Cyberfeminism, a term coined in the early 1900s and the movement related to it emerged out of the contemporary movement of feminism called the ‘third wave of feminism’. The first and second waves of feminism had earlier focused on the issues of women suffrage and equal rights of men and women respectively. These waves were but only partially successful in achieving their goals. So, the third wave encompasses these two issues too along with the primary aim of reproductive rights of women.
Cyberfeminism also more significantly is related to having equal rights for women and men and involves mostly younger and technologically shrewd women. This term describes the work of the feminists who are actively involved in the cyberspace and have interest in interrogating and reconceptualizing technology.
PIONEERS OF THE MOVEMENT
• Judy Wacjman– A professor of sociology at the Australian National University, Wacjman argued that technology is something which continuously needs to be developed and that it was the need of the hour that women start getting more actively involved in the field of technology.
• Donna Haraway– The credit for pointing out a way for cyberfeminism goes to Donna Haraway, a professor in the University of California. She agreed that women need to engage more in technology and become more proficient at it but more importantly she pointed out that women also need to be sharp, savvy and politically aware to meet the actual meaning of cyberfeminism; mere use of technology does not account for the same. She is often considered to be the original inspiration behind this movement.
• Sadie Plant– The first contribution to be mentioned by Plant is that she coined the term ‘cyberfeminism’. Apart from this she pointed out the similarities between women and internet by stating both to be “non-linear, self-replicating systems concerned with making connections”. She sees the cyberspace as a familiar and interactive space available for women wherein they must seize the opportunities for their advancement.
Apart from these, there are many young females active on the internet who remain silent on the topic of the prevailing masculinity in the field of technology or about the similarities between women and internet but they do advocate the internet to be a space which is vital for the advancement of women in the contemporary world.
THE CONTRASTING IDEA
Apart from the supporters of this branch of idea, there exists another group of feminists who do not completely agree to the idea of women gaining authority and empowerment only by greater use of new multimedia technologies. They focus on the fact that women should be more aware about the technicalities rather than just increasing the number of women using computers. The critiques of the traditional cyberfeminists argue that they have been ignoring an important fact- that not every woman has access to computer, internet or any latest technology for that matter. In the near future too, this will not be the case. So, determining the progress or empowerment of women merely on the number of women having access to computers would be unjust.
There is a tremendous difference between the scenario of the time when the concept of cyberfeminism came into existence and today’s time. In a leap of around 25 years, the web has been reduced to prone area for development of hate. Women are abused, harassed, threatened by the ones who have the internet’s darker access. Even the pioneers behind this idea have admitted that they had never imagined anything that the situation will be so unsupportive for the growth of women after so many years. With the women’s safety at stake, cyberfeminism becomes the most important need of the hour.
Technological knowledge is considered power in the present world. Women have gained this power after a lot of struggle throughout the years and in the words of Sollfrank, one who gains power never gives it back. This is the time to utilize the power in the fullest sense and give true meaning to the cyberfeminism movement.
Cyberfeminism in itself is an emerging idea of research so it is very tough to associate a proper definition with it. Nonetheless, it is clear that the roots of the movement lie in gender equality. Traditionally, technology was always positioned as a part of masculine culture. Women have been active in the developed of technology, but their contribution has been largely neglected and marginalized. Therefore, many feminists stood up for the cause of equality. The contribution of cyberfeminism in the development and empowerment of women today is incomparable. Since, the concept is relatively new, the cyberfeminists need to explore many theories and then conclude that how the practices need to change for the betterment of all the sects of the society.