023)
  38. Fansher, A. K., & Randa, R. (2019). Risky Social Media Behaviors and the Potential for Victimization: A Descriptive Look at College Students Victimized by Someone Met Online. Violence and Gender, 6 , 115–123. https://doi.org/10.1089/vio.2017.0073
  39. Faucher, C., Cassidy, W., & Jackson, M. (2020). Awareness, Policy, Privacy, and More: Post-secondary Students Voice their Solutions to Cyberbullying. European Journal of Investigation in Health, Psychology and Education, 10(3), 795-815.
  40. Floridi, L. (2015). The ONLIFE MANIFESTO: Being Human in a Hyperconnected Era. Springer Nature: New York.
  41. Foucault, M. 1971. L’Ordre du discours. Paris: Gallimard (ed. it. L’ordine del discorso e altri interventi. Torino: Einaudi, 2004)
  42. FRA. (2018). Fundamental Rights Report 2018. Available at: https://fra.europa.eu/en/publication/2018/fundamental-rights-report-2018 (accessed 18 February 2022)
  43. Garrido, M. (2022). Mapping Online Gender-Based Violence. UPEACE Press: San Josè
  44. Genta, M. L. (2017). Bullismo e cyberbullismo: Comprenderli per combatterli. Strategie operative per psicologi, educatori ed insegnanti. FrancoAngeli: Milano.
  45. Giomi, E., Magaraggia, S. (2017). Relazioni Brutali. Genere e violenza nella cultura mediale. Bologna: il Mulino.
  46. Giungi, L. et al. (2019). Part 1: Digital Gender-Based Violence: the State of the Art. Available at: https://gen-pol.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/When-Technology-Meets-Misogyny-GenPol-Policy-Paper-2.pdf (accessed 10 October 2023)
  47. Gius, C. (2022). Addressing the Blurred Question of ‘Responsibility’: insights from Online News Comments on a Case of Non-Consensual Pornography. Journal of Gender Studies,31(2), 193-203. https://doi.org/10.1080/09589236.2021.1892610
  48. Goffman, E. 1974. Frame Analysis. An Essay on the Organization of Experience. Boston: Northeastern University Press.
  49. Goulds et al. (2020). Free to be Online? Girls’ and Young Women’s Experiences of Online Harassment. Available at: https://plan-international.org/publications/freetobeonline (accessed 10 October 2021)
  50. Hall, S. (1973). Encoding and Decoding in the Television Discourse. Available at: http://epapers.bham.ac.uk/2962/1/Hall%2C_1973%2C_Encoding_and_Decoding_in_the_Television_Discourse.pdf (accessed 10 October 2017)
  51. Hasinoff, A.A. (2012). Sexting as Media Production: Rethinking Social Media and Sexuality, New Media and Society, 15(4), 449-465. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444812459171
  52. Hellsten, L.-a., Crespi, I., Hendry, B., & Fermani, A. (2021). Extending the Current Theorisation on Cyberbullying: Importance of Including Socio-Psychological Perspectives. Italian Journal of Sociology of Education, 13/3, 85–110. https://doi.org/10.14658/pupj-ijse-2021-3-5
  53. Hilgartner, S. Bosk, C.L. (1988). The Rise and Fall of Social Problems: A Public Arena’s Model. American Journal of Sociology, (94): 53-78.
  54. Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. W. (2017). Cultivating Youth Resilience to Prevent Bullying and Cyberbullying Victimization. Child abuse & neglect, 73, 51-62.
  55. Jane, E. A. (2016). Misogyny Online. A Short (and brutish) History. London: Sage
  56. Jane, E. A. (2017). ‘Dude… Stop the Spread’: Antagonism, Agonism, and# manspreading on Social Media. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 20(5), 459-475. https://doi.org/10.1177/1367877916637151
  57. Jansen, B. J., & Spink, A. (2006). How are We Searching the World Wide Web? A Comparison of Nine Search Engine Transaction logs. Information Processing & Management, 42(1), 248-263.
  58. Jenkins, H., Ford, S., & Green, J. (2013). Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture. New York: NYU Press.
  59. Khan, I. (2022). Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression. New York: United Nation. Available at: https://undocs.org/Home/Mobile?FinalSymbol=A%2F76%2F258&Language=E&DeviceType=Desktop&LangRequested=False (accessed 01 September 2022)
  60. Lalli, P. (2021). L’amore non uccide. Femminicidio e discorso pubblico: cronaca, tribunali, politiche. Bologna: Il Mulino.
  61. Lalli, P., Capelli, C. (2021). Serious Games and non-Formal Learning in the Classroom: The Experience of Sicuri si diventa. In Proceedings of the Second International Conference of the Journal Scuola Democratica: Reinventing Education, vol. 2, 1293-1306.
  62. Lee, N.R., Kotler, P. (2019) Social Marketing: Behavior Change for Social Good. Sage,: London
  63. Lefebvre, R. C. (2012). Transformative Social Marketing: Co‐creating the Social Marketing Discipline and Brand. Journal of Social Marketing, 2(2), 118-129.
  64. Lumsden, K., Morgan, H. M. (2018). Cyber-trolling as Symbolic Violence. In N. Lombard (Ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Gender and Violence (pp. 121-132). London and New York: Routledge.
  65. Macchioni, E., Santoni, C. (2022). The Youth On-line Life: Risks, Violence and Support Networks. International Review of Sociology, 32(3), 463-482.
  66. Menesini, E., Nocentini, A., Palladino, B. E. (2017). Prevenire e contrastare il bullismo e il cyberbullismo (pp. 1-192). Il mulino.
