considering a better Internet

Definitions, MALS 72200

This Spring, I am teaching Contemporary Feminist Theories, MALS 72200, at the CUNY Grad Center to six students with a range of interests and specialties. We are revisiting this website, and the class I have taught two times from it: THE NOWHERES & EVERYWHERES OF ONLINE FEMINISM.

Our definitions here are not complete, but beginning, and will, perhaps, be changed on this blog post as we move forward.

I will note that the datedness of words (and some experiences) has been important to our first conversations about readings from Cyberfeminism 2.0, Gajjala and Oh (2012). We see that the precipitous speed of internet change and terminology (and experience) is not well aligned with the temporality of academic thinking and writing.

Cyberfeminism 1.0:

Cyberfeminism 2.0: Discussions of feminism in or about a digital realm with aspirations of equality and equity and immediacy

Cyberfeminism 3.0: immediacy and diversity and visible and geography and openness and scale

The internet is a part of your physical being

Feminist Space: room for more diversity and more immediate access



Kong Jian (Space) by Grapefruit Experiment

“Kong Jian,” meaning “space” in Mandarin Chinese, explores a translingual machine-made space and the voices within it.

Source materials were drawn from FeministOnlineSpaces.com; Re:Humanities 2012 at Bryn Mawr, Haverford, & Swarthmore Colleges; Women Social Justice Documentary Symposium at Smith College; and Google Translate.

You can stream the audio and download it as an uncompressed file:

I also uploaded to the Grapefruit Experiment’s Bandcamp page. On this page, one could choose to download the song based on their preferred compressed format listed below:

* MP3 320 – 12.3MB
* FLAC – 55.1MB
* MP3 VBR (V0) – 15.3MB
* AAC – 12.5MB
* Ogg Vorbis – 10.1MB
* ALAC – 56.6MB


FAIR Seeks Columnists on Media & Race, Gender Bias

The national media watch group FAIR is looking for two strong writers with distinctive voices to write regular bimonthly columns for our magazine Extra! and for our website. One column would be on issues relating primarily to media and gender; the other column would primarily concern media and race.

We’re seeking well-documented, fact-based media criticism, focusing on but not necessarily limited to U.S. corporate news coverage. An understanding of the ways that racism, sexism and class bias interact in media is a must. Ability to promote one’s work via social media a plus.

Yearly pay for each column will be $2,400. Women, people of color, LGBT people and people with disabilities are strongly encouraged to apply. Please send cover letter, clips and sample column ideas to Jim Naureckas and Julie Hollar at writer@fair.org by November 22.

Reply-To: fair@fair.org

A Feminist R(t)e(a) Party

I joined Suzanne Stroebe and Caitlin Rueter yesterday for tea. They are the Feminist Tea Partiers: young women artists who stage kitchy klatches where face-to-face discourse about feminism, rather than local gossip, is the preferred subject.

I enjoyed our little chat. These refined lady artists were warm, engaging, and driven. Yet I couldn’t also help to feel a little remorse twinged with a more profound pain that comes with the endless been-there-done-that cycle which seems to define so much feminist experience and art.

The need to playfully restage and thus reinvent our feminism after its “loss” by ironically using our mother’s (or mother’s mother’s) costumes and conventions has itself been done. The image above is from Ann Magnuson and Kenny Scharf’s show East/Village West, for PST, and shows Magnuson’s generation (late 70s) staging hauntingly similar parties. Women at the LA Woman’s Building in the early 70s did similar work (i.e. the Waitresses, or Ilene Segalove, or Womanhouse as only three examples visible in our show Doin’ it in Public at Otis for PST).

Also from E/V W. Campy eighties ladies.

I’m not blaming the new tea-partiers, in fact, someone needs to (re)do the thankless work which sadly seems to be the ongoing, never-ending, tedious but necessary first-step project of feminism, enabling young women to 1) call themselves feminists (in the face of a (re)circulating set of fears of the term, the position, or the movement) and 2) educate themselves in their feminist pasts. I do this work just about daily as a Woman’s Studies professor, and have done so now for twenty-one years, as have a huge number of people I love, respect, and honor. So why doesn’t it stick? Or better yet, where does it stick? Why can’t we build? Or better yet, where do we build?

As far as this current tea party goes, I would love to ask the ladies their thoughts on two questions (hereby beginning, I hope, an online feminist tea conversation):

  • I am left to wonder why the fifties motif and not, say, a seventies one?
  • Where does gay-male camp fit into your drag?

Learning from the Online Feminists

This semester, I am teaching my Online Feminist Space class at home at Pitzer rather than on leave at USC. The notable difference in the course is not in the intelligence, ethnic makeup, or political awareness of the students, but instead, in the students’ choices of online spaces for their coursework. Perhaps because I warned the Piter students not to use corporate spaces (like their stalwart forerunners) or perhaps because their daily lives are more centrally formed by an active feminist collegiate community, the Pitzer class is spending their term in more overtly feminist or politicized spaces, with a decided minority occupying generic corporate culture (there are some interesting exceptions). Given this orientation, their work is begging different questions about online experience given that most of them are occupying what student, Stephanie Saxton, calls “in-between spaces”: the kind of website that sits on the line between a feminist orientation and a friendly relation to mainstream culture “placing itself between lady-mag corporate culture and radical feminism—presumably for comfort reasons, so as not to alienate users from either side of the spectrum.” Working primarily in such in-between spaces, their work begs important questions, and suggests keen insights as well:

