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Reading Between the Lines: Joanna Walsh and Sian Norris

What Happens When a Woman Goes Online?

Reading Between the Lines: Joanna Walsh and Sian Norris

What Happens When a Woman Goes Online?

(L) Girl Online - A User's Manual front cover. (R) Joanna Walsh



Joanna Walsh offers a profound and moving investigation into the online experience of women in her forthcoming book, Girl Online – A User’s Manual (published by Verso, released 10 May 2022)

The unwritten contract of the internet, that a user is what is used, extends from the well-examined issue of data privacy and consent to the very selves women are encouraged to create in order to appear.

Invited to self-construct as ‘girls online’, vloggers, bloggers and influencers sign a devil’s bargain: a platform on the condition that they commodify themselves, eternally youthful and responsibility-free, hiding offline domestic, professional and emotional labour while paying for their online presence with ‘accounts’ of personal ‘experience’.

In conversation with Sian Norris, Walsh examines selfies, social media, celebrity and cyberfeminism, exploding the terms and conditions of appearing online under the sign of ‘girl’.

Presented in partnership with Bristol Ideas, as part of a year-round series of conversations about writing and art.

“Skilfully captures the fragmentary nature of online existence, the slippery nature of our online selves and their endless interpretations, and both the connections and the alienation that come with it. This is a deep and yet beautifully light meditation on what the internet is doing to our brains.” – Juliet Jacques, author of Trans

“A brilliant, timely act of feminist resistance. Walsh wields language as deliberately as a surgeon her knife. She doesn’t miss a trick, or an opportunity for (s)wordplay. Here as ever she is “good to think” with, a formidable and original theorist for and beyond our online era.” – Lauren Elkin, author of Flaneuse

Joanna Walsh

Joanna Walsh is a multidisciplinary writer for print, digital and performance. She is the author of seven books including Hotel, Vertigo, Worlds from the Word’s End and Break*up she also works as a critic, editor, teacher and arts activist. She is a UK Arts Foundation fellow, and the recipient of the Markievicz Award in the Republic of Ireland. She founded and ran #readwomen (2014-18), described by the New York Times as “a rallying cry for equal treatment for women writers” and currently runs @noentry_arts.


Sian Norris is a writer and journalist specialising in reproductive and LGBTIQ rights. Her work has been published by openDemocracy 50:50, the Guardian, the i, New Statesman, Byline Times, and many more. Her book, Birth Violence, explores how the Far Right is attacking women’s reproductive rights in Europe and will be published by Verso in Autumn 2022. She is also the founder of the Bristol Women’s Literature Festival. Follow her on Twitter @sianushka

Reading Between the Lines

A series of conversations around writing and art and/or the intersection between. Prior knowledge of the text is not essential.

In partnership with