Concepts like “the male gaze” and “controlling images” are Gender Studies 101 material: they’re the basic terms in which many feminists understand the media’s oppression of white women (in the case of the male gaze) and black women (in the case of controlling images). The gaze and controlling images are how white supremacist patriarchy subject women to its control.
But I think contemporary social media and big-data political economies are using different devices to control women, especially black women. Social media and big data facilitate a specific form of sexist racism, one that controls women through racialized discourses of toxicity and unhealthy behavior patterns. Instead of turning women into objects and/or erasing their agency, social media and big data let non-white women do and say whatever they want, because their so-called “aggressive bullying” produces the damage against which white women demonstrate their resilience. A similar claim has been (in)famously leveled against “feminism,” especially “intersectional feminism”: it vampirically drains the lifeblood of the progressive, radical left.
What’s specific to the construction of WOC, particularly black women, as “toxic”? Or feminism itself (often represented by ‘intersectional’/WOC feminism) as ‘vampiric’? What about social media, and perhaps even to Twitter, makes the unruliness/threat posed by WOC to white women/white feminist culture industry function in a very particular way, i.e., as toxicity and vampirism? How is the construction of women on social media as toxic/vampiric related to economies of viral upworthiness?
I’d like to start off with an admittedly grandpa-sounding critique of a piece of technology in my house: My coffee maker’s status lights are too bright. My dad got it for my partner and I this past Christmas and we threw-out-the-box-immediately-wanna-keep it, but the thing has a lighthouse attached to it. We live in a relatively small (and very old) place and our bedroom is a small room right off the kitchen. The first night we had the coffee maker I thought we had forgotten to turn off the TV. We don’t really need alarm clocks anymore either, because when it finishes brewing it beeps like a smoke detector. Again, we love the coffee maker (Dad, seriously we love it.) but sometimes it feels like wearing a shoe that was designed for someone with six toes. (more…)
This week in my graduate seminar we talked about resilience discourse. I’ve written about resiliencebefore, and the concept is a key theme in my forthcoming book with Zer0 Books. It’s also, as I understand, a trendy and common concept in programming and IT. For an introduction to the concept, you can refer to the blog post I cited a few sentences ago, or Mark Neocleous’s article in Radical Philosophy.
Here I want to focus on the question of critical alternatives to resilience. Resilience is and has long been a way that marginalized and oppressed people respond to, survive, and thrive in the midst of oppression. But now that resilience has been co-opted so that it’s a normalizing rather than a revolutionary/critical/counter-hegemonic practice, how does one respond to, survive, and thrive without being or practicing “resilience”?
If drone sexuality means machines telling us who we are and what we want, then dating site algorithms are drone sexuality, right?
As I said last week, I’m responding to Sarah’s recent series of posts on drone sexuality. In this post, I want to follow through/push one of Sarah’s concerns about the way her account relied on binaries–both gender binaries (masculine/feminine) and subject/object binaries. I don’t know if Sarah would want to follow my argument all the way, but, that’s one thing that’s great about thinking with someone–you can develop different but related versions of a theory, and more fully explore the intellectual territory around an issue, topic, or question.
What if droning isn’t something “masculine” phenomena do to “feminine” ones, but a process that everyone/everything undergoes, and, in sifting out the erstwhile winners from losers, distributes gender privilege? In other words, droning is a set of processes that dole out benefits to “normally” gendered/sexually oriented phenomena (masculine, cis-gendered, homo- and hetero-normative, white, bourgeois ones), and that subject “abnormally” gendered/sexually oriented phenomena (feminine, trans*, queer, non-white, working class) to increased vulnerability and death?
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):
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.