Engenderings is the LSE Gender Institute’s blog about the role of gender in cultural, social and political life. It brings together a broad range of perspectives to engage with ideas about gender and the ways in which it organises human bodies, sexualities, identities – but also how we relate to the world and to each other, in thought and in action, from political representation to cultural production.
Read this two-piece essay I wrote for Engenderings about the history and legacy of cyberfemnism and how it might retain contemporary relevance.
While we may no longer routinely refer to “the net” or “cyberspace”, the WWW’s birthday seems like a fitting moment to think about the history and legacy of cyberfeminism, and this is the first of two posts that attempt to do so. I briefly outline the emergence of cyberfeminism, its definitional dilemmas and its critique. In preparation for further engagement with said legacy in a second post, I conclude by pointing to some of the changes the internet, as the cyberfeminist medium, has since undergone.
The term cyberfeminism was coined by VNS Matrix (read Venus Matrix), an ustralian artist collective active between 1991 and 1997, who, inspired by Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto, wrote the Cyberfeminist Manifesto for the 21st Century. Their art was a “mission to hijack the toys from technocowboys and remap cyberculture with a feminist bent” (Schaffer 1999:150) and as such was concerned with subverting the perceived androcentrism of new technologies, for instance by re-imagining “the clitoris [as] a direct line to the matrix“. Adequately defining cyberfeminism seems an impossible task, not only because the movement (if it can be called that) in its original manifestation was rather short lived, but also because it actively refused definition. A multilingual list of 100 anti-theses, for instance, reveals that cyberfeminism is neither a theory, a picnic, nor a green crochet placemat (yes, really). Others have attempted to rather loosely define cyberfeminism as anything women might engage in when “using Internet technology for something other than shopping via the Internet or browsing the world-wide web (sic.)”, based on the belief that they “should take control of and appropriate the use of Internet technologies in an attempt to empower themselves” (Gajjala and Mamidipudi 1999:6).