Cyberfeminism: Foundational Sources

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Blair, Kristine, Radika Gajjala, and Christine Tulley.  “The Webs We Weave: Locating the Feminism in Cyberfeminism”.  Webbing Cyberfeminist Practice: Communities, Pedagogies, and Social Action.  Eds. Kristine

In their introduction to this edited collection of articles from Computers and Composition, Blair et. al. raise the pressing question  of whether or not “despite [a]more localized access to a range of information technologies,” “feminism has harnessed technology to its fullest power” (1). The introduction does well laying out a quick review of cyberfemism’s ten year history and discussing the interdisciplinary and multimodal turn that cyberfeminist scholarship has taken and outline the organization of the book.  Finally, the editors leave readers with a candid story about Kristine Blair’s “introduction” to the field’s conversation about cyberfemism, relating a meeting she informally had with Pamela Takayoshi, Cynthia Selfe, and Gail Hawisher at . CCCC, 1995.  The story of how each editor arrived in the current conversation unfolds and brings readers to the central question of the collection, which is “How might we continue to develop critical cyberfeminist interventions” in dominant discourses online?  And “what sort of resisttance and transformation emerges online through the situated/located practices and negotiations of offline communitites?” (17). This is what many of the essays on the collection explore, and really, the entire point of my Pinterest project and most certainly my imagined larger project of marrying perspectives on geographies – both IRL and virtual.

Gajjala, Radhika  and Yeon Ju Oh, eds..  Cyberfeminism 2.0.  New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2012.  Print.

Gajjala, who worked with Blair and Tulley on the Hawisher and Selfe Computers and Composition project, Webbing Cyberfeminism, here along with her graduate student co-editor Oh, does important work here in terms of continuing to establish cyberfeminism as both ongoing radical and rhetorical practice online, as well as ongoing scholarly tradition and perspective.  The collection opens with an introduction that once again traces and defines cyberfeminism.  The central question Gajjala and Oh pose and then explore through the collected essays is one that my own scholarship asks and struggles with constantly: “How must we respond to the pleasing discourses of women’s empowerment through blogging, networking, financing, or entrepreneurship when we suspect that digital technologies , intertwined with neo liberal market logic, exercise subtle, indeed invisible power?” (2).  The first section of the articles and essays included looks at online sites that “empower” women, including Levina’s piece on Health 2.0 – a site and movement encouraging data donation and female virtual kinship around health concerns. Daniels and Angelone explore the genre of female blogging and its implications for education and in the next two chapters, Sibielski and Kruse examine cultural production of female online writers.  The second section of the book features essays that offer critique of restrictive technologies for women such as James’s look at the United Nations E-platform for independent film submissions and Kubik, Downey, and Beyer’s chapters that reveal the restrictive world of online gaming.  The book’s third and final section opens the conversation to possible feminist spaces online and includes essays that attempt to define and expand the definitions of cyberfeminist space and practice.  The writers in this particular section each take up a singular and long-discussed women’s issue – eating disorders, lesbian and straight partner violence, and notions of motherhood, poverty and immigration – and explore how these social issues and their discourses have been affected by technologies of Web 2.0.

What a find!  After reading this book I breathed a bit easier in terms of understanding my own project and its goals.  Cyberfeminism needs more public spheres theory and more consideration of intersections of language and architecture when considering the larger question Gajjala and Oh pose in the introduction.  And I felt that – along with the Blair, Gajjala, and Tulley collection in 2009, my Pinterest and Planned Parenthood (and general reproductive rights rhetoric work) would have a wonderful place in the larger conversations about the directions of cyberfeminism and its relationship to composition.  The essays in the third section particularly have brought me back again to this really nagging idea/goal.  And after reading Arola, it really seems essential.  I really want to argue that I must code/program my own interface/platform for data sharing and research in order to explore whether or not learning to write the languages that construct Web 2.0 environments is really more empowering than relying on the “templates” that are designed and architected by those in power?  But no matter what, this book is one to read carefully for my dissertation and possible future publications, no doubt.

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