Cuntry Living is a Facebook group, now only ‘loosely affiliated’ with the University of Oxford online feminist zine. Said zine is an impressive and self-aware feat, with multifarious discussions on society and feminist ideology packaged in Riot Grrrl graphics.
The group on the other hand epitomises the faux inclusive, hierarchised and pro-censorship movement you have likely come across online in one form or another.
The ethos of groups like these is to give marginalised voices a platform which they are denied in society. This is of course a commendable – even necessary – idea for online liberation groups, but putting it into practice has proved to be more than a little bit problematic. When debates arise, the group commonly remove members on the grounds that they are silencing oppressed members. But how do admins judge who is ‘more oppressed’? And when they have reached their conclusions, do they deem it progressive to silence some women in favour of others?
When you venture into the cyber safe space, the speech you are entitled to and its validity will be largely dependent upon the value of the oppression points you have collected. Your ethnicity and gender identity is likely to be assumed but be sure to declare mental illness(es), sexuality and molestation history at the check in desk for extra currency.
This tokenising system is laughable at best, grossly offensive at worst. The overarching problem seems to be that platforms for debate and ‘safety’ are conflated and as it stands the two cannot successfully co-exist. Motions that might exile you from this paradoxically excluding feminist elite include: – Suggesting that the sex industry owes to objectifying or subjugating women. – Questioning the limits or definition of cultural appropriation. – Pointing out the satirical context of posts deemed inflammatory.
Where the fourth wave excels in in acknowledging that there is not one category of women, trans* women, non-binary women, women of different races, religions etc. There cannot be one feminism to rule them all, one feminism to find them, one feminism to bring them all and the darkness find them. That forum admins police speech from individuals from all backgrounds regardless of their own is a contradiction of cyberfeminism’s own terms. Additionally with respect to Cuntry Living, its University of Oxford roots imply its being comprised of people with access to hugely influential platforms. The idea of ‘feminism’ has survived in spite of its Westocentrism, transphobia and heteronormativity. In finally embracing what it has marginalised, feminism cannot lose its propensity to question.
If feminism is to progress it must continue to challenge not just dominant ideology but its own. Cyberfeminism must find a way of challenging hierarchies without creating its own.