Women Behind CLiCK: Shannon
In this edition of Women Behind CLiCK, Anna sits down with Shannon (CLiCK Resource and Information Officer) to find out about her experience, values, and the role she thinks CLiCK can play in amplifying women’s voices.
So Shannon, tell me a bit about your background before you came to CLiCK. What lead you to the role of Resource and Information Officer?
Prior to this role, I was a research psychologist. The main area I researched was young people’s social media use and wellbeing, but I’ve also been involved in research around social cognition and suicide. Even though I loved research, I felt that – a lot of the time – research was done about people and not actually in partnership with them. Particularly in social media use research. When this area of research started to gain momentum back in around 2014, a lot of this research was carried out using questionnaires – asking young people pre-set questions about how often they used social media, at what time of day, and for how long. This was frustrating to me as these questionnaires never really tapped into what social media meant to young people. Gradually a shift happened where research started to be conducted with young people themselves as the experts and as peer researchers. I thought that was really interesting. The themes and behaviours that young people identified as important to them later guided my Masters work – exploring how social comparison behaviour, specifically, impacts mental wellbeing and sleep. Towards the end of my Masters I came across the position of Resource and Information Officer at CLiCK. I just thought it was really in line with my values in the sense of…I didn’t want to be part of work that was making assumptions about people. I saw this role as an opportunity to help women’s voices to be at the core of any change we make in the service landscape.
Can you tell me a bit more about your values and how they guide your work?
For me, I always feel that transparency is something that really guides my work. A big movement in psychology right now is this thing called “Open Science”. The whole idea behind Open Science is that we can’t keep research behind closed doors. We can’t mess about with our data to get the answers we would like to present. I think the third sector has a lot to learn from Open Science, using the same thinking to inform open practice. Making sure you actively include the people you’re talking about and making sure you represent their views, opinions, and stories accurately. If you don’t have lived experience you have to be able to sit back and let people with lived experience, the experts, tell you how it is. So transparency, honesty, and the ability to hold your hands up and say “I’m not an expert – and I’m excited to hear what you have to say”.
Your role is quite different from the other roles at CLiCK. Can you tell us a bit about what your role of Resource and Information Officer involves?
My role has three separate strands, really. Basically, I pull together information and design resources for women in the sex industry, for people who work in services who might support women, and for our CLiCK women’s workers as well. A key part of my role is identifying emerging issues for women. A lot of the work I’ve been focusing on recently is the increasing popularity of private galleries (e.g. OnlyFans and AdmireMe). Just trying to find out, really, whether the platforms themselves are doing enough to protect women and whether our legal system is doing enough to protect women who use these platforms. My role has adapted and shifted over time. Especially now with coronavirus and being in lockdown. At the start of the pandemic, there was a big focus on meeting women’s immediate needs by getting practical information to women quickly. That was things like finding out for women what financial help they’re able to access, what sort of services are still operating and available in their local area. Now, my work is still focused on identifying what women’s urgent needs are – but also starting to look more long term as we start to think about what the service landscape is going to look like for women as Scotland learns to live alongside coronavirus. So, to support that, a big part of my work now is developing Click Magazine. Within the Magazine, a big focus for me is Click Cast – which is a monthly podcast series where we hear from women directly, as well as support services, on the challenges they’re facing due to coronavirus. The main questions the podcast, and the Magazine in general, are wanting to help answer are 1) What kind of support do women want to see?, and 2) What help do services need in order to provide that support? So, it’s really about taking the voices of women - and services - to the strategic level. I hope as well that the podcast will be a new way for us to reach women, pushing information out there in a way that’s more accessible. I think especially right now, hearing other people’s voices is also quite nice!
So in terms of how you communicate that information to women and services – thinking about pre-covid and now – can you tell us the ways you go about doing that?
