Cyberfeminism

What is Cyberfeminism? Claire Evans of Vice’s Motherboard defines Cyberfeminism as “A wave of thought, criticism, and art that emerged in the early 1990s, galvanizing a generation of feminists, before bursting along with the dot-com bubble” (Evans). We, the Internet Kids, were just being born at this time. We never knew a life outside of this. We grew up trapped within the media and advertising, with no way to escape; we searched for jobs when the time came, but there just were none to be found. In the Internet we found refuge in each other, connecting to individuals all over the world. Our information was scattered around across the world wide web where anyone might pick up on it.

When studying the previous three formal waves of feminism, they are broken down into specific periods of time. The beautiful thing about Cyberfeminism, I think, is that we have reached a point in dialogue about womens’ rights that have reached out This is different, however, because it ties together human rights activism as a whole.

Why is it different from the past waves of feminism? It is very much outside of the body and the self. It is about examining inside of yourself and coming to terms with your being and being at one with others and understanding that interconnectedness. It is about tapping into community and finding love and acceptance and being okay and happy with who you are. It is embracing the self.

“Cyberfeminism for me is the the thoughtful consideration of the ongoing relationship between femininity and digital technology. It involves the feminine body as broken down into minute parts and moved across the world,” says Gabriella Hileman, one of three creators of the Cybertwee network.

A portrait of Gabriella Hileman taken by Violet Forest.

“The cyborg represents a postmodernist utopia of a genderless world without genesis,” states Maya Zalbidea Paniagua in Cyberfeminist Theories and the Benefits of Teaching Cyberfeminist Literature. This idea of cyborg as a utopic entity is is fascinating, because it is something I see occurring more and more in the every day. In youth culture, androgyny has become pervasive and integral. Gender has been separated between male and female and social norms have held these beliefs to be true. The Internet, however, lets us step outside of ourselves and connect in a way that has not previously been possible. This can be very clearly seen in the scope of online media, ranging from the gay rights movement of the 2000s to the closely related trans* rights movement, as well as the coverage of women’s reproductive rights in the digital realm. In this new virtual world, we can all function as one being; instead of being individually separated, especially by gender and body. We can all peer into each other’s minds and understand how they function.

Cybertwee is a movement that builds from this idea of interconnectedness, providing a platform for all to bond together, regardless of personal background and/or identity. Followers of Cybertwee culture believe that with the embracing of femininity comes a more universal outlook on life. “The singularity is dear. Far too long have we succumb to [the] bitter edge of the idea that power is lost in the sweet and tender,” reads the Cybertwee manifesto in cute pink and red letters with fading color GIF hearts overlaid on top of the image.

The Cybertwee Manifesto in GIF form.

This manifesto is a response to the sexist society we live in today. Women are pervasive in technology, both in the creation and consumption ends. Cybertwee encourages taking back the strength of being feminine; a response to the masochistic world we live in which over-accentuates masculine qualities as the sole source of strength. When I interviewed Hileman over Facebook where she shared some information with me about the idea of Cyberfeminism as a fourth wave of feminism and the idea of the isms merging into one.

“the previous ‘waves’ of feminism have been decades apart. it’s tempting to feel like the different eras of feminism should mirror the exponential curve that technological development seems to be taking in their increasing brevity. i feel like breaking movements into distinct movements is going to be less useful as time goes on because as the rapidity of idea exchange increases, i think things are going to feel more graduated than segmented,” says Hileman.

Pussy Riot is a Russian punk band infamous for its critique of Russian government. They have become political superstars, spurring tons of attention toward gay rights in Russia and most recently toward the Eric Garner case in New York City.

The music video for their first English song “I Can’t Breathe” features two lead singers wearing Russian riot police uniforms with the word “HOMO” written backwards. They are laying in a dark pit as dirt is shoveled onto them until they are fully covered. The line “It’s getting dark in New York City,” is repeated throughout the song, referring to the recent incident regarding the death of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who was choked to death by a police officer for selling cigarettes under allegedly illegal circumstances. A huge uproar of protests and riots emerged due to similar events, such as Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri or Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida (who were both shot for seemingly petty reasons).

