Feminism(s) as Virus

In response to Chela Sandoval

During our video dialogue in class this week, I brought up the concept of the virus in relation to Sandoval’s differential consciousness and tactics. Since this is a course about digital feminism(s), my mind immediately correlated the term with a digital or computer virus, defined as the following:

vi·rus /ˈvīrəs/ a piece of code that is capable of copying itself and typically has a detrimental effect, such as corrupting the system or destroying data. (Google)

Though this definition is from a digital context, it can also be applied to the non-digital world, as humans themselves are agents that host viruses — they are not exclusive to computers/technology. Out of interest, I wanted to break down this definition of virus even further in relation to Sandoval’s concepts:

  1. A virus is a piece of code that is capable of copying itself

For me, code = tactics. Tactics can take on the form of dialogue, sharing stories and narratives of personal experience, etc.; when stories and dialogues are facilitated, they are shared (both verbally and digitally) and in this sense become viral as the story moves from host to host, generating coalition through this “viral” communication.

Also, another tactic is the reclamation of culturally specific terms previously coded in a derogatory context. Re-coding and re-using those terms for empowerment and perpetuating the spread of the new coded meaning of the term, has power. Here, I’m thinking back to Sandoval where it’s mentioned that the terms mystisa and chicana were re-coded by Third World Feminists to facilitate coalition building.

2. A virus typically has a detrimental effect such as corrupting the system or destroying data

Differential consciousness/Third World Feminism poses detriment to the State and hegemonic Western Feminism. This is simply in the form of challenging the status quo by leveraging difference to create an entire movement that doesn’t revolve around a status quo. This is detrimental for the “dominant order” as normativity is moved away from. Destroyed data = normativity no longer meaning what it once did — the original coding of this sign is thus “destroyed.” System corruption = a metaphor for the destabilization of normative signs.

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Sandoval, Chela “U.S. Third World Feminism- Differential Social Movement I” in Methodology of the Oppressed. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Theory out of Bounds Volume 18. 2000. Pp. 40–63.

Virus Definition from Google.

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