The Bangladesh Collapse

As the term was coming to a close, I was tasked with finishing my final paper. This particular assignment was for a grad course, Romanticism and Globalization. Our class focused on economic themes, reading Adam Smith to help guide our textual interpretations.

My final paper tackled the topic of people as commodity, specifically, individuals used in trade. Just as I was editing my paper, news surfaced of the factory collapse in Bangladesh. Although we are all vaguely aware of the horrible working conditions and poverty experienced in countries like Bangladesh, we aren’t often confronted with it in this way. 

Since I am not immune to a bargain, I have purchased Joe Fresh products before. So when Galen Weston decided to make a statement concerning Joe Fresh’s involvement in the factory that collapsed, I decided to do a little more digging. I came across this article. 

Interesting just how little workers are guaranteed as minimum wage (18 cents per hour), and how few rights they have. In Canada, we are often appalled at the minimum wage we are subject to (minimum wage in Ontario is $10.25), and how little financial stability it offers.

What I found particularly startling was that as I was writing my paper, I focused on the topic of people as commodity purely in the confines of the Romantic period. This was mainly because that was the focus of the course, but I had also naively bought into the idea that people are not treated as commodities today. 

But if that were true, there wouldn’t be so little value placed on the lives of those who did not survive the factory collapse in Bangladesh, and more companies would be stepping forward to offer support and claim responsibility. I can’t help but wonder if the silence following such an awful incident has to do with the ease companies anticipate replacing the hundreds lost in the rubble of the collapse. 

A frightening thought, but not unwarranted. 

Why Sharing is Hard

Today we exchanged our drafts with peers to receive feedback and engage in peer-editing. I always encourage the students I TA to do this, and to get in the practice of having someone else read and edit their work (and vice versa). 

Why, then, is it so hard for me to share my draft? I can’t say it’s because this time the content was deeply personal (it was, but isn’t it always?). I think it’s more so because the act of writing itself is extremely personal. After spending time crafting a draft, sculpting thoughts and sentences, to have them questioned can be an affront, one that we’re not always ready for.

But it’s still important. Terrifying, but important. It’s often difficult (if not impossible) to discover our own errors and lapses when writing, which is why having a fresh pair of eyes edit, question and critique your work is beneficial. This type of interaction is what helps us grow and improve as writers.

So today was hard. But ultimately rewarding and beneficial. 

Onlinephobia (or my fear of blogging)

During Good Friday preparations, my dad asked me if I would ever maintain a blog dedicated to discussing feminism and discourse online. I try to avoid these types of discussions with my family mainly because, comparatively, my views are very radical. But for some reason I decided to try to muddle through that discussion with him. 

I told my dad that, no, I didn’t see myself ever maintaining in any regular capacity, a blog of any kind. I initially answered this way because when I think back to all of my other previous failed online endeavours, it seems foolish to think that I will actually keep going with this blog. It’s as if a genre is too much pressure. Like if I step outside of the lines of genre, something bad will happen (even though it won’t, even though no one will notice). 

I also told him how scared I was. I told him how I’ve researched and watched as women defy the rules of the boys’ club that is gaming and geek/nerd culture. I told him how uncomfortable I felt within the community, how I never felt like it was okay to be a member. And I don’t. I don’t play games online, not after I was called a bitch, dyke and cunt at 16 years old for playing Halo on Xbox Live (and to think that those are now mild insults/threats). 

It’s hard to locate myself in my desire to engage in feminist activism online and my desire to shrink away and hide, relatively undisturbed with my books in the corner. 

But reading alone in a dimly lit office isn’t going to change anything. It won’t change the threats of rape, death and violence made against women daily, for actions as small as playing a video game or being interested in comics. These are spaces we’re not supposed to like or occupy. 

If I have no problem standing up to my peers in class, speaking out about issues of race, gender and sexuality, how is it that I can’t maintain a simple blog? 

I can’t say that I will commit, because it will make my (potential) failure to do so worse. But I can say that I’ll try. Because it’s important, and it’s important that women exist safely and equally within these communities. 

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.

Barbara Monroe’s “Re-Membering Mama: The Female Body in Embodied and Disembodied Communication”

Intense frustration over whelmed my research process this morning, leading me back to the library. I came across Feminist Cyberscapes, a collection of essays questioning the role of women (and, if not obvious from the title) feminism in online communities, especially in relation to seminar courses and pedagogy. 

So far I’ve been able to read Monroe’s “Re-Membering Mama” article which focuses on a seminar course using conference style online communication coupled with an in-class seminar meeting (or, as Monroe describes it, CMC, computer-mediated communication and f2f, face to face communication).

Monroe’s essay is dated in comparison to the types communities and spaces online, and the ways these communities and spaces manifest themselves. Her main concern over gender expression, and the freedom afforded to women in CMC, does not necessarily translate to online practices today. While yes, there are many safe forums and communities in which women openly and freely participate, there are still spaces in which women are not welcome and are not “stripped of [her] physical consequences, the threat of violence and rape losing its force online” (72). 

While dated, Monroe’s essay isn’t without purpose or importance. “Re-Membering Mama” raises important questions about the female body online and the ways in which, in certain communities, women’s bodies are still judged and violated. It also draws attention to the lack of privacy that we experience as users online. Sure, our handles might not spell out our names, but with all of our social media connected to one another, our pictures on display, the anonymity previously afforded to women has in some ways, become a luxury of the past.

Blair, Kristine, and Pamela Takayoshi. Feminist Cyberscapes: Mapping Gendered Academic Spaces. Stamford, CT: Ablex Pub., 1999. Print.

A (Sort of) Beginning

First posts are always the most uncomfortable, the most awkward. How should I start, where should I begin?

For the most part, you’ll find me in various nooks and crannies online as babblingbitty. Otherwise, my name is Emily and I’m currently a Masters student. I plan on using this blog as a way to sort through my research pertaining to digital identities and the consequences of trying to separate the conversations held by our digital selves and those that are had in our daily, physical lives.

So be patient as I muddle through theory and concepts, and explore what might be some of the more depressing communities online.