In the context of increasingly digitised urban governance, this paper investigates the use of digital technology in the advocacy for women’s safety in the city. Framing safety within the Lefebvrian concept of right to the city, this paper offers a review of online tools that seek to address sexual harassment and violence against women in the public space.
The paper is organised in three sections; the first is an analysis of the web- and/or smart-phone based digital safety applications/tools. The second is a discussion about their potential for consciousness-raising. The third section examines their use in feminist advocacy for affecting change in the decision-making processes shaping the city.
Informed by the type of functions performed by these digital safety tools, the authors use a binary rubric to categorise their approach to women’s safety as “empowering” or “paternalistic”. Our analysis assumes that the process of engagement and participation of women in advocacy is empowering and that surveillance and securitisation constitute a paternalistic approach. Considering these digital safety tools through the lens of feminist consciousness-raising, we explore how digital technologies might transform women’s perceptions of their right to the city. We draw upon global examples to ask: what lessons can be learned from their successes? Using Australian examples Free to Be and She’s a crowd we illustrate how an empowering approach is being employed locally. We propose that if successful, these digital interventions can disrupt (1) traditional gender roles/stereotypes through consciousness-raising and engagement, and (2) traditional information-flows and processes of knowledge production.