Recently I downloaded my first Kindle Single: Laurie Penny’s Cybersexism: Sex, Gender and Power on the Internet.
It was an interesting experience. I read this on my e-ink Kindle and, being more accustomed to reading Penny’s columns, it immediately felt like I ought to be reading it longform on an endless scrolling page. Clicking from page to page but never clicking between Twitter and the article was a new way of reading this type of content for me – and one which quickly reveals the fragmented way in which we tend to read about politics and issues of sex.
Reading experience aside, Penny gives a fantastic overview of typical experiences for women on the Internet. She draws comparison between sci-fi dreams of being free of our bodies to being a woman online: one can become an amorphous, sexless being – or be considered male – until one chooses to “out” oneself as a woman.
Attitudes to women are mirrored online from real life, and the author provides a number of examples that make this so. Everything from men as pioneers, ensuring everything is safe for female consumption to patriarchal watching behaviours to holding nudity as power are explored here.
Penny’s examples are quite broad, citing sources like Everyday Sexism, the stereotypical geek boy story a la The Social Network, women’s opinion as the short skirt of the Internet, and the bad science stories society tells us about women’s worth (we’re smart, but “different” smart – which brought to mind this recent article).
She also advocates for the Internet as a place to create deep, long-term relationships and the interaction between Internet and IRL. It’s clear that she took refuge in the Internet growing up, and is at times lyrical (and perhaps melodramatic) in evoking the personal importance of these experiences.
For those who are accustomed to reading about sexism and the Internet – through Penny’s columns or any of the examples above – there isn’t much new to learn here. I found myself therefore taking apart the construction of her arguments – where often evocative and at times crude language is employed to contrast her views with the unsophisticated and vile misogynist ideals.
That being said, Cybersexism certainly holds plenty of new perspectives for those less literate on the subject, men, and anyone who wishes to read about the Internet in a new way.
Cybersexism is published by Bloomsbury Publishing and is available to buy on Kindle Single.