The way that women have been able to feed into resources in the past – and continue to feed into our resources – is through Your Voice. With the work that we’re wanting to do with Click Magazine, the way that I see women being involved is by reaching women where they are so that they can share their thoughts, opinions, and stories. This would be through things like promoted ads on social media, connecting with women on forums, connecting with mainstream services that women might be accessing right now, and building new partnerships with platforms that women use to advertise their services in order to host call outs. I don’t have lived experience so I can’t make assumptions about what kind of resources and information women want to see or that women need. So, I really want women to have a clear path to get involved in Your Voice to help feed into resources and really shape the information that goes out there to other women. Prior to coronavirus, I used to put together quite lengthy newsletters that got sent around key services and workers. That’s had to take a back seat for the moment so I can focus on other pieces of work, but I hope that Click Magazine can be a really dynamic and new way of getting information out to services.
Can you think of any barriers that women might face to becoming involved in shaping resources?
I think probably the biggest barrier is trust - trusting us as a service. We only got properly off the ground in September/October time last year. We’re still very new. I think there’s that element of not wanting to go to a new service and tell your story. That’s something we just need to accept as a barrier and take it on board in order to begin easing that barrier. I also think there’s an element of “If I come to you and tell you what my views are, what my opinions are, what my story is – what am I going to get out of it?”. I think that’s something we’re constantly thinking about it – how can we add real value to being involved in shaping resources? We don’t want women to come to us and be totally open and honest and we’re just like “oh thanks” and take what they have to say but give women nothing back. Prior to coronavirus, we had been planning a creative internship as part of Click Magazine which would support women to develop skills in editing, feature writing, and design. Obviously because of the current situation that has had to be re-jigged. We have Click Magazine up and running now but we’re still actively trying to work out how women can be part of some sort of creative team in a virtual way. I’d love to have a print version of Click Magazine at some point that’s been produced, edited, and designed by women with lived experience.
What would you say, generally, are your hopes for women who might want to be involved in that process of shaping resources?
I would want these resources, especially right now, to take women’s experiences to the people making decisions. For too long, women in the industry have been pushed to the side and swept under the carpet. Their needs have never been spoken about enough at higher levels of Government. It shouldn’t take a global pandemic for people in those positions of power to start listening. I would like to think that these resources – especially Click Magazine - will be a different way of taking lots of different women’s experiences to the people making decisions right now, and hopefully over time we can start to see some positive change.
In terms of the CLiCK service generally, what would your hopes be for a woman accessing support from CLiCK?
I hope she feels completely heard and respected. I hope that if a woman came to us looking for safety tips because she’s thinking of starting an OnlyFans, she can get that info from us. At the same time, if there’s a woman thinking of exiting, I hope she can get the support from us to explore her different options and plan out her timeline. I want every woman regardless of where they are in the industry to feel that they can come to CLiCK and be met with friendliness, a high degree of knowledge, and for any support to be tailored to what she needs with no assumptions or expectations placed on her at all.
What would you say to a woman who is considering accessing CLiCK?
I would say just give it a wee go. Jump on the online chat – any questions you have about the service, just fire away. Anything you want to ask on there, the women’s workers are happy to help. You can chat to them and find out more about the service before you start engaging. You can access support in so many different ways, it’s really up to you. Maybe you’re looking for condoms to be posted out to you, you can jump on the live chat and get that sorted. Maybe you’re looking for emotional support or support that’s a bit more in depth – we can still do one-to-one support over the phone, text, or Whatsapp with a local women’s worker. We’ve also got a new helpline that’s available 4 days a week if you’d rather have a chat on the phone rather than using live chat. You don’t need to be accessing support with us to be able to shape the service and resources. There’s lots of women who have done that in the past. We’re constantly doing call outs, looking to hear about women’s needs during the pandemic. We also do weekly Your Voice consultations online where you can feed into future resources as well.
That’s great - is there anything else you would like to add?
I think it’s hard to see sometimes how becoming involved in Your Voice or CLiCK resources…where that could go. Like I said, it shouldn’t take a global pandemic to make Government’s listen. However, I think coronavirus has unfortunately really put a spotlight on the needs of women in the industry and I think it’s such a pivotal time for women to make their voices heard. So, if you do have lived experience of selling/exchanging sex or images and you are in a position where you want to share your thoughts and experiences, we would love to hear from you. Your voice could really make a massive difference and really start getting the wheels in motion to make some real positive change for women. We can’t wait to hear from you!