Donna LeCourt, “Writing (Without) the Body: Gender and Power in Networked Discussion Groups

LeCourt’s article, like Monroe’s, discusses the possibility for power relations to be altered in online discussion groups. LeCourt questions the possibility of equality in online discussion groups through the lens of Irigaray, stating that “the premise that gender is learned primarily through language, the forms of resistance … suggest[ed] are linguistic and performative” (157). Language itself may act as the oppressor in these situations, as LeCourt goes on to state “if discourse itself is gendered in such a way that the material effects of language silence and/ or marginalize women, any possibilities for resistance must be similarly grounded in the linguistic realm of textual practice” (157).

Here I would agree with LeCourt. In some ways, our language restricts mobility and resistance, problematizing the online discussion group as ultimate equalizer. LeCourt raises some interesting questions about the ways in which language restricts the possibility for women to participate in online discussion groups, but does not necessarily translate to present day.

The idea that as women, we are able to write anonymously, disconnected from our bodies, is almost laughable in today’s forums. Even without profile pictures or avatars, women’s bodies can be summoned, and connected to certain linguistic nuances.

Need an example? Head on over to Fat, Ugly or Slutty. You don’t need to actually see a woman’s body for it to enter into online discussion. All too often women are faced with a “simple solution” – if you don’t want to encounter those types of comments, don’t participate in those communities. But if the internet has taught me anything (and society as a whole), it doesn’t matter what actions women take to prevent or avoid negative attention (not that we should ever have to). My previous post concerning Monroe’s article received a lovely comment accusing me of being a brainwashed feminist (amongst other things), with the inclusion of a YouTube video featuring a middle-aged man who would be able to “cure” my ways.

If you feel like you’ve heard the “avoid the situation avoid the negativity” solution before, you have. As women we’re also told what clothes are appropriate to wear, what time of day is acceptable for us to walk alone, etc., in order to avoid sexual harassment, assault or rape.

Bottom line? The “solution” isn’t having women avoid online communities, covering their bodies, or only going outside at certain times of day – the solution is a reevaluation of the way in which our patriarchy interacts with and treats women linguistically and physically.

 

Blair, Kristine, and Pamela Takayoshi. “Writing (Without) the Body: Gender and Power in Networked Discussion Groups.” Feminist Cyberscapes: Mapping Gendered Academic Spaces. Stamford, CT: Ablex Pub., 1999. 153-75. Print.

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