Candy Rodríguez

How do we appropriate the internet? This was one of the questions that most resonated with me during the Cyber/hack/feminist Meeting against Patriarchal Violence held December 2 at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Sciences and Humanities of UNAM (Mexico).

And do we really want to appropriate it? - given the burden of power relations implied in this phrase. Haydeé said appropriation is based on the concept of individuality, "what is one's own ('propio' in Spanish) is not mutual," and questioned whether we women want to inhabit that kind of space, based on that kind of thinking. She drew a parallel to the case of companies who "are the ones that appropriate our personal information," engaging in an abuse of power in their relations with their users.

It is more important to talk about inhabiting the internet, “inhabiting it as a space of collective care." And inhabiting it from a feminist mindset means generating dialogue, horizontal relations, the creation of feminist methodologies and mutual support in the construction of knowledge in online spaces.

An enormous number of themes and ideas came out during the meeting; however, they all had in common the concept that we have to stick together as a pack to be able to inhabit and build a diverse, feminist internet. On various occasions participants spoke about the huge responsibility that we must assume when building/inhabiting this space. We have to understand that we are creators and not just users. For us, the internet is a political terrain that is in constant dispute.

Paola said that we must also build networks outside the online world, and talked about the possibility of imagining other ways of communicating in which we do not have to depend on companies that profit from us. Data mining implies accepting their conditions by thinking that we have no other option, and believing that we do not yet have other mechanisms that allow us agency, autonomy and freedom. In her view, coloniality [in the digital world] is the dispossession of our privacy.

The internet isn't just what we post, it's not just what is circulating. The internet is possible because we are people who plug in, who connect, who upload and download information. The web is built through all the identities we adopt inside and outside this space. The internet is not a space apart. And we must know when we say yes, and why.

We talked about our initiation into these spaces and we all agreed that many of us were formed in spaces where those who taught us were well-off white men, in settings where those who have the knowledge hold the power. Learning spaces are places of harsh, hard and very real negotiation, and this is how the entire foundation, the whole structure of telecommunications arises from power, from control, from the arms race, Amaranta told us.

We cyber feminist hackers question these forms of hierarchical teaching and we remember and talk about personal problems, because we truly believe that the personal is political and to talk about these experiences politicizes our spaces, our bodies, and our collective and personal forms of teaching.

We cyber feminist hackers do not ask if we can take something: we go and take it. That was what happened in the case of the Hacklabfeminista La Chinampa: they didn't ask for space, or for someone to come and teach them; they founded networks to generate a physical space for collective learning.

Latin American cyber-feminists decided to create and build as a group; that is what the feminist future that Guiomar Rovira refers to is all about - the collectivization of the struggle and knowledge.

Networks save lives, as Lulú Barrera said, and cyber feminist hackers know it and we have seen it in each of the mobilizations that have spread from the online world to the streets; we saw it in #24A, #25N and in the Mexican "glitereada" that took place in recent months.

Our philosophy is based on hacker ethics, where we believe that sharing is good and essential to life. We know that the internet is a space that is inhabited, that is built and that entails a lot of know-how and like all architectures has many forms of power. We recognize the possibility of creating a new information architecture that could destabilize that power structure. And from our different trenches, we decide on our rules.

This meeting served to hack into academia, to talk about the kinds of violence that we face in Mexico and how through praxis we have found forms of collective resistance. We talked about the importance of continuing to hack the internet and the principles that govern it. We took a historical tour of feminist principles for the internet with Erika Smith. She told us about the importance of memory and how this was a new principle that had emerged in Mexico, that Estrella came up with.

Lili spoke to us about the importance of consent in any habitat, Estrella talked about the importance of providing support and of maintaining a collective memory about organizational processes. Fany told us how they have appropriated the digital space and how support for women who want to have an abortion has been arranged by means of the internet.

Alex talked to us about the importance of recognizing our rights in the