  67. Morahan-Martin, J. (2000). Women and the Internet: Promise and perils. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 3(5),683–691. https://doi.org/10.1089/10949310050191683PDF/EPUB
  68. Moscovici, S. (1984). The Phenomenon of Social Representations. In R. Farr, S. Moscovici (eds.), Social Representations, 3-69. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  69. Navarro, R. (2016). Gender Issues and Cyberbullying in Children and Adolescents: From Gender Differences to Gender Identity Measures. In Cyberbullying across the globe (pp. 35-61). Springer Cham.
  70. Pavan, E. (2017). “Internet Intermediaries and Online Gender-based Violence. In M. Segrave & L. Vitis (eds). Gender, technology and violence. London: Routledge, 62-78.
  71. Pavan, E., Lavorgna, A. (2021). Promises and Pitfalls of Legal Responses to Image-Based Sexual Abuse: Critical Insights from the Italian Case. In The palgrave handbook of gendered violence and technology, 545-564.
  72. Powell, A. (2021). ‘Intimate Intrusions’: Technology Facilitated Dating and Intimate Partner Violence. In A. Flynn, A. Powell, & L. Sugiura (eds.). The Palgrave Handbook of Gendered Violence and Technology, 157-179.
  73. Pietropaoli, S. (2017). La rete non dimentica. Una riflessione sul diritto all’oblio. Ars interpretandi, 22(1), https://doi.org/67-80. 10.7382/86671
  74. Project deSHAME. (2017). Young People’s Experiences of Online Sexual Harassment. Available at: https://www.childnet.com/what-we-do/our-projects/project-deshame/research/ (accessed 10 October 2023)
  75. Reynolds, L. & Merritt, R. (2010). Scoping. In J. French, et al. (2010). Social Marketing and Public Health: Theory and practice (pp. 161-191). Oxford University Press: Oxford.
  76. Ringrose, J., Harvey, L., Gill, R., & Livingstone, S. (2013). Teen Girls, Sexual Double Standards and ‘Sexting’: Gendered Value in Digital Image Exchange. Feminist theory, 14(3), 305-323.
  77. Salter, M., Crofts, T. (2015). “Responding to Revenge Porn: Challenges To Online Legal Impunity”. In L. Comella, S. Tarrant (Eds.). New Views on Pornography: Sexuality, Politics, and the Law, 233–256. Westport: Praeger Publisher.
  78. Saltz, S.B., Rozon, M., Pogge, D.L., & Harvey, P.D. (2020). Cyberbullying and its Relationship to Current Symptoms and History of Early Life Trauma: A study of adolescents in an acute inpatient psychiatric unit. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, (8), 81-81. https://doi.org/10.4088/jcp.18m12170
  79. Scarcelli, C. M. (2021). Manosphere periferiche. Ragazzi, omosocialità e pratiche digitali. AG About Gender-Rivista internazionale di studi di genere, 10(19). https://doi.org/10.15167/2279-5057/AG2021.10.19.1278
  80. Simonovic, D. (2018). Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences on online violence against women and girls from a human rights perspective (A/HRC/38/47). 108 Mohamed E. Atta Geneva. United Nations Human Rights Council. https://digitallibrary. un.org/record/1641160?ln=en accessed 10 October 2023)
  81. Stokes, B. (2005). Video Games Have Changed: Time to Consider ‘Serious Games’. The Development Education Journal, 11, 108-116.
  82. Swidler, A. (1986). Culture in Action: Symbols and Strategies. American sociological review, 273-286.
  83. Taddeo, G., & Tirocchi, S. (2014). Networked families: Media e social nelle relazioni familiari. In G. Greco (a cura di) (Ed.), Pubbliche intimità. L’affettivo quotidiano nei siti di social network (pp. 203–219). Milano: Franco Angeli.
  84. Tirocchi, S. (2019). Il cyberbullismo tra emergenza e normalizzazione. In Dal bullismo al cyberbullismo. Strategie socio-educative (pp. 49-61). Milano: FrancoAngeli.
  85. Tirocchi, S., Scocco, M., & Crespi, I. (2022). Generation Z and Cyberviolence: between Digital Platforms Use and Risk Awareness. International Review of Sociology, 1-20. https://doi.org/10.1080/03906701.2022.2133408
  86. Vakhitova, Z. I., Alston-Knox, C. L., Reeves, E., Mawby, R. I. (2021). Explaining Victim Impact from Cyber Abuse: An Exploratory Mixed Methods Analysis. Deviant Behaviour. Advance online publication.
  87. Vox. (2021). La nuova mappa dell’intolleranza 6. Available at: http://www.voxdiritti.it/la-nuova-mappa-dellintolleranza-6/ (accessed 19 February 2022)
  88. Wibben, A. T. R. (2019). Everyday Security, Feminism, and the Continuum of Violence. Journal of Global Security Studies, 5(1), 115. https://doi. org/10.1093/jogss/ogz056
  89. Van Dijk J.A.G.M., van Deursen A.J.A.M. (2014). Digital Skills: Unlocking the Information Society (Digital Education and Learning). Pelgrave Macmilian: New York
  90. Wakefield, M. A., Loken, B., & Hornik, R. C. (2010). Use of Mass Media Campaigns to Change Health Behaviour. The Lancet, 376(9748), 1261-1271.
  91. World Wide Web Foundation. (2014). Web Index Report 2014-15. Available at: https://webfoundation.org/research/the-2014-15-web-index/ (accessed 10 October 2021)
  92. Ziccardi, G. (2017). La soluzione c’è: Si chiama censura. il Mulino, 66(2), 226-234. https://doi.org/10.1402/86032
  93. Zhonggen, Y. (2019). A Meta-Analysis of Use of Serious Games in Education over a Decade. International Journal of Computer Games Technology, 2019, 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1155/2019/4797032