Is Net Neutrality a Feminist Issue?

August 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

by ADI

You may have heard that Google and Verizon have released a “policy statement” about the future of the Internet, urging people to accept the creation of new, “differentiated” services (they suggest health care monitoring, gaming and entertainment services, and advanced educational options) for which they would be charged more than traditional Internet access prices. It’s been generating controversy because it may violate what’s known as “network neutrality,” a commitment to delivering all Internet content for the same price and at the same speed. But what does this mean for feminists?

For me, this is worrying from a purely self-oriented standpoint: I don’t want to end up paying more to access certain parts of the Internet. For lots of people, however, this wouldn’t be an extra inconvenience, but rather a major barrier to accessing parts of the Internet. Right now, this isn’t likely to affect us much, but imagine that the next major Internet breakthrough–the next Wikipedia, the next health care system, the next Twitter—gets put on the “premium” Internet and you have something of an idea where this might be going.

So as a feminist and generally concerned person, I’m worried about what this means to people for whom the Internet is already an unaffordable or unavailable luxury. I definitely have problems with the effects that my technology has on others, from the way Apple products generate waste to the exploitatively-mined rare metals in most electronics. However, cell phones and the Internet have also been great levelers. Cell phones have given people in rural areas the ability to connect with the world, improving their work and their lives (take, for example, this remote control device for farmers). And the Internet has given people a way to get free online courses from schools like MIT, read articles about virtually anything, and make their voices heard on blogs like this.

At the same time, the Internet has also become as much a necessity as the telephone, making things even more difficult for the 34% of Americans who don’t have broadband Internet, or the roughly 25-30% who have no home Internet access at all. Finding a job, registering your children for school, or even keeping in touch with relatives becomes more and more difficult as a steady Internet connection becomes taken for granted.

Many of these people already rely on schools, libraries and other public places to access basic services like email or job boards; are these places going to be able to pay extra to get whatever premium services are offered through Verizon? It might not matter if, as Verizon and Google say, they’re only putting a few high-content video streaming services up on a for-pay basis, but many things, including those job boards and email systems, can be “differentiated” from the normal Internet, and the more barriers get put up between poor communities and job, education, or health care opportunities, the more we’re moving into a system where class mobility is a pleasant fiction.

Meta: In which the internet is sharp on both sides

August 15, 2010 § 3 Comments

by MIRANDA

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of meeting Julie Zeilinger, founder and editor of The F-Bomb. We talked of the teenage girls; we drank of the caffeinated beverages. It was bliss, basically.

I was reminded again of how important human interaction is to my feminism. Because this business can be lonely! Thinking about sexual violence, for example, while immensely important and rewarding, is actually not the most relaxing activity. In a culture where acts of rape, assault, and harassment are still not taken seriously, talking about them can be isolating — especially on the internet. In our dark rooms with our hunched shoulders and our bright little boxes, we are plugged in but we are also deeply disconnected.

So here is where I explain the title of this post: The internet is a sword. Since I am feeling poetic, it is probably laden with rubies and polished within an inch of its life. And like most swords, it has two edges. One side? Is amazing. It lets me read the words of ridiculously smart people who I’ve never met, who live so far away. And it lets me write words back! And people read them! And validate my ramblings!

But the other side is darker. It leaves me tired and sad, alone with my bright box and no one to hug. The sense of power that allows me to write about a deeply upsetting experience is the same sense of power that allows a commenter to joke about raping me. It’s the same sense of power that creates nauseating “blogwars.” Full or partial anonymity can be delicious, but it can also be a poison.

I love me some Internet Feminism. But I don’t want my whole life to be online, and I don’t want to feel as though every waking moment must be devoted to Very Important Lady-Thinking. Because — this is a secret, but I am willing to share it with you — it is okay, really, to not think about feminism all the time.

Internet Feminism is a mighty sword, but it’s not the only weapon we’ve got. Sometimes coffee and conversation can be just as powerful.

