Blogging for HONS 201: Feminism, New Media, and Health at Hunter College.
From the occasional innocuous Google search to religiously updating one’s Facebook status, different people use the Internet for different purposes. And some people – and communities – use the wide-reaching communicative powers of the cyber world to attempt to shape the real world in a positive way.
Rahul Mitra and Radhika Gajjala discuss the freedom the Internet provides to the LGBTQIA populations in India in “Queer Blogging in Indian Digital Diasporas: A Dialogic Encounter.” Mitra and Gajjala emphasize the the importance of being able to label oneself a queer blogger, and creates new meanings through writing about what it means to be both “desi” and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, both within national and transnational contexts. And beyond the ability to identify one’s own identity as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, a blogger doesn’t have to be defined entirely by it; it is viewed as simply one aspect of oneself, as it is “integrated” into the overall identity. The internet provides a space to queer Indian bloggers that is not available to them in everyday life; the “patriarchal social systems” that pervade much of Indian society create an environment in which a very traditional, heteronormative image of family is institutionalizes, and queer communities are made invisible. Mitra and Gajjala conclude that the growth of queer Indian bloggers has worked to “achieve a more local and equitable globalization for themselves while participating in a transnational socioeconomic environment.”
In “The Reality of Virtual Reality: The Internet and Gender Equality Advocacy in Latin America,” Elizabeth Jay Friedman examines the the Internet’s potential to democratize information and its impact on activist causes, specifically gay rights activism in Latin America. She, like Gajjala and Mitra, acknowledges the power the Internet provides to activist causes, but also notes its drawbacks. While we like to herald the Internet as a great equalizer that provides a platform to anyone who wants one, particularly marginalized groups, that’s not always the case. Those who do have access to the Internet do have a good opportunity to advocate their causes, but those who don’t have Internet access are left out of activist causes. Once this “digital exclusion” is eliminated, activist groups and NGOs will be able to more concrete, progressive change on a larger scale.
Even in areas where Internet access is not as sparse, there is progress to be made. Intersexuality is still an identity classified as a disorder or deformation, and parents are often pressured (by social norms or doctors) to have “corrective” surgery on a newborn intersex infant. Though there are intersex bloggers (Full-Frontal Activism, The Intersex Roadshow, and Intersex in the City, for example), language and established practices related to intersex children, according to Ann Fausto-Sterling in “The Five Sexes,” are nothing short of “Victorian.” Intersex presence online has certainly helped being light to intersex issues; but that awareness still must be turned into action.