Cyberfeminism

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Cyberfeminism is a genre of contemporary feminism which foregrounds the relationship between cyberspace, the Internet and technology. It can be used to refer to a philosophy, methodology or community.[1] The term was coined in the early 1990s to describe the work of feminists interested in theorizing, critiquing, exploring and re-making the Internet, cyberspace and new-media technologies in general. The foundational catalyst for the formation of cyberfeminist thought is attributed to Donna Haraway's The Cyborg Manifesto, third wave feminism, post-structuralist feminism, riot grrrl culture and the feminist critique of the blatant erasure of women within discussions of technology.

Definition[edit]

Cyberfeminism is a sort of alliance that wants to defy any sort of boundaries of identity and definition and rather be truly postmodern in its potential for radical openness.[2] This is seen with the 1997 Old Boys Network's100 anti-theses which lists the 100 ways "cyberfeminism is not."[3] Cornelia Sollfrank 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."[4]

Mia Consalvo defines cyberfeminism as: 1) a label for women—especially young women who might not even want to align with feminism's history—not just to consume new technologies but to actively participate in their making; 2) a critical engagement with new technologies and their entanglement with power structures and systemic oppression.[5]

The dominant cyberfeminist perspective takes a utopian view of cyberspace and the Internet as a means of freedom from social constructs such as gender, sex difference and race. It also sees technology as a means to link the body with machines. VNS Matrix member, Julianne Pierce defines cyberfeminism: "In 1991, in a cozy Australian city called Adelaide, four bored girls decided to have some fun with art and French Feminist theory…with homage to Donna Haraway they began to play around with the idea of cyberfeminism."[6]

Authors Hawthorne and Klein explain the different analyses of cyberfeminism in their book: "Just as there are liberal, socialist, radical and postmodern feminists, so too one finds these positions reflected in the interpretations of cyberfeminism."[7] 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.[8]

Theoretical Background[edit]

Cyberfeminism arose partly as a reaction to "the pessimism of the 1980s feminist approaches that stressed the inherently masculine nature of techno-science", a counter movement against the 'toys for boys' perception of new Internet technologies. 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."

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).[9] Haraway's essay states that cyborgs are able to transcend the public and private spheres, but 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. Haraway states that the cyborg "has no truck with 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."

Cyberfeminism is considered a predecessor to networked feminism. Cyberfeminism also has a relationship to the field of feminist science and technology studies.

British cultural theorist Sadie Plant chose cyberfeminism to describe her recipe for defining the feminizing influence of technology on western society and its inhabitants.[10]

Timeline[edit]

1990s[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." In Canada, Nancy Paterson wrote an article entitled "Cyberfeminism" for EchoNYC.

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." That same year, British cultural theorist Sadie Plant used the term to describe definition of the feminizing influence of technology on western society. Guertin goes on to say that the first Cyberfeminist International, organized by the Old Boys Network in Germany, in 1997, refused to define the school of thought, but drafted the "100 Anti-Theses of Cyberfeminism" instead. Guertin says that Cyberfeminism is a celebration of multiplicity.

In 1996, a special volume of Women & Performance was devoted to sexuality and cyberspace. It was a compendium of essays on cybersex, online stalking, fetal imaging, and going digital in New York.[11]

2000s[edit]

In 2003 the feminist anthology Sisterhood Is Forever: The Women's Anthology for a New Millennium was published; it includes the essay "Cyberfeminism: Networking the Net" by Amy Richards and Marianne Schnall.[12]

2010s[edit]

Usage of the term cyberfeminism has faded away after the millennium, partly as a result of the dot.com bubble burst that bruised the utopian bent of much of digital culture. Radhika Gajjala and Yeon Ju Oh's Cyberfeminism 2.0 argues that cyberfeminism in the 21st century has taken many new forms and focuses on the different aspects of women's participation online. They find cyberfeminists in women's blogging networks and their conferences, in women's gaming, in fandom, in social media, in online mothers' groups performing pro-breastfeeding activism, and in online spaces developed and populated by marginal networks of women in non-Western countries.[13]