A screenshot of Pussy Riot’s “I Can’t Breathe” video..

Pussy Riot has adapted social media to work in a way that reaches huge crowds through music, but also raises awareness on topics that they think need to be discussed more transparently.

Technology has put the power in the hands of so many people who have not previously had power. We are able to connect, organize and protest on whim. When we see something, we say something. Women absolutely embrace this and lead this in many functions, yes; but I also believe that a lot of women are interested in helping lots of people, not just themselves. That’s what I think is so special about Cyberfeminism. It is a way to reach past gender and the confusion and stereotypes that come along with this and have a suitable, formal debate using rational thinking that is based on facts and evidence and reporting; not mere “empirical evidence.”

Emma Watson is a prime example of mainstream feminism and the adaptation of Cyberfeminism. Being the smart one in Harry Potter who sought out knowledge and encouraged girls and boys everywhere to do the same, she is an role model for many people in the world. Her #HeForShe movement really connects to massive numbers of fans across the world. She has embraced social media for the power it wields and is using it to reshape the system on a global level. She states the #HeForShe project would like to “gather as many men and boys as possible to advocate for change” in her speech directed toward the UN. This is brilliant, because men are often kept out of feminist conversations. They are often so busy acting their masculine parts that they don’t have time to recognize the brilliance of the feminine identity and the power that lies within this. Emma Watson, has played the role of Hermione Granger in every Harry Potter movie, studied at Brown University, modeled for Burberry and now works for UN (United Nations) Women campaigning for gender equality.

She stands up in front of world leaders as UN Women’s Global Goodwill Ambassador. “Fighting for women’s rights has become too synonymous with man-hating.” She speaks of her direct experiences of being sexualized by the media and being overshadowed by masculinity and her concern for women who do not identify as feminists. She speaks of her life as a “sheer privilege” because she wasn’t limited due to her female self. The audiences she is speaking to largely consist of men. Governing bodies are generally ran by men. She formally invites men to accept gender equality as their issue too. “In the UK suicide is the number one death in males. I’ve seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success,” she says.

Gender is a spectrum, not two opposing ideals. Masculinity opposes femininity and there is a tendency to choose one over the other. Watson believes that genders should absolutely be treated equally all over the planet, and stands up in front of the largely male dominated United Nations committee in order to prove her fierce point.

Movements like Cybertwee, Pussy Riot and #HeForShe are not something that can exist in the traditional print realm. They all symbolize systems much greater than themselves, and represent great dissatisfaction within. These are direct responses to social ills we face and encourage our corrupt government to interact with.

I have personally made the choice to identify myself as a Cyberfeminist because of my upbringing in a rural hyper-masculinist lifestyle. As a homosexual I was boxed into a feminine category, but I presently believe that homosexuality is a hyper-masculine lifestyle itself. Women like my mother (a white Christian single parent living in the conservative Southern United States), are able to stand up for their gay children and their beliefs that were previously put down because of the church and the general patriarchal structure of life there. This is something that can echo and shake the foundation our beliefs lay upon and reshape the ruling system. Anyone can reshape their structure of thinking. This is what Cyberfeminism does for us in the sharing culture of the now.

References

Evans, Claire L. “’We Are the Future Cunt’: CyberFeminism in the 90s.” Motherboard. Vice, 20 Nov. 2014. Web. 21 Mar. 2015. <http://motherboard.vice.com/read/we-are-the-future-cunt-Cyberfeminism-in-the-90s>.

Hileman, Gabriella, Violet Forest, and May Waver. Cybertwee Manifesto. Digital image. Cybertwee.net. 20 Mar. 2015. Web. <http://Cybertwee.net/the_manifesto/>.

“I Can’t Breathe” Music Video. Perf. Pussy Riot. The Guardian. 18 Feb. 2015. Web. 21 Feb. 2015. <http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2015/feb/18/pussy-riot-i-cant-breathe-music-video>.

Paniagua, Maya Zalbidea. “Cyberfeminist Theories and the Benefits of Teaching Cyberfeminist Literature.” Social Sciences and Cultural Studies — Issues of Language, Public Opinion, Education and Welfare. InTech Open, 2012. 243–64. Web. 18 Mar. 2015.