I Can Haz Short, Timely Messages From Women’s Glib?

July 21, 2010 § 2 Comments

by MIRANDA

Why, yes. Yes you can.

I have resisted creating a Twitter account, either for personal use or for Women’s Glib, for the sake of my mental health. But, readers, you are extremely lucky because Silvia eschews such resistance! She fearlessly plows ahead into the arena of tiny, cryptic updates full of symbols that I do not understand. (What is #??? And I don’t even want to talk about how many things I thought RT stood for that were not re-tweet.)

Never fear! Thanks to Silvia, we are now on the Twitter. Follow us here. And, if you haven’t already, you can like us on Facebook here.

Random, but AWESOME

December 6, 2009 § Leave a comment

This is just really cool. It combines three of my favorite things: Christmas, Copenhagen, and eco-friendly practices.

Check out this AWESOME christmas tree!

What the DOE doesn’t want you reading

July 6, 2009 § 1 Comment

Hey Women’s Glib: this is my first real guest post on Feministe. My introductory post, if you’re curious, is here.

As I mentioned in my introductory post, I will be a senior at a public high school in NYC this fall. (As much as I’d like to forget all about school during these fleeting summer months, it still seems to be on my mind.) As far as public schools go, mine is pretty well furnished. We have a dedicated Parents’ Association that puts on impressive fundraisers, and most of our students come from families privileged enough to donate — though because of massive budget cuts (even worse than last year’s), all of the nifty electives our teachers planned for are simply not happening next year.

So we’re relatively well off, and that means we have quite a few computers: one in each classroom, mostly for teacher use; a few in our small school library; and around forty in a lab that’s available for us students to use during our free periods and afterschool.

The problem is that when you’re using a computer at school, finding what you’re looking for on the internet can be quite a task. You see, the New York City Department of Education uses Websense, a service that “provide[s] hundreds of organizations around the world with the latest security warnings on malicious Internet events including spyware, phishing, spam, crimeware and compromised Web sites.” In our case, the so-called “malicious” and “compromised” sites are identified by categories; if the program picks up on one of its trigger categories, the entire website will be blocked.

So what does the DOE consider “malicious” enough to block?

The category “personal networking” is blocked. This is ostensibly to stop students from logging on to Facebook, though I’m of the opinion that a little downtime on Facebook would make kids more relaxed and productive overall — but this also means that I can’t read Shapely Prose and some other blogs while at school.

The category “pro-choice” is blocked. This means that not only am I unable to use NARAL Pro-Choice New York’s Book of Choices to find a clinic where I can pick up free emergency contraception, I’m also unable to do research on abortion laws for an assigned project.

The categories “sexuality” and “homosexuality” are blocked. This means that not only am I unable to look up counseling resources from the Anti-Violence Project to use in a Gay-Straight Alliance club meeting, I’m also unable to find HIV/AIDS infection statistics in preparation for my school’s AIDS Action Day.

These are just a few categories that have given me trouble recently. I’m sure there’s a wealth of even-more-taboo keywords that are also blocked. Obviously there’s quite a lot of unbiased information that the DOE doesn’t want students worrying our silly little heads about.

Cross-posted at Feministe.

Facebook Racism

June 3, 2009 § 4 Comments

This just popped up on my Facebook news feed:

Your friend —– took the What kind of ethnicity should you be dating? quiz and the result is Asian. Chicken Chow Yummy, you just can’t resist those cute little eyes and adorable personalities, can you? =)

Yikes. Chicken chow yummy, for real? Serious racial insensitivity, playing on the stereotype that all Asians have small eyes and are shy and submissive. But there’s also the larger problem of perpetuating the idea that taking a five-question multiple choice online quiz will tell you anything of substance about your sexual, romantic, and interpersonal attractions — and that all people of a certain race are essentially the same.

