Oh, the Woes of an Internet Feminist

Does the Internet = Women?

Sometimes it feels that way, with vibrant feminist discourse flourishing online, women writers self-publishing and self-publicizing, my own (ahem) attempts to build a name outside the hallowed halls of print commentariaticity. With friendly ladies tweeting me important lady-news. With Facebook being about “relationships” and feeding me dark chocolate (fair trade, thank you!) through the screen.

This recent editorial from N+1 hyperbolized this notion. The notion that because women are way underrepresented in traditional publications they have grabbed onto the Internet like pit bulls on a peanut butter rubber squirrel, and that therefore the Internet is implicitly feminine and the print mag remains implicitly dudely.

What do women have to do with the internet? We submit that, at least in the eyes of media executives, women are the internet. Women, we mean the internet, are commanding a larger share of the traditional print market. The internet, we mean women, is less responsive to conventional advertising than to commenting, sharing, and other forms of social interaction. Women, we mean the internet, are putting men, we mean magazine editors, out of work. The internet, we mean women, never pays for its content — or for their drinks!

And at first I was angrily confused. Whattup, smarties? Don’t you remember that the Internet was a tool of the military-industrial complex before the term was coined? That it was part of the war machine? And that it was soon appropriated by nerdlingtongeeks at comp sci departments? And that soon enough, inevitably, it was big-ass business?

And that no part of this origin story was “female” in any sense of the word?

And that it’s still dominated by big-ass business, against which struggles, David-vs-Goliathlike, arcane, geekly impassioned debates over the freedom of information, control of the netwaves, and copyright law?

And that while women participate in some of this discourse about the ownership of the net, one can safely assume that power over his particular debate is, like most other institutions, male-dominated?

And that even though women blog up a vast red-pink-purple maelstrom of feminist analysis, there is such a high troll-spurred attrition rate that one frequently loses hope for any respectful discourse online? Plus body-hate. For every cool written thing, there’s a bunch of vitriol burning it up with acid hate.

SO. The N+1 thing was funny but baffling. A bunch of intensity puffing up some simplifications and generalizations like it was botox about to explode some poor lady’s mouth.

Something about how Harper’s online presence is male, the Atlantic’s is female (but insultingly so), and the Paris Review’s is some fantastic third gender of not giving a shit.

I get that they’re not saying THEY think women = the internet. They’re saying traditional media think so. And the proof is their trashing of the Atlantic’s lady coverage. I mean, its giving lots of space to reporting on marriage and  family. Which men care nothing about.

Also, N+1 is right: the Atlantic’s “The Sexes” channel is 70% shite. I don’t bother reading it, usually, and y’all know I can’t get enough of the gender news.

So the N+1 makes a clumsy point, because its provocative coverage of contemporary marriage and family can seem a bit hostile to feminism if you read it ungenerously. On the other hand, they also publish Sandra Tsing Loh.

And on the other other hand, it’s nigh impossible to say anything about women in any venue, at any time, without incurring an alpine avalanche of hate, if the Alps were made of hate-shit.

Can we talk about women—even women who maybe want to have a husband and a kid and still identify as feminist? or women who like to cook? or women who prefer to stay childless? or women who love other women? or women who do stupid crap?—without losing our minds?

Is it possible to be a feminist without judging the quality of another person’s feminism?

Cuz day one of Feminism 101 really should teach you: don’t judge other women for their opinions or their choices. I mean, you can go ahead and critique feminism as an institution (??? But is it really????) for having historically privileged white, straight, middle-class, cis-gender, able-bodied voices. Sure!

But please remember that internal divisions will break us.

I prefer to think of feminism as a methodology: a way of looking at the world that helps us better understand and explain our condition. Feminism helps me understand power inequities that are not only gender-based, but class-based, sexuality-based, the whole gamut. So there isn’t “good” and “bad” feminism. There are feminist ways of understanding the world that help us spread out power to more and more people. Hurrah!

But then I find myself using feminism as an identity anyway.


A GREAT feminist.

The BEST feminist.


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