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Like a Stone in Your Stomach: Articulating the Unspeakable in Rape Victim-Survivors’ Activist Selfies

Abstract

This chapter examines Project Unbreakable, a photographic project which posts selfies made by survivors of rape and sexual abuse, to demonstrate how selfie culture operates as a space of embodied resistance. Following Senft and Baym’s view of selfies as relational and constitute practices that involve the mobilisation of affect as a basis of politically engaged community building, it examines the ways in which selfies disrupt dominant narratives of survival as ‘speaking out’, a discourse which privileges some survivors’ experiences as more worthy than others. Selfies, I argue, are moving in that they literally move, circulating virally in a culture that produces victim-survivor experience as both ‘unspeakable’ and ‘spoken for’: this chapter pays attention to the ways in which they both move and mobilise us.

Keywords

  • Rape
  • Survival
  • Activism
  • Twitter
  • Trauma
  • Recovery narratives

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Its model of selfie activism has been widely adapted by other survivor projects, and more widely as a mode of ‘hashtag activism’ on platforms including Twitter and Tumblr to speak about experiences of racism, homophobia and transphobia.

  2. 2.

    http://www.msnbc.com/melissa-harris-perry/meet-grace-brown-unbreakable-photograph.

  3. 3.

    Although the content of specific articles will be explored in a future article, I have made a deliberate decision, here, not to cite specific images or texts: since the focus of the project is on the face of the survivor, it feels politically urgent and necessary to foreground survivor experience. This is not, however, to deny the importance of accountability in holding rapists, and rape culture more generally, responsible for the acts of violence the selfies recall.

  4. 4.

    The use of trigger warnings has been controversial in recent feminist theory: nevertheless, I would argue that the trigger warning as genre should be understood as a practice for thinking through forms of practical caring, not primarily or only as a technology of constraint (Ferreday, forthcoming).

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Correspondence to Debra Ferreday .

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Ferreday, D. (2017). Like a Stone in Your Stomach: Articulating the Unspeakable in Rape Victim-Survivors’ Activist Selfies. In: Kuntsman, A. (eds) Selfie Citizenship. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-45270-8_14

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