Does digital technology, especially insofar as it is masculinized or seen as gender-neutral (which are generally the same thing: mankind, postman, etc.), resignify the gendered stigma conventionally attached to care work, affective work, and other sorts of feminized work that never quite counts as “real” labor?
On Cyborgology we’ve talked a lot about digital social media’s use for and implication in various forms of sexual assault; there’s David’s post the Steubenville rape case, Whitney’s post on sexts and online bullying, and PJ’s post on rape culture and photography at Burning Man. In a press release about a bill before New York state legislature, law professor Mary Anne Franks uses the term “virtual sexual assault” to describe the posting of a sexually explicit image of someone without the subject’s consent. Now, I know this may shock some of you, but I’m not going to problematize the “virtual” part of that phrase–I’m taking that problematization as a given (just go read the above-linked posts). Instead, I want to problematize the concept of consent. I think it might need an upgrade.
Following feminist political theorists’ and philosophers’ critiques of the language of “consent,” I want to raise the question: Is “consent” really the most accurate, most productive lens through which to understand and address “virtual sexual assault”? Using some feminist political theory, I want to suggest that “consent” is ultimately a counterproductive tool in combatting sexual assault perpetrated on/via digital media (I know that’s a clunkier phrase, but it’s more accurate than “virtual”). Because the concept of consent is tied to a specific notion of property–private property–it isn’t easily translatable to digital ‘property’ (I talked about this a little last week). So, consent might not be able to address the so-called “virtual” or digitally-mediated aspects of this type of sexual assault. But, it’s also not particularly helpful in addressing regular-old meatspace sexual assault. As Carole Pateman famously argues, “consent” was never designed for women to exercise. It may well be one of those “master’s tools” that will always, no matter who uses it and with what intention, prop up the master’s house.
Jenny, Whitney, and I were talking on Twitter about Jenny’s recent post on the gender politics of a Microsoft Windows 8 Surface TV advertisement. I want to recap that conversation because it sets up some interesting questions about the relationship between contemporary gender politics and contemporary technology: If Jenny’s post described the gendering of technological devices, how do these attitudes toward technology in turn inform our judgments of human women? How do gendered evaluations of digital media frame our attitudes toward women, especially insofar as women use and are represented in digital media?
I was halfway through what I thought was going to be today’s post, and then Hugo Schwyzer up and quit the internet (so, you’re gonna have to wait till next week to get that post about Magna Carta Holy Grail & the kinds of social relations music facilitates when it is packaged or formatted as an app). I assume that Schwyzer’s retirement will likely follow the Jay Z or Bret Farve model, but, while it lasts, it’s a good opportunity to open out conversations about privilege, oppression, and the media, about the role of men in feminism, and about allies more generally.
Hugo Schwyzer is a professor of history and gender studies at Pasedena City College, and he has been a sort of male feminist superstar, writing for widely-read mainstream venues like Jezebel and The Atlantic. So, he’s a very, very public male “face” of and for feminism. And for a lot of reasons, he’s been the subject of vehement criticism, trolling, and plenty of ad hominem attacks, too, much of it from feminists (male, female, trans, queer, and otherwise) on the left. (And let me just say, if I was influential enough to make Malcolm Harris bring out his A-game trolling, well, I’d be pretty happy about that, even if it meant I was wrong about something.) (more…)
Laurie Penny’s great new piece about Manic Pixie Dream Girls (MPDGs) has me thinking about the role of women/femininity in the compositional structure of music, film, and other media. Penny uses a narrative metaphor to explain the subordinate role of MPDGs in contemporary patriarchy: patriarchy expects and encourages women to ghostwrite or be, as Penny puts it, “supporting actresses” in men’s stories. When women (such as Penny) craft their own autobiographies with themselves as the protagonist, this upsets both patriarchal conventions, and our aesthetic sensibilities, which have been trained to expect and enjoy these conventions.
