What I am talking about when I talk about the male gaze is not only the way an individual man looks at a womon, but at the level of patriarchal society, surveillance is the male gaze, and in addition to being a violation in of itself it is the precursor to more brutal physical violations. And these physical violations are then gazed upon and reproduced for man’s necrophilic consumption. It is a complete cycle of violence and violation.
As wimmin have noted many times, the energy of a room filled with wimmin changes instantly when a man walks in, no matter how nice or inoffensive he is. It is simply by laying his eyes and ears upon us that we can no longer live in our own world: we live in his.
The Internet, being that it is completely and thoroughly compromised by a capitalism that sells ourselves back to ourselves, other corporations, and the government, and its innovations pushed along by patriarchs in the pornography industry, is no safe place for feminists. Every time we speak through the Internet, we subject ourselves to the male gaze. It may be a mechanized and codified gaze, sure, but the logs are stored in someone else’s server and often intercepted by Utah and Fort Mead. Feminists in anglophone countries have blithely ignored our environment because the capitalists told us to do so, and partly because the capitalists created such a social pull that we felt we had almost no choice but to follow our “social networks” into a room with no walls. We told ourselves, like everyone else did, that we had “Nothing to Hide” and conveniently forgot that we were all being tricked into quoting Goebbels, to say nothing of the perverse pleasure nazis would take if they had the Internet in their hands. And so we have underestimated the fuckery that can come from using social media.
But even if wise and perceptive minds were to warn us, we would brush it aside, as is very common. For people have been warning everyone since the Internet’s inception, but have only made marginal progress. I believe this is because we have all been violated and wish not to know this fact. We all feel the discomfort, but choose to ignore it, and some of us simply suffer “chilling effects”. We would rather buy in to the capitalists’ line that it is a “new way” of existing, posturing it as a kind of radical honesty by calling it “open sourcing” humanity, and overlooking the creepy boundary-violations of that Fuckerberg who was best known for making the call for “a more open Internet”, one in which you used your full, legal name with complete strangers, “just like in real life”. Yet in real life, if there still is one anymore, people did not ask for legal names and most of us were fine with nicknames. Only in government and capitalist enterprises were we all required to use our legal names, and the legal name is a recent invention for the purpose of tracking paternity and material wealth. When not controlled by a government, people use whatever names they wish. Now that the Wild West days of the Internet are over, I would say that we are experiencing an inversion of reality, where the capitalist-imposed norms of Internet social media culture have slowly crept into real life, and subverted cultural norms of privacy and dignity. Where the Gaze goes, the policing and brutality is not far behind.
Wimmin have learned that when we speak out on these platforms, we get threatened, and doxxed. What we don’t yet know, and perhaps will learn just as activists in the global south have, is that although connection with each other is incredibly vital, we communicate under the mechanized gaze of capitalist patriarchy. This is possible because we are on capitalist patriarchy’s platforms, and thus have no inner life. There are measures we can take to mitigate males from lunging at us through their screens, but what we really need is to reject the mechanized male gaze altogether, and use our own technologies to recover our inner lives and female separatist spaces which are the heart of the wimmin’s movement. The Internet, as a whole, is broken and must be rebuilt from the ground up. This poses the opportunity to pioneer new, distributed networks based on horizontal and diffuse control of resources and prevent our sites and our selves from being attacked and intruded upon ever again. Even if such a new networking system was created, this may still involve using the technology less and less as a primary site of connection which replaces our community relationships, and more as an appliance to reinforce our knowledge and connectivity over long distances.