As 2017 drew to a close, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London hosted the Post-Cyber Feminist International, marking the twentieth anniversary of the The First Cyberfeminist International, which convened at documenta X in Kassel, Germany. The ICA’s five-day event took the “contemporary ubiquity and commodification of the digital sphere” as its starting point, contending that our informatic social reality requires a specific feminist program: post-cyberfeminism. Mute, 1 September 1995, http://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/californian-ideology.’>6 The emancipatory potentiality of technology is the very basis of cyberfeminism — confusing given the otherwise progressive thinking of its members, but perhaps admissible with thirty years of hindsight on our side. More confusing, then, is post-cyberfeminism’s retention of this techno-utopian ethos.
Founded by the polymorphous, international collective Laboria Cuboniks, Xenofeminism (XF) is a movement 7 whose central query follows the logic of the technofix. “Why is there so little explicit, organized effort to repurpose technologies for progressive gender political ends?” Cuboniks asks in their manifesto, “Xenofeminism: A Politics for Alienation,” which goes on to state that “XF seeks to strategically deploy existing technologies to re-engineer the world.” SAGE Journals 34, no. 1 (January 2017): 29-52, https://doi.org/10.1177/0263276416656760‘>9
Through the nineties, and even into the period of Web 2.0, there was hope that the internet could be a democratic platform that would grant individuals anonymity. Such techno-optimism dovetailed with the cultural crisis of that moment, identity politics, which explains in part why the first cyberfeminists saw the internet as a tool for radical liberation, in theory and practice.
We’ve since seen this idealism swing sharply in the other direction, with emerging platforms serving as a boon for the “alt-right” as much as for gender or racial equality. Power dynamics rooted in sex, gender, race, and class were simply transferred over into the virtual networks of the internet. At the most recent DLD (Digital-Life-Design) Conference in Münich, for example, Dr. Carl Benedikt Frey spoke on the panel “Automation & The Future of Work,” noting that “women are much more likely to be found at work in front of a computer,” while “men are much more likely to be found at home in front of the television.” Both sexes lose in this scenario: women are working more for less and men are increasingly unemployed. It may be that in moments like these, we see Firestone’s cybernation working against us. 10 Or, take this statement: “There are NO girls on the internet.” Rule number thirty of the “Rules of the Internet,” a memetic list of “rules” written by the collective Anonymous and circulated among 4chan users, definitively stakes out a masculine space on the “real” internet, free of contributions by and for women.
Women are hated on the deep internet, with its misogynistic, bellicose message boards and Reddit threads. The “manosphere” — the more insidious, virtual equivalent of a man cave — ascended beyond its subcultural depths and pipelined into Silicon Valley this past year when former Google software engineer James Damore wrote the now-notorious memo arguing that women displayed “biologically” inferior engineering capabilities (Damore was fired in August, and filed a class action lawsuit against the company in January, claiming the workplace was hostile toward his conservative political views).