But, especially in light of the finale of this past season’s Doctor Who (so, uh, need I say it: spoilers) I think the MPDG supports men’s/masculinity’s centrality–in other words, patriarchy–in specific ways, ways that are uniquely appropriate to the compositional logic of contemporary media.
The Cyborg project, as articulated by Haraway, is at its core, a utopic project. It is the melding of mechanical and organic, digital and physical, human, machine, and animal in such a way that categorizations cease to hold meaning, and in turn, cyborg bodies break through repressive boundaries.
And yet here we are, at the pinnacle of a cyborg era, inundated with high tech, engaged simultaneously in digital and physical spaces, maintaining relationships with organic and mechanical beings, constituted with and through language, medicines—and increasingly—machines, and we STILL have to deal with bullshit like this (click below to view):
Following Evgeny Morozov’s interesting article on Silicon Valley’s “pervasive and dangerous ideology” of fixing our reality with a simple click in order to perfect it (based on his upcoming bookTo Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism), I could not help but wonder if this is a ‘new’ phenomenon after all? (more…)
Most Wanted posters, having lost their long standing place at the Post Office, have found a new home on Pinterest. Following the Philadelphia Police Department, police in Pottstown PA, are now electronically pinning images of those with outstanding arrest warrants. Yes, the same place people exchange recipes and DIY home tips is increasingly also place in which police officers disseminate photographs of felons on the lam (time out: I just got to use the phrase “on the lam” in an academic-ish piece of writing. *self high-five*).
This use of Pinterest for mugshot dissemination is theoretically interesting in a number of ways. Here, I denote three key interrelated insights: (more…)
This piece was supposed to be about porn star James Deen.
After reading about Deen here and there and everywhere, I had the idea that perhaps there was something worth writing about. Only the problem was, that the more I watched of his work, the less I had a desire to write about it. Perhaps the point is not Deen himself and how he has been lauded via the wheel of favorable ratings by female audiences online. What needs to be written about is what happens when a woman sits down and engages with sex—specifically, her own, as tied to an exploration of her individual sexuality and liberation therein—via the medium of a computer screen. (more…)
by James Chouinard & Jenny Davis, Jul 25, 2012, at 02:30 pm
We fetishize the Exotic Other. We expect hir to save us, yet s/he remains ‘matter out of place.’
“Otherness” has long been a concern of social scientists. It refers to those who are marked, set-apart, excluded, or included with qualification. Those who fail to fit into normative conceptions of belongingness are treated, unsurprisingly, as though they do not belong. They are a polluting force, an intruder, an outsider. In this post, we discuss the dual nature of Otherness and the Othered subject, as they must navigate a social space in which they are either excluded or fetishized, but never fully integrated. We exemplify this dual nature with a discussion of new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer—a tech industry power player marked with femininity, amplified by pregnancy. We begin with a theoretical discussion of Otherness.
The Dirty Other
As suggested by Sigmund Freud and Marry Douglas, “Dirt is matter out of place”; it threatens the integrity of boundaries—moral, aesthetic, symbolic, experiential and otherwise. The removal or neutralization of dirt is not an easy matter for its methods of contamination are many. The most effective method of contamination occurs within and through fantasy. Case in point, the non-normative Other acquires her pollution powers from the fantastic projections of “Normals.” But in analyzing the non-normative Other, we find that not all dirt is abject. Rather than demonstrating the power of horror, dirt may acquire the quality of seduction, indulgence and exotic profundity. Of course, Kristeva notes that the abject—while maintaining its horrifying quality—is the sight of fascination. Although such a stipulation is relevant to the present discussion, we may note that said fascination need not coincide with horror. For example, the “out of place” position of non-normative others facilitates the fantastic lure of systemic escape, reparation or atonement. After all, that which is not dirt: the normative, the systemic, the homogenized, carries the weight of morality and social judgment.
We live in a cyborg society. Technology has infiltrated the most fundamental aspects of our lives: social organization, the body, even our self-concepts. This blog chronicles our new, augmented reality.