Cyberfeminism (Women in STEM)
By Janeris Kelly ’19
One major takeaway from my personal research on cyberfeminism is that the offline and online world are not two separate spheres; in fact, they both interact and influence each other. There are some scholars, including feminists, who do not think that online activities can cause
The online world can allow for change to occur in the offline world and vice versa. However, this change can be for the better or worse, depending almost exclusively on users of the online world. For example, the million women’s march was almost exclusively coordinated through the online communication of several women; the pizzagate scandal also was initiated through online communication- more specifically, the propagation of fake news within online communities (Everett 1279).
Online activities can also serve as a political stance against offline phenomenon. A great example of this is the online communities’ stance on sexual assault and violence, specifically when related to popular celebrities. Online communities accosted celebrities who were accused of sexual misconduct while supporting those who have been victims of sexual assault/violence. A very popular example of this would be Robin Thicke’s controversial song ‘Blurred Lines’. While Thicke was on a live interview, viewers were given the chance to ask questions on twitter and Thicke would then respond to these questions live. Initially, twitter users asked the usual questions pertaining to celebrities; however, the interview quickly took a turn when tweets started to accuse Thicke’s song of being a ‘rape anthem’. Users shared their experiences of sexual assault, comparing song lyrics to the words of their rapists. Additionally, users accosted Thicke on live television for his blatant disregard for the lyrics as well as his attitude towards sexual assault and women more generally. On the other hand, celebrities like Kesha and Lady Gaga use social media platforms and their visibility as stars to discuss their experiences and provide an example for other victims of sexual assault (The Guardian).
The idea of that the online world is intricately connected with the offline world is also exhibited in users’ interacting amongst themselves. The personal quickly becomes the political as users create hashtags and posts to bring light to offline experiences (Highfield 14). Some examples of this include the #Metoo, #PadsAgainstSexism and #freethenipple online movements. All of these serve to highlight and propagate injustices experienced by those in the offline world that are not brought to attention. Online platforms then allow individuals to connect with others that have had similar experiences and propagate those ideas and reach bigger audiences. Women use social media to bring light to and challenge the everyday discrimination they face; more specifically, social media is a way for women to ‘talk back’ to the dominant discourse (Keller, Mendes and Ringrose 3). Some women, for example, used social media platforms to post pictures of men who legally got away with flashing or masturbating (to them) in public. Even if the offline world authorities would not be able to accost these men, women used the online world to even the playing field and censuring these behaviors themselves (Jackson 5). This also served to literally expose the men who had acted this way online.
Cyberfeminism explores the relationship between the offline and online world; more specifically, the way that the two interact and inform each other. Cyberfeminist theories help users and scholars alike conceptualize the complicated relationship between two seemingly distinct worlds. Social media platforms like
The internet can serve to propagate and magnify harmful ideologies that are also prevalent in the offline world. The online world exists almost purely through texts and images. The extensive dependence on language allows for patriarchal and sexist
All in all, one of the major takeaways of my research and group project was the complicated relationship between humans and the online world. Optimistic scholars and feminists see the internet as a place where people can exist without the constraints of the ‘real’ world. Others see the internet as a place where hatred and fake news is rampant. However, it’s simply not that straightforward. Like every other human invention, the internet is dependent on us as humans. The internet can be liberating if we allow it to be, and it can also spread hateful ideas if that’s what we utilize it for. The internet and online world is not a force of it’s own. For better or for worse, we have control over our online world. We can control what we see and use the internet for. We, as users and creators of the online world, have the ultimate power over it.
Christensen, Henrik S. 2011. “Political Activities on the Internet: Slacktivism or political participation by other means?” First Monday 16(2):1-10. Retrieved from: http://firstmonday.org/article/view/3336/2767
Everett, Anna. 2004. “On Cyberfeminism and Cyberwomanism: High-Tech Mediations of Feminism’s Discontents.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 30(1):1278-1286.