Kaitlynn Mendes, Professor in Gender, Media and Sociology, is an expert on issues around sexual violence relating to digital technologies, including how technology exacerbate the issues and how people creatively use it to fight back. With ever-increasing technological developments, and sexual violence rapidly taking on new forms, Professor Mendes’ research helps prepare young people for their digital futures. She works with a range of stakeholders to develop resources for schools to tackle this issue through relationship and sex education curriculum.
Gendered inequality is a pervasive problem that has been amplified by digital technologies. Harassment, grooming and non-consensual image sharing are common, alongside continually changing practices that stem from developments in technology and social media platforms. As adolescents increasingly access digital technologies from a young age, Professor Mendes believes it imperative to explore how digital technologies facilitate online harms; and to create more sophisticated, inclusive digital literacies for educators, children and their parents to prepare young people to navigate digital environments safely.
Professor Mendes carefully monitored the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and was awarded an AHRC Covid-19 rapid response grant to explore how gendered harms and risks changed under COVID-19 lockdowns.
My main area of research falls in the field of feminist media studies. I am an expert in
- Online sexual harassment
- representations of feminism in mainstream and social media
- digital feminist activism
- rape culture
- feminist digital labour
- trolling against women
- feminist digital cultures
Combatting gendered, sexual risks and harms online during Covid-19: Developing resources for young people, parents and schools. UKRI Covid-19 Rapid Response Calls. (Feb 2021-Dec 2021)
Working with Professor Jessica Ringrose (UCL) and Dr. Tanya Horeck (University of East Anglia), I am PI on this study seeks which to assess the impact of COVID-19 and social isolation on young people’s experiences of online sexual risks and gendered harms during this period of increased reliance on screens. Through surveys and focus group interviews with up to 2k young people (ages 13-21) and 100 parents/carers, the study will address gaps in knowledge by exploring young people’s differing experiences of online sexual harassment during Covid-19, in relation to gender (girls, boys, gender non-conforming), sexuality (LGBTQI+) and other intersecting identities. The study’s central aim is to develop a set of interactive digital resources that provide accessible and tailored advice and information for young people, teachers, and parents, on how to stay safe online during the pandemic and beyond
Developing Digital Defence & Activism Lessons (AH/T008938/1) Follow-on-Funding for Impact and Engagement. (July 2020-July 2021) (£98,424.91).
I am the Principle Investigator on this 12 month project alongside Professor Jessica Ringrose (University College London), and the sex education charity Sexplain. Building from our successful AHRC grant on tackling rape culture, we will partner with the charity Sexplain, teachers, digital storytelling experts and social media influencers to develop and deliver “digital defence” training for young people to challenge rape culture in predominantly online spaces. The grant will result in key outcomes including new workshops for secondary school pupils, supplementary resources to support this, and teacher training sessions on how to deliver the workshops.
‘Let’s Talk About Sexual Violence: An Artful Intervention’, ESRC Impact Acceleration Account, Large Rapid Response Scheme. (2020) (£7,500)
I am Principle Investigator on this funding scheme alongside Dr. Anna Carline (Liverpool), Clare Gunby (Birmingham), Harriet Smailes (Leicester), and artist Kajal Nisha Patel. The funding is used be used to support the development of the TalkSV exhibition and the associated website, which aims to inform and educate the wider public, students and young people, as to the reality of, and laws relating to, sexual violence. More specifically the money will be used to support the following activities: 1) re-exhibit the exhibition at the Universities of Leicester, Newcastle, Liverpool and Birmingham; 2) Development an online/virtual exhibition; 3) Support the further development of the website linked to the exhibition; and 4) Collect evidence of the exhibition’s impact.
Developing School Policies around Gender and Social Media Use, University of Leicester QR Funding, (2019-2020) (£10,000)
The aim of this project was to develop a comprehensive guidance for secondary schools on how to tackle the problem of online sexual harassment. Online sexual harassment refers to a range of behaviours where digital technologies are used to facilitate both virtual and face-to-face sexually based harms.
Drawing from interviews with seven safeguarding leads in UK secondary schools and a survey with students aged 13-18, and working in close consultation with key stakeholders and project partners such as Sexplain, Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP), and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), the policy details the laws relevant to these issues and provides recommendations for school staff in terms of pastoral care, whole school approach and curriculum content.
We have also provided additional guidance for young people, including links to resources which outline their legal rights, and links to organisations which can help remove sexually explicit images online.
Challenging Misconceptions, Raising Awareness and Improving Legal Responses to Sexual and Gender-Based Violence’, Impact Development Fund, University of Leicester. (2019-2020) (£11,212).
I am Principle Investigator on this project, which rolls out workshops developed with the Relationship and Sex Education charity Sexplain to develop appropriate responses to the pressing issues around youth and (feminist) political activism, digital literacy, mental health, teacher training and online safety. Funding will be used to roll these workshops out to 20 schools who lack funds to bring in this specialised training, and deliver workshops to 250 PGCE students at the University of Leicester. Funding is also used to record these sessions to extend their shelf-life beyond the funding period.
Mendes, K., Ringrose, J, & Keller, J. (2019) Digital Feminist Activism: Women and Girls Fight Back Against Rape Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Mendes, K. (ed) (2017) Gender and the Media (Critical Concepts in Media and Cultural Studies Series). Abingdon: Routledge.
Mendes, K. (2015) SlutWalk: Feminism, activism & media. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
Silva, K. and Mendes, K. (eds.) (2015) Feminist Erasures: Challenging Backlash Culture. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Mendes, K. (2011) Feminism in the News: Representations of the Women’s Movement Since the 1960s. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Quan-Haase, A., Mendes, K., Ho, D., Lake, O., Nau, C., & Pieber, D. (2021) Mapping #MeToo: A synthesis review of digital feminist research across social media platforms’, New Media & Society.
Loney-Howes, R., Mendes, K., Fernández Romero, D., Fileborn, B., & Núñez Puente, S. (minor revisions) ‘Footprints of #MeToo’, Feminist Media Studies.
Dey, A. and Mendes, K. (minor revisions) ‘“It started with this one post”: #MeToo, India and Higher Education’, Journal of Gender Studies.
Mendes, K. (accepted) ‘Fempreneurs and Digital Feminist Publishing’, Women: A Cultural Review.
Mendes, K., Keller, J., and Ringrose, J. (2019) ‘Digitized Narratives of Sexual Violence: A case study of #BeenRapedNeverReported and Who Needs Feminism?’ New Media & Society. 21(6): 1290-1310.
I am particularly interested in supervising students in the following areas:
- Representations of feminism, feminist activism or movements in the media
- The use of social media to challenge harassment, sexism and misogyny
- The prevalence of, and affect of cybersexism and trolling, particularly on women and feminists
- Gendered newsroom cultures - policies on enacting change, or better understanding current conditions.
I currently lead an MA research methods module (MS7400) and lead the third year Media and Gender module (MS3000), while contributing to a range of other modules in the department.
Get in touch for media enquiries, expert opinion, interviews, images or video.
- Bachelor of Journalism, Carleton University, Canada, 2005
- PhD Journalism Studies, Cardiff University, 2009