First, #technowomanism in Praxis:
And Next, What #technowomanism Is and Why Everyone, Including Men, Should Care
By Shamika Goddard
For every name you might have read in the news, seen in a protest, or even prayed for, there have been hundreds of thousands more who were also taken unjustly, but who are buried and unknown, since before Cain killed Abel, and the trend will likely and sadly continue far after Twitter joins the likes of Friendster.
Millennials like me have embraced technology as a tool for taking on society’s social justice challenges, as well as for recognizing the issues within the zeitgeist and fetish that is tech. Technowomanism celebrates the strides being made in the digital space for social justice while challenging oppression on and offline.
Take, for example, the #blacklivesmatter movement. The movement birthed on black Twitter and created by Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza, all queer black women, amplifies all the struggles found within and throughout communities of color and varying sexual identity. While these women are working toward the “wholeness of an entire people”, they are still at times left out of their own movement due to sexist or queerphobic silencing and devaluing.
Alice Walker, the author of The Color Purple, defined womanism in her 1983 publication In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose as “a black feminist/feminist of color” who was “committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female” making a point to insist that this did not indicate a womanist was ”a separatist, except periodically, for health.” To be clear, Walker clarifies that womanism is not in opposition to feminism or men. We all deserve to be whole starting with the most broken.
And it is time and again the broken who are targeted. Anytime the celebration of difference or diversity threatens someone, it is usually because the individual feels pressure to accept a difference they despise. Consider white supremacists who are known for burning black-owned businesses and establishments as recently as this month (#WhoIsBurningBlackChurches). When those persons saw people of color becoming established as whole human beings, approaching equal footing with white people, there was a threat to the status quo of Jim-and-Jane-Crow-era social lines. Burning buildings, lynching, and other hate crimes were a way of terrorizing people of color, forcing them back down into their denigrated station in life. All oppressed communities experience this terrorism, from microaggressions to murder (with tragically too many examples to cite, the most recent #CharlestonShooting encapsulates this example cogently). The digital equivalent of such terrorism can be witnessed in trolling that starts with offensive libel and can quickly devolve into rape and death threats, as Anita Sarkeesian well documents with just One Week of Harassment. Law enforcement is still figuring out what Twitter is, so having support from people of faith equipped with the fruit of the spirit and tech know-how can make a huge difference in helping society adequately address these unacceptable situations.
The other side of the diversity celebration coin is the fight for equality and the response can often be the same. Just ask Ellen Pao who officially stepped down less than one week before her first year as interim CEO of Reddit after moderators revolted over the unexpected firing of talent director Victoria Taylor. Before joining that company, Pao had tried unsuccessfully to file a gender discrimination suit against a prominent venture capitalist firm. Under Pao’s leadership at Reddit, subreddits like r/trans_fag and r/fatpeoplehate were taken down. Even with a spot on explanation of harassment, some users balked at the censorship and demanded their right to free speech (including hate speech) be upheld. Like many USers, some people believe, erroneously, that the first amendment allows them to say whatever they want to whomever they want without consequence. Freedom of expression that puts groups of people in harm’s way is not protected under the first amendment. You know who you can ask about that? Anti-Islam campaigner Pamela Geller.
The world is grappling with previously silent voices using today’s platforms to finally speak up and out. The intentional inclusivity across identities encompassed by hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter, #LoveWins, and #AddWoman are each poignant examples of technowomanism rendered concrete. But not everyone sees clearly that there even is a struggle. Anita Sarkeesian still has many detractors who do not believe the harassment she is experiencing is real.
People of any faith (NONs, atheiest, agnostic, other, and all) share a common command of love and justice for everyone. Abrahamic faiths especially highlight the urging from God to love and advocate for the least in our societies. The 1st Testament highlights widows, orphans, the poor, and enslaved as groups to take extra care of, and the 2nd Testament shares stories of Jesus spending intimate time with tax collectors, women who have sinned, Syrophonecians, and lepers. Jesus not only healed and transformed social outcasts, he met them where they were and loved them as who they were. He showed the world that God is with the outcast and we should be too.
Even if you only care only about yourself, you can recognize that it is to your benefit to ensure that no one is treated unjustly for one day that someone could be you. Injustice anywhere, Dr. King so eloquently proclaimed, is a threat to justice everywhere. Many narratives with a lone ranger or anti-hero who plays by her own rules often comes up against an unjust system that threatens the uneasy peace she has crafted. We then root even more for the quest to take down that system and free the oppressed, marginalized, and enslaved. There should be no difference between us watching it the latest Terminator movie on the silver screen and through our windows and screens as many march, protest, and speak out against the real world shortcomings of our white supremacist system IRL. In the words of John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight, you don’t want to be on the wrong side of history when it comes to civil rights issues.
The tools womanist thinkers have crafted for dismantling the master’s house, to use Audre Lorde’s turn of phrase, include seeking wholeness for all – starting with the most broken; recognizing the need for the least of us to be named, and the insistence that those with privilege use it as a platform for less privileged stories be told. Techno-womanism allows for an upgraded box of those tools from Black Twitter to using the Occulus Rift to raise our social consciousness. “The master” here is not the police, white people or men. The real “masters” of this world are principalities like white supremacy, sexism, racism, and transphobia. When social justice and the scaleable reach of technology meet, the evils in our world can be conquered with the divine love that each of us has the capacity to tap into.