Feminist action and activism online is prevalent, especially by women of colour, but has taken on different intersectional terms.[14][1] While there are writing on black cyberfeminism which argue that not only is race not absent in our use of the internet, but race is a key component in how we interact with the internet,.[15] However, women of colour generally do not associate with cyberfeminism,[16] and rather re-frame afrofuturism in feminist terms.[17]

Xenofeminism is an offshoot of cyberfeminism that came into existence through a collective that calls themselves Laboria Cuboniks.[18] In their manifesto, Xenofeminism: A Politics for Alienation, it argues against nature as natural and immutable for a future where all identities are non-binary and in which feminism destabilizes and uses the master's tools for their own rebuilding of life: "Xenofeminism is gender-abolitionist. 'Gender abolitionism' is shorthand for the ambition to construct a society where traits currently assembled under the rubric of gender, no longer furnish a grid for the asymmetric operation of power. 'Race abolitionism' expands into a similar formula -- that the struggle must continue until currently racialized characteristics are no more a basis of discrimination than the color of one's eyes. Ultimately, every emancipatory abolitionism must incline towards the horizon of class abolitionism, since it is in capitalism where we encounter oppression in its transparent, denaturalized form: you're not exploited or oppressed because you are a wage labourer or poor; you are a labourer or poor because you are exploited."[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, not only cyberfeminism is still taking place, but its artistic and theoretical contribution has been of crucial importance to the development of posthuman aesthetics.[20]

Critiques[edit]

Many critiques of cyberfeminism have focused on its lack of intersectional focus, its utopian vision of cyberspace, especially cyberstalking and cyber-abuse,[21] its whiteness and elite community building.

One of the major critiques of cyberfeminism, especially as it was in its heyday in the 1990s, was that it required economic privilege to get online: "By all means let [poor women] have access to the Internet, just as all of us have it—like chocolate cake or AIDS," writes activist Annapurna Mamidipudi. "Just let it not be pushed down their throats as 'empowering.' Otherwise this too will go the way of all imposed technology and achieve the exact opposite of what it purports to do."[22] Cyberfeminist artist and thinker Faith Wilding also critiques its utopian vision for not doing the tough work of technical, theoretical and political education.

Art & Artists[edit]

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[23] 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".[24] Cyberfeminism also has strong connections with the DIY feminism movement, as noted in the seminal text DIY Feminism,[25] 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,[26] and Faith Wilding and Critical Art Ensemble. Some of the better-known examples of cyberfeminist work include Auriea Harvey's work, Sandy Stone, Linda Dement's Cyberflesh Girlmonster[27] a hypertext CD-ROM that incorporates images of women's body parts and remixes them to create new monstrous yet beautiful shapes; Melinda Rackham's Carrier, a work of web-based multimedia art that explores the relationship between humans and infectious agents;,[28] Shu Lea Cheang's 1998 work Brandon, which was the first Internet based artwork to be commissioned and collected by the Guggenheim.[29] Dr. Caitlin Fisher's online hypertext novella “‘These Waves of Girls“ is set in three time periods of the protagonist exploring polymorphous perversity enacted in her queer identity through memory. The story is written as a reflection diary of the interconnected memories of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. It consists of an associated multi-modal collection of nodes includes linked text, still and moving images, manipulable images, animations, and sound clips. Recent artworks of note include Evelin Stermitz's World of Female Avatars 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.[30] O[rphan] D[frift>] (1994-2003) were a 4.5 person collective experimenting with writing, art, music and the internet's potential "treating information as matter and the image as a unit of contagion."[31]

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-l.net mailing list started in the spring of 1997 partly 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 to share their work and to counter the lack of women's work presented at international festivals. Faces-l was created as a means for the artists, curators, djs, designers, activists, programmers, and technologists meeting at festivals to share their work and discuss gender and media with an international community of women.[32]