  • can you have a radical feminist practice online based in an essentialist understanding of the body?
  • can you have a radical online feminist practice that is not based on the body?
  • can you have a radical online feminist practice that is based in fantasies of oppression?
  • can you progressively link the fantasy (and possibility) of the online with the lived oppression of real bodies?
  • can you have a radical feminist practice if you close access to insure safety and community, creating separate spheres (for example sites that are for lesbians or bi-women but are not open to queers or women of color)?
  • while equality at the level of access and freedom of expression are a baseline for feminist interaction, are they enough?
  • while self-determination over sexuality and voice are a baseline for feminist interaction online, are they enough?
  • while being sex-positive and queer-friendly are a baseline for feminist interaction online, without an associated commitment to a political project, they are not enough.
  • if you are sex-positive, you need to also destabilize gender and sexuality norms to be feminist.
  • feminist sites that do not overtly account for race and complex gender and sexuality are not enough.
  • feminist sites that limit the agency, authority, activity, and authoring of their users are not enough.
  • mean humor, and aggressive commenting culture need rules of engagement.
  • intimacy and duration matter for building close and supportive communities.
  • female spaces may not be feminist.

From Montreal to UCLA: Some Difficult Questions

How do you make affective communities online without degradation or vulgarity?

How can we be open online without distraction?

What kind of space can we build for ourselves that move from a top down culture to a flat plane?

First Stop: Feminist Montreal

On Friday, October 12, I will lead a workshop with fifteen or so students from Concordia University. After looking at this blog, and the many lists, concepts, and places it points to, I will ask these participants:

What makes a, this, any space feminist?

(feel free to consider: the room where we meet, the school you attend, the town or place you reside in, a private space, the place you call home, the Internet, or any of my three, preliminary attempts: LFYT, PerpiTube, or this blog itself.

Now make some media and add your voice to the discourse by:

1)   Responding to/on PerpiTube by making a response video on/about YouTube

2)   Responding to/on LFYT by making a texteo

3)   Writing and then posting to this blog

(Online users feel free to join at any time and when you do drop me a line to be sure I see it, lost as it otherwise might so easily become).

When our work is done, I will create a map to the Montreal (and Internet) efforts here and then on the new (not yet but soon to be published web-site).

And finally, the Montreal group will create a prompt for the next stop: UCLA (on November 4).

My Most Recent Attempts: PerpiTube and LFYT

Over the summer of 2011, I collaborated with artist, educator, and activist Pato Hebert, to produce an online art show about and on YouTube as well as in a live gallery space at Pitzer College. Many of my ideas about the kinds of online spaces I’d like to inhabit, build, and interact in were experimented with and modeled in this project, PerpiTube: Repurposing Social Media Spaces.

For the past five years I’ve been thinking, teaching, and writing about YouTube, which culminated in my video-book, Learning from YouTube. This process of naming, building, inhabiting feminist online spaces came from a sort of auto-critique about the space I ended up building in response to and critique of YouTube.

These are the Rules and Regulations

I’m curious about what architectural and community structures as well as norms of behavior produce the possibility for feminist interactions online. I’ve been working on this primarily with my students at USC (during Spring 2011) and Pitzer (during Fall 2011).

On my blog, I’ve been refining these norms in three key posts:

So here are the Rules And Regulations:

I’d like to begin with one important parameter for each of these conditions: while each must be present for a site to create possibilities for feminism, none can be fixed, immutable, or inaccessible. instead, each of the principles listed below must  be linked to a transparent method that allows them to be open to question, debate, change, and participate in their ongoing construction:

  • rules of engagement: clearly stated, and principled.
  • warranted users with a visible connection to their lived bodies: anonymity breeds hate; the loss of the body erases the politics of identity, place, and society
  • hierarchies as needed: leaders, mentors, organizers, builders are needed
  • shared authoring: yet every user is allowed the full authority of her voice
  • shared language: a common vocabulary, connected to a feminist analysis or positionality (or from other political movements) allows for facility of conversation, as well as a sence of community
  • shared political beliefs: a common set of beliefs about the world, and how it might change, are the foundation for change.
  • collaboration: users should encounter  possibilities to do things together
  • respect: is a baseline for interaction
  • process: discussions about how things are done, how things feel, how things could be better experientially are understood as central to the workings and content of the site

A Naming Project & Process

FeministOnlineSpaces began as a naming project: I tried to name the (missing) feminism that seemed at once everywhere and nowhere in my video-book, Learning from YouTube.

I delineate my process, because that’s one of the norms and goals of this space. Here are the names (a work in progress):

  •  Architectural or archaic feminism occurs at deep and structural levels.
  • Unnamed feminism speaks and thus sees itself newly.
  • Re-mapping feminism claims not-feminist spaces through formal fiat.
  • Framing feminism umbrellas the social justice work of trans, anti-war, anti-racist activists and others.
  • Assertive or insertive feminism names its profound relevance in places where it wasn’t deemed important.
  • Common-cultural feminism assumes feminism is the shared space of production and reception.
  • Access feminism doesn’t speak only to feminists, but also opens doors to unusual places.
  • Techno feminism engages in collaborative, goal-oriented, placed, critical self-expression online.
  • Presumptive feminism always assumes that feminism counts and that feminists speak.