What does cyberfeminism mean?

Cyberfeminism was coined in the 1990s by feminists who were interested in theorizing and critiquing the internet and new media technologies through a feminist lens.  Cyberfeminism is an approach that explores the relationships within cyberspace. The term came out of ‘third-wave‘ feminism, which followed the movements of the ‘second-wave’ feminism of the 1970s that focused on equal rights for women. And then, ‘first-wave’ feminism in the early 20th century that concentrated on woman suffrage.  The Cyberfeminism perspective takes on a utopian view of the internet as a means of freedom from societal constructs that define gender and sex. Cyberfeminism views technology as a tool for the deconstruction of gender stereotypes.

This approach takes advantage of the new era of online media that offers a new space and target for the movement. Cyberfeminists see these modern technologies as a tool for reorganization that can put women in a better position both socially and economically. Cyberspace and the internet is a virtual world that allows for an immense number of opportunities to be created, and visions to be shared globally.

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Those who participate in this perspective are connected to a virtual world and can produce a reality with their words. This reality can then be shared and include other people also active on the internet.  This constructed reality with online media can be used as an experiment to bounce ideas and notions with others interested in the same ideology.  The perspective hopes to allow new possibilities with the opportunity for new creations of identity.

Cyberfeminism is not against ideologies, but rather against the structure that creates them. The internet allows for grounds to find a new alternative way to escape these power structures that can be limiting to identity. Cyberfeminism is a different way to rebel against the patriarchy. Instead of a conventional movement, it adapts to new developments in a short time and utilizes art and words to convey the main message feminism portrays.

A TEDx TALK by Charlotte Webb on the ‘feminist internet’.

The critique:  To be a woman active in Cyberfeminism, it is almost essential that one has access to both a computer and the internet, and knowledge of how to use that computer and the internet. That excludes a large number of women around the world and due to that factor, the approach can be critiqued based on privileged tendencies. Commonly, cyberfeminists are people in middle to upper class who are predominantly younger.   While there certainly can be a positive effect in the way women can now intercommunication globally, the internet is not a free medium and has many negative aspects. A woman’s material conditions must be considered in how to most efficiently advance feminist ideas. Cyberfeminists who claim the internet can be a tool for all women are ignoring the conditions of those who are not middle-class or of Western background.

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The history of Cyberfeminism can be linked back to the work of Donna Haraway, a professor in the History of Consciousness program at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Her essay, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs” was groundbreaking for feminists.  She argued in her work that women needed to become technologically proficient to challenge systems that didn’t represent equality.  Other feminists who are active on the internet believe that it can be a vital space for women to use technology to gain a better position within society.  To advance these ideas, individuals who associate with this branch of feminism created websites, discussion groups, and other online resources for women to learn more about technology. These individuals and groups believe that women’s knowledge of new media can create more opportunities for them in technological lines of work.

Beyond just the idea of gender equality, Cyberfeminism explores different areas of theory; that women can empower themselves by coming efficient in online communication, how women can change societal norms, how women should study the power structure in technological systems, the link between computers and women, etc. This perspective is a growing branch of thought that is not just a unified set of ideals, but rather a network of ideas that have a more advanced platform.

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