I guess I shouldn’t be shocked, unfortunately. Facebook has a lot of jackass gaffes — the “breastfeeding is obscene” trash comes to mind, as well as obnoxious ads.

Should Sexting Be Illegal?

April 20, 2009 § 1 Comment

Common Sense Media (a media watchdog group for and comprised of parents, from which I inexplicably receive emails about once a week) asks the title question in a recent newsletter, and THIS TEEN SAYS NO!

“Sexting”—a word which, by the way, I’ve never heard any real-life teenager use without a hefty dollop of irony—if you haven’t heard about all this madness, is essentially “the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photos electronically, primarily between cell phones,” which I’ve lifted from Wikipedia’s brief primer. Supposedly, one in five teens is doing it, and the recent rise in high-profile cases has sparked fascinating legal and moral debates. In Pennsylvania, six high school students face child pornography charges for their involvement.

The female students at Greensburg Salem High School in Greensburg, Pa., all 14- or 15-years-old, face charges of manufacturing, disseminating or possessing child pornography while the boys, who are 16 and 17, face charges of possession, according to WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh, which published the story on its Web site on Tuesday.

So the girls are being punished for taking and passing on pictures of themselves, and the guys are being reprimanded for possessing photos purposefully shared with them within a consensual exchange?

Sounds like a fucking shame-based waste of time and resources.

And it certainly is, considering another case in which a student forwarded pictures of his ex-girlfriend to his friends without her knowledge. In other words, sexual assault. Isn’t it more important to address this violation of boundaries than to tell girls to keep it covered? Sure seems like we’ve misplaced our “concern.”

Cara points out that the real problem with sexting isn’t that teens are taking sexual pictures of themselves and purposefully sending them to people with the consent of everyone involved. The problem is that people are forwarding those pictures to others without the consent of the photographed. And sadly, I’m not at all surprised that my peers are confused about what consent means.

Why? Because we’ve gotten so damn many opposing mandates about attraction and desire that our heads are spinning almost as fast as our hormones.

Young people are simultaneously not allowed to be sexual and pushed to conform to a hypersexualized, stereotypical idea of what it means to be desired. We’re told that engaging in any sexual act sex is a dirty, dirrrty decision, despite the widely accepted fact that the vast majority of adults are doing it in some form or another. From there, we’ve got three basic paths to navigate - and I’ll tell you right now that none of them end well:

a) If we don’t have The Sex, we’re prudes, geeks, goody-goodys. We’re abnormal and utterly devoid of passion. We’re the four-eyed nerd, not the bikini-sporting cheerleader. We’re pathetic.

b) If we do but fail to use the right precautions – which is hardly surprising, given the ghastly prevalence of health curricula that 1) omit lessons on preventing pregnancy and STIs; 2) rely on blatantly sexist stereotypes and even flat-out lies about the purpose and efficacy of condoms and contraception; 3) fail to address the very real sexual health concerns of folks who are getting down with a partner of the same sex; and/or 4) skip right over the Sex chapter in the manual – we “should have known better.”

c) If we do and use the right precautions WE GET SUSPENDED.

What the fuck?

Conveniently, we are also shamed for sexual acts whether or not we consent to them, and this is especially true for young women. Think about it: if a girl is raped, she is often told that she was “asking for it” because she had the audacity to walk through the park alone/wear a short skirt/get drunk at a party (read: the audacity to live). And if she has the opposite experience, if she purposefully and insistently seeks sexual pleasure, then she is a laughable, desperate caricature. She’s a slut.

There is shame literally everywhere we turn. So is it any wonder we’re experimenting sexually through phones, in the dark, in secrecy, instead of out in the world? The media talk about sexting hastens to turn young women from keepers of our own sexual power into victims. Sure, texting pictures of yourself naked is a stupid choice in our media-saturated world where everything – everything – can and will come back to haunt you, but that’s cause for reflection, not a criminal record.

Cross-posted at Shakesville!

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