Like Laurie Penny, the author of “Cybersexism”, I too have had first hand experience at what it means to be a female in the internet world. I remember secretly forming a Facebook profile at the age of 13, unaware of the ‘appropriate’ way to act on a social media platform of that nature.
But trust me, I learned quickly – with the help of the “patriarchal surveillance” (Penny 260) that surrounded me. At the age of 13 I have always looked older than I should have (body wise, my face still let it be known what age I was). And I was quickly put under pressure by the teenage boys and the creepy men who found my page, on what to post.
I had to show enough or not too much or else I was a “slut” and forget about talking on any current events – that wasn’t I was there for. Like Penny discusses in her selection, women were often taught to be silent. Females are typically seen as better when they can only be seen, not heard. And this is something taught to females at a young age, just as Penny mentions.
Unfortunately, this way of behaving, of censoring women, does not only exist in real life – it exists in the cyber world. That is why men continue to adore pictures where I show off my assets and ignore my posts on Instagram where I share my opinion on the #FreePalestine movement and what not.
Penny touches base on the fact that a post that does not comply with what males wish to hear from a woman puts the woman at risk of getting threatened, usually with sexual violence. So when we speak too much, we are met with unwanted sexual advances that would help silence our need to “bitch.”
But at the same time, when we speak on what men want to listen to – sex – we are met with threats that say we are too open and disgusting, and that a man should only speak that way.
So it’s interesting to note that in a world of online dating – women can actually hold power and have a say in who they want to be approached by. Emily Witt, the author of “Love Me Tinder”, doesn’t directly say that this empowers women…
But this is me drawing connections for you guys.
If Tinder allows users to decide who gets to hit on you, then this is ultimately a source of power. No matter the gender. SO…….
Take a woman as described in the selection (Sarah)
- she gets to “choose whom she likes” (Witt 278)
- she is very direct: “no prolonged messaging”, no articulated message, just “bullshit” and go out [saves her battery] (Witt 279)
- any message she wishes not to receive, she can delete and block the messenger
- she decides who and if she wants to have casual sex, the guy doesn’t
Now, this is a lot more freedom than compared to the narrative drawn out by Penny. Whereas Penny is unable to block the messengers who send her hateful misogynistic messages without being accused of denying their freedom of speech, Sarah in Witt’s selection is able to block whomever doesn’t abide by her rules.
But, is having power over who you choose to flirt, or have sex with actual power?
In this day and age, sex “happens in front of the camera” (Penny 257). Women are constantly the victim of having personal files be held against them – usually by men – just as Penny was. So yeah… my power as a woman is getting to choose someone who will use that same act that I’m choosing to engage in as a way of asserting their own power over me?
Or what about Witt’s personal experience with Tinder, where David kept on pressuring her to meet up for the casual sex appointment she said she’d be willing to consider one day? Sure, Witt could have blocked him as well, but the pressure is still explicitly clear.
I think what worried me the most as I read these two selections is the harsh reality that I might receive some backlash if someone ever decides to read this blog because I am a female going to voice my opinion on a male-dominated, masculinity needed, culture of cars.
I am meant to be seen, either posed in a raunchy outfit next to a car, showing off my ASSets next to the ass of the car, or with a tough macho guy who drives a tough car – and it is not my place to speak on the values I see held in this community – but I will.