Notable Theorists[edit]

Susanna Paasonen

Sadie Plant

N. Katherine Hayles

Theresa Senft

Radhika Gajjala

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Harlow, Megan Jean (2013), "Cyberfeminism", The Multimedia Encyclopedia of Women in Today's World Encyclopedia of Women in Today's World (2 ed.), SAGE Publications, Inc., pp. 430–433, doi:10.4135/9781452270388.n94, ISBN 9781452270388, retrieved 2018-07-31 
  2. ^ Harlow, Megan Jean (2013), "Cyberfeminism", The Multimedia Encyclopedia of Women in Today's World Encyclopedia of Women in Today's World (2 ed.), SAGE Publications, Inc., pp. 430–433, doi:10.4135/9781452270388.n94, ISBN 9781452270388, retrieved 2018-07-31 
  3. ^ "old boys network". obn.org. Retrieved 2018-07-31. 
  4. ^ Sollfrank, Cornelia. "The truth about cyberfeminism". obn.org. The Old Boys Network. 
    See also: Sollfrank, Cornelia (2002), "The final truth about cyberfeminism", in von Oldenburg, Helene; Reiche, Claudia, Very cyberfeminist international reader: OBN Conference, Hamburg, December 13-16, 2001 (PDF), Berlin: B-books, pp. 108–112, ISBN 9783933557346. 
    and: Reiche, Claudia (2002), "Disagreement with Cornelia Sollfrank's 'The final truth about cyberfeminism'", in von Oldenburg, Helene; Reiche, Claudia, Very cyberfeminist international reader: OBN Conference, Hamburg, December 13-16, 2001 (PDF), Berlin: B-books, pp. 114–117, ISBN 9783933557346. 
  5. ^ Consalvo, Mia (2003), "Cyberfeminism", Encyclopedia of New Media, SAGE Publications, Inc., pp. 108–109, doi:10.4135/9781412950657.n57, ISBN 9780761923824, retrieved 2018-07-31 
  6. ^ Sollfrank, Cornelia (1998). First Cyberfeminist International. obn. 
  7. ^ Hawthorne, Susan; Klein, Renate D. (1999), "Introduction", in Hawthorne, Susan; Klein, Renate D., Cyberfeminism: connectivity, critique and creativity, North Melbourne: Spinifex Press, p. 4, ISBN 9781875559688.  Preview.
  8. ^ Rosser, Sue V. (2005). "Through the lenses of feminist theory: focus on women and information technology". Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies. 26 (1): 1–23. doi:10.1353/fro.2005.0015. JSTOR 4137430. 
    • Also as: Rosser, Sue V. (2006), "Using the lenses of feminist theories to focus on women and technology", in Rosser, Sue V.; Fox, Mary Frank; Johnson, Deborah G., Women, gender, and technology, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, pp. 13–46, ISBN 9780252073366.  Details.
  9. ^ Cybersexualities : a reader on feminist theory, cyborgs, and cyberspace. Wolmark, Jenny. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 1999. ISBN 978-0748611171. OCLC 42579667. 
  10. ^ 1964-, Plant, Sadie, (2006). The most radical gesture : the Situationist International in a postmodern age. Routledge. ISBN 978-0415062213. OCLC 814233726. 
  11. ^ "https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rwap20/9/1?nav=tocList". www.tandfonline.com. Retrieved 2018-07-31.  External link in |title= (help)
  12. ^ 1941-, Morgan, Robin, (2003). Sisterhood is forever : the women's anthology for a new millennium. Washington Square Press. ISBN 978-0743466271. OCLC 51854519. 
  13. ^ Cyberfeminism 2.0. Gajjala, Radhika, 1960-, Oh, Yeon Ju. New York: Peter Lang Pub. 2012. ISBN 9781433113598. OCLC 752472588. 
  14. ^ Kuntsman, Adi; Al-Qasimi, Noor (2012-08-15). "Introduction". Journal of Middle East Women's Studies. 8 (3): 1–13. ISSN 1558-9579. 
  15. ^ Daniels, Jessie (2009). "Rethinking Cyberfeminism(s): Race, Gender, and Embodiment". Women's Studies Quarterly. 37 (1/2): 101–124. JSTOR 27655141. 
  16. ^ Cottom, Tressie McMillan (2016-12-07). "Black Cyberfeminism: Ways Forward for Classification Situations, Intersectionality and Digital Sociology". doi:10.31235/osf.io/vnvh9. Retrieved 2018-07-31. 
  17. ^ Morris, Susana M. (2013). "Black Girls Are from the Future: Afrofuturist Feminism in Octavia E. Butler's Fledgling". WSQ: Women's Studies Quarterly. 40 (3): 146–166. doi:10.1353/wsq.2013.0034. ISSN 1934-1520. 
  18. ^ 1983-, Hester, Helen, (2018-05-29). Xenofeminism. Cambridge. ISBN 9781509520626. OCLC 992779765. 
  19. ^ "Xenofeminist Manifesto - xenofeminism". xenofeminism. Retrieved 2018-07-31. 
  20. ^ Olszanowski, Magdalena (2014-04-03). "Feminist Self-Imaging and Instagram: Tactics of Circumventing Sensorship". Visual Communication Quarterly. 21 (2): 83–95. doi:10.1080/15551393.2014.928154. ISSN 1555-1393. 
  21. ^ Gilbert, Pamela (1996-01). "On sex, cyberspace, and being stalked". Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory. 9 (1): 125–149. doi:10.1080/07407709608571254. ISSN 0740-770X.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  22. ^ Senft, Theresa M. (2003), "Gender and New Media", Encyclopedia of New Media, SAGE Publications, Inc., pp. 202–205, doi:10.4135/9781412950657.n105, ISBN 9780761923824, retrieved 2018-08-02 
  23. ^ "Home page". obn.org. Old Boys Network. 
  24. ^ Sollfrank, Cornelia. "The truth about cyberfeminism". obn.org. The Old Boys Network. 
    See also: Sollfrank, Cornelia (2002), "The final truth about cyberfeminism", in von Oldenburg, Helene; Reiche, Claudia, Very cyberfeminist international reader: OBN Conference, Hamburg, December 13-16, 2001 (PDF), Berlin: B-books, pp. 108–112, ISBN 9783933557346. 
    and: Reiche, Claudia (2002), "Disagreement with Cornelia Sollfrank's 'The final truth about cyberfeminism'", in von Oldenburg, Helene; Reiche, Claudia, Very cyberfeminist international reader: OBN Conference, Hamburg, December 13-16, 2001 (PDF), Berlin: B-books, pp. 114–117, ISBN 9783933557346. 
  25. ^ Bail, Kathy (1996). DIY feminism. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 9781864482317. 
  26. ^ Pierce, Julianne (1998). "info heavy cyber babe" (PDF). First Cyberfeminist International. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 February 2017. 
  27. ^ Dement, Linda. "Cyberflesh Girlmonster 1995". lindadement.com. 
  28. ^ Barnett, Tully (July 2014). "Monstrous agents: cyberfeminist media and activism". Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media & Technology. 5. 
  29. ^ Jones, Caitlin. "Review of Brandon 1998–99, by Shu Lea Cheang". Guggenheim Museum. Archived from the original on 20 April 2016. Retrieved 8 February 2017. 
  30. ^ Stermitz, Evelin (2008-10-23). "World of Female Avatars: An Artistic Online Survey on the Female Body in Times of Virtual Reality". Leonardo. 41 (5): 538–539. ISSN 1530-9282. 
  31. ^ "Orphan Drift - Monoskop". monoskop.org. Retrieved 2018-08-03. 
  32. ^ "FACES story". Retrieved February 1, 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]