Gina Martin describes herself as a ‘writer + campaigner here for equality, planet earth and bloody good fashion,’ She was a victim of upskirting at a festival in 2017 and has used the power of social media in campaigning to make this a sexual offence in England and Wales.
CG: Were you as active on social media before the upskirting incident?
GM: I guess it’s rocketed a bit because I’d never used it in this particular way. I’d always posted a lot on Instagram and worked in a digital agency, so I know how social media works, and understand the real value of it. But it wasn’t until the upskirting incident happened that social media became a different type of tool for me.
I found a selfie of me and my sister that we’d taken at the festival before the upskirting had happened and the guys were in the background. I posted it on Facebook and Twitter, captioned ‘The police can’t do anything to help me; the law can’t do anything to help me.’ I asked a bunch of influential friends to share it because I was so upset and just wanted the guys to be embarrassed. It went viral quickly so I created a petition. Once numbers started coming up and comments, I asked TV producers if they’d talk about the issue, saying ‘Look how many people care about this … we should be talking about this because it’s not a sexual offence.’
Social media isn’t about socialising anymore; it’s become so much more powerful than that.
CG: How have you maximised using social media to help your upskirting campaign?
GM: It’s been a pretty big learning curve. Social media became a galvanising tool for a community, activating people and getting them interested. With your own personal social accounts, you can just be shouting into a crowd of people you don’t know; there’s no connections being made. So the really interesting bit was in connecting different platforms. I’d be promoting a petition through Facebook ads with money behind it, which I would then share elsewhere. I had more industry professionals following me on Twitter, while there was a different audience on my Instagram with young women growing up in a world which is very, very active socially and they’re looking for things to grab hold of and to help with.
I started doing a lot of media interviews and found my lawyer at the height of that media attention. I went on Twitter to different law charities and law firms, asking for a lawyer to represent me. I said I didn’t have any money but that this was becoming a really high media case and that we can change this law if we really try. I’ve now been working with Ryan Whelan, a criminal lawyer, pro bono for a year and a half now; he’s the best person in the world!
CG: Is there anything now you wish you’d done differently?
GM: In terms of the actual process of the campaign, I wouldn’t change anything. Even the whole Chope thing worked in our favour because that was like a live troll saying ‘n’o to protecting women, which gave us even more support. But I would change the way I dealt with social media because I don’t think I was ready for the attention and the pressure that came with it. I got a lot of online abuse and rape threats. So I could’ve protected myself better in that way. That’s difficult to foresee when you’re working on so many things at once.
CG: There’s been a lot in the press about the challenges of being a blogger or vlogger: the loneliness and the reputation to be maintained. What challenges have you faced?
GM: With the social media landscape, you’ve a whole bunch of people going very fast into something that’s incredibly fulfilling. It’s wonderful that we’re hearing more and more people’s voices instead of just looking up to a celebrity who feels untouchable.
A couple of my friends are really big bloggers and the emotional baggage that comes with it is massive because you’re like a best friend to followers. They feel they know you because you let them so much to your life and talk about a lot of personal stuff. One friend gets 150 emails a day that are tragic and hard to read: it’s a lot of emotional weight to take on. There’s half a million people who can get in touch with her as easily as I can get in touch with you now.
I get messages every week with detailed accounts of sexual violence. It’s really hard because you want to be a confidante but I’m not qualified to give advice and don’t have the time to reply to everyone. I forward these on to people I know at different charities who are qualified to help.
I’ll always be a writer, but one with a little activism streak.
CG: What lies in store next?
GM: I’ve always cared about social issues but never really had the opportunity to actually do something until this came along. So that’s probably me started on that road now. I want to tackle some of the issues on social media platforms next – the privacy and community standards – and try to make them a little safer for people.
CG: Define what creativity means to you.
GM: It’s the joy of having original ideas and an authentic voice, and being able to create something that’s innately what you care about – without any parameters. For me, personally, that means making people’s lives a little bit better or a little bit more positive or a little bit more joyful along the way.
Read Gina’s blog, follow her#StopSkirtingTheIssue campaign @ginamartin_uk on Instagram and Twitter and see the three things you can do to change the law.
(Photo by Liv Purvis)
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