Cyberfeminism

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Cyberfeminism is a postmodernist keyword used to describe the philosophies of a contemporary feminist community whose interests are cyberspace, the Internet, and technology.[1][2] The term was coined in the early 1990s to describe the work of feminists interested in theorizing, critiquing, and exploiting the Internet, cyberspace, and new-media technologies in general.[2]

Cyberfeminism is considered a predecessor to networked feminism.

The dominant cyberfeminist perspective takes a utopian view of cyberspace and the Internet as a means of freedom from social constructs like gender and sex difference. Cyberfeminism views technology as a vehicle for the dissolution of sex and gender as well as a means to link the body with machines.[1] In a newly emerging society that immerses itself with and within technological devices and advanced operating systems, culture slowly begins to become more oriented through technology. It is with the use of online portals that lead to feminists researching the implications through a gender studies lens, studying how relationships between opposing genders and sexes have transformed.

Definition[edit]

Cyberfeminism refers to the application of the feminism(s) ideology to and/or performed in cyberspace. An authoritative definition of cyberfeminism is difficult to find in written works because early cyberfeminists deliberately evaded a rigid elucidation.[3][nb 1]

Scholars such as Jessie Daniels suggests that "Cyberfeminism is neither a single theory nor a feminist movement with a clearly articulated political agenda. Rather, "cyberfeminism" refers to a range of theories, debates, and practices about the relationship between gender and digital culture..." In addition, "within and among cyberfeminism(s) there are a number of theoretical and political stances in relation to Internet technology and gender as well as a noticeable ambivalence about a unified feminist political project" Jessie Daniels, Rethinking Cyberfeminism(s): Race, Gender, and Embodiment

Whereas Yvonne Volkart from the old boys network states that “Cyberfeminism is a myth. A myth is a story of unidentifiable origin, or of different origins. A myth is based on one central story which is retold over and over in different variations. A myth denies one history as well as one truth, and implies a search for truth in the spaces, in the differences between the different stories. Speaking about Cyberfeminism as a myth, is not intended to mystify it, it simply indicates that Cyberfeminism only exists in plural”.Yvonne Volkart, The Truth about Cyberfeminism

There is not yet a definition to conclude the meaning of Cyberfeminism. Cyberfeminism is not just the subject matter, but is the approach taken to examine subject matter. For example: Cyberfeminism can be a critique at equality in cyberspace, challenge the gender stereotype in the cyberspace, examine the gender relationship in cyberspace, examine the collaboration between human and technology, examine the relationship between women and technology and more. For examples: the innovation of internet has a huge impact on women’s lives (Like how the innovation of telephone bought women security from crime and no longer being isolated from geographical constraint), the idea of digital life has been introduced to all users of the internet; but is this new technology liberating or oppressing women? In this sense, we can think of this innovation once again free women from time and space constraints which enable them to become active users on the web. On the other hand, this innovation can possibly oppress women by encouraging cybersex, pornography or prostitution which ultimately makes them more vulnerable. Therefore, Cyberfeminism is the approach to examine these matters.Rosser, Sue V., Using the Lenses of Feminist Theories to Focus on Women and Technology, 2006

History[edit]

The term cyberfeminism first came about in 1992, according to Carolyn Guertin, "at a particular moment in time, 1992, simultaneously at three different points on the globe."[6] In Canada, Nancy Paterson, wrote an article entitled "Cyberfeminism" for the Echo Gopher server.[7]

In Adelaide, Australia, a four person collective called VNS Matrix wrote the Cyberfeminist Manifesto and used the term to label their radical feminist acts "to insert women, bodily fluids and political consciousness into electronic spaces."[6][8] That same year, British cultural theorist Sadie Plant used the term to describe definition of the feminizing influence of technology on western society.[6] Guertin goes on to say that the first international cyberfeminist conference in Germany, in 1997, refused to define the school of thought, but drafted the "100 Anti-Theses of Cyberfeminism" instead.[6] Guertin says that Cyberfeminism is a celebration of multiplicity.[6]

The foundational catalyst for the formation of cyberfeminist thought is also attributed to feminist critique of the misogynistic overtones of cyberpunk literature in the 1980s,[9] the publication of Donna Haraway's seminal article A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,[10] and the critical theory of several notable authors working from a range of disciplines, which includes the work of Avital Ronell, Sadie Plant, Sandy Stone (artist), and N. Katherine Hayles.[citation needed]

Donna Haraway is the inspiration and genesis for cyberfeminism with her 1985 essay "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century" which was reprinted in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (1991). Haraway's essay speaks of how cyborgs are able to transcend the public and private spheres. They do not have the ability to identify with their origins or with nature in order to develop a sense of understanding through differences between self and others. As Haraway explains, the cyborg "has no truck with bisexuality, pre-oedipal symbiosis, unalienated labor, or other seductions to organic wholeness through a final appropriation of all powers of the parts into a higher unity." [11]

Cyberfeminism arose partly as a reaction to “the pessimism of the 1980s feminist approaches that stressed the inherently masculine nature of techno-science”,[12] a counter movement against the ‘toys for boys’ perception of new Internet technologies.[13] As cyberfeminist artist Faith Wilding argued:

"If feminism is to be adequate to its cyberpotential then it must mutate to keep up with the shifting complexities of social realities and life conditions as they are changed by the profound impact communications technologies and techno science have on all our lives. It is up to cyberfeminists to use feminist theoretical insights and strategic tools and join them with cybertechniques to battle the very real sexism, racism, and militarism encoded in the software and hardware of the Net, thus politicizing this environment."[14]

Art[edit]

"Cyberfeminism in its very nature necessitates a decentered, multiple, participatory practice in which many lines of flight coexist."[15] Alex Galloway

The practice of cyberfeminist art is inextricably intertwined with cyberfeminist theory. The 100 anti-theses make clear that cyberfeminism is not just about theory, while theory is extremely important, cyberfeminism requires participation. As one member of the cyberfeminist collective the Old Boys Network writes, cyberfeminism is “linked to aesthetic and ironic strategies as intrinsic tools within the growing importance of design and aesthetics in the new world order of flowing pancapitalism”.[13] Cyberfeminism also has strong connections with the DIY feminism movement, as noted in the seminal text DIY Feminism,[16] a grass roots movement that encourages active participation, especially as a solo practitioner or a small collective.

Around the late nineties several cyberfeminist artists and theorists gained a measure of recognition for their works, including the above mentioned VNS Matrix and their Cyberfeminist Manifesto for the 21st century,[17] and Faith Wilding and Critical Art Ensemble. Some of the better-known examples of cyberfeminist work include Linda Dement’s Cyberflesh Girlmonster[18] a hypertext CD-ROM that incorporates images of women’s body parts and remixes them to create new monstrous yet beautiful shapes; and Shu Lea Cheang with the 1998 work Brandon which was the first Internet based artwork to be commissioned and collected by the Guggenheim.[19]

The decline in volume of cyberfeminist literature in recent years would suggest that cyberfeminism has somewhat lost momentum as a movement, however, in terms of artists and artworks cyberfeminism is still taking place. Recent artworks of note include Evelin Stermitz’s World of Female Avatars[20] in which the artist has collected quotes and images from women over the world and displayed them in an interactive browser based format, and Regina Pinto’s Many Faces of Eve.[21]

Goals[edit]

The goals of cyberfeminist artists are varied, as there is no one ‘feminism’ but rather many feminisms, and cyberfeminist artists are as likely to draw on any one particular feminist school of thought (for example socialist feminism) as they are to work without acknowledgement of any theoretical background. However, Faith Wilding in her account of the first Cyberfeminist International listed several areas that were agreed upon as areas in which more research and further work was considered desirable, including: promotion of cyberfeminist artists theorists and speakers; publishing of cyberfeminist theory and criticism; cyberfeminist education projects; creating coalitions with female technical professionals; and creating new self-representations and avatars that “disrupt and recode the gender biases usual in current commercially available ones”.[14]

With the public acceptance of the Internet came a utopian belief that in this new neutral territory users would be able to shed their gendered bodies and be androgynous equals in cyberspace. Unsurprisingly, this has not turned out to be the case – "every social issue that we are familiar with in the real world will now have its counter-part in the virtual one."[22]

Although there was a surge of art and research happening in the cyberfeminist field in the late nineties, that surge has subsided and many may conclude we are living in a post-cyberfeminist world (wide web). This backlash is evident in real-world feminism also, with many young women believing that feminism is either unattractive or that it has succeeded in providing equality for the sexes and is no longer needed.[23]

Listserves[edit]

An important part of the generation of cyberfeminist theory and critique was the emergence of a few critical listserves that served as the basis for the organization of three international cyberfeminist events and several major publications.[citation needed]

  • Nettime - More broadly situated in new media theory the nettime listserve became a site for the discussion, performance, and arbitration of cyberfeminist theory in 1997.[citation needed]
  • FACES - The FACES listserve started in the spring of 1997 out of a series of concurrent dinner conversations known as the Face Settings Project. The initial goal of the project was to bring together women working in the intersections of art, media, and technology for a meal and discussion. The FACES listserve was created as a means for the already existent network of artists, curators, djs, designers, activists, programmers, and technologists meeting through the Face Settings Project to continue and start further conversation about gender and media with a larger international network.[24]
  • subRosa - a cyberfeminist collective.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Cyberfeminism, like other critical theoretical frameworks such as queer theory or feminist theory, is a conceptual production that resists formal definition. In her article about the First Cyberfeminist International in 1997, Old Boys Network collective member and co-founder of the group Subrosa, Faith Wilding wrote that "the question of how to define cyberfeminism is at the heart of the often contradictory contemporary positions of women working with new technologies and feminist politics."[4] At the First Cyberfeminist International was an attempt to define cyberfeminism through refusal, which resulted in the production of the Old Boys Network's "100 Anti-theses"; Cyberfeminism is not: an ideology, an institution, a structure, or exclusive.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Wajcman, Judy (May 2006). "TechnoCapitalism Meets TechnoFeminism: Women and Technology in a Wireless World". Labor and Industry 16 (3): 12. 
  2. ^ a b Consalvo, Mia (2003). "Cyberfeminism". The Encyclopedia of New Media. p. 1987. ISBN 978-0-7619-2382-4. 
  3. ^ "100 anti-theses". Old Boys Network. 1997.[dead link]
  4. ^ Wilding, Faith (1997). "Where is Feminism in Cyberfeminism?". 
  5. ^ "101 Anti-theses". Old Boys Network. 1997. Retrieved February 1, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Guertin, Carolyn (2003). Quantum Feminist Mnemotechnics: The Archival Text, Digital Narrative and The Limits of Memory. University of Alberta. 
  7. ^ Hawthorne, Susan. Klein, Renate eds. CyberFeminism: Connectivity, Critique and Creativity. Spinifex Press, 1999. pg4.
  8. ^ Rosser, Sue V. (2005). "Through the Lenses of Feminist Theory: Focus on Women and Information Technology". Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies (University of Nebraska Press) 26 (1): 1–23. 
  9. ^ Fletcher, Beryl; hawthorne, Susan (1999). "Cyberfiction: a Fictional Journey Through Cyberspace (or How I Became a Cyberfeminist)". Cyberfeminism: Connectivity, Critique and Creativity. Spinifex Press. p. 339. ISBN 187555968X. 
  10. ^ Full text of the article Cyborg Manifesto (an archived copy, in the Wayback Machine)
  11. ^ Full text of the article Cyborg Manifesto from The European Graduate School, paragraph 5.
  12. ^ Wajcman, Judy (2004). TechnoFeminism. Cambridge, UK: Polity. ISBN 978-0-7456-3044-1. 
  13. ^ a b Sollfrank, Cornelia. "The Truth about Cyberfeminism". 
  14. ^ a b Wilding, Faith (1998). "Where is the Feminism in Cyberfeminism?" (PDF). n.paradoxa: international feminist art journal 2 (1): 6–13. 
  15. ^ Galloway, Alex. "A Report on Cyberfeminism: Sadie Plant relative to VNS Matrix". Switch 4 (1). 
  16. ^ Ball, Kathy, ed. (1996). Do it Yourself Feminism. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-1-86448-231-7. 
  17. ^ Pierce, Julianne (1998). "Info Heavy Cyber Babe", First Cyberfeminist International, C.S.a.O.B. Network, OBN: Hamburg.
  18. ^ Dement, Linda. Cyberflesh Girlmonster 1995.
  19. ^ "Shu Lea Cheang. Brandon, 1998–99.". Guggenheim Museum. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  20. ^ Stermitz, Evelin (October 2008). "World of Female Avatars: An Artistic Online Survey on the Female Body in Times of Virtual Reality". Leonardo 41 (5): 538–539. 
  21. ^ Pinto, Regina (2005). The Many Face of Eve.
  22. ^ Spender, Dale (1996). Nattering on the Net: Women, Power and Cyberspace. Garamond Press. ISBN 978-1-55193-004-6. 
  23. ^ Dallow, Jessica (Summer 2003). "Rethinking Feminism and Visual Culture". NWSA Journal 15 (2): 135–143. doi:10.1353/nwsa.2003.0050. 
  24. ^ "FACES story". Retrieved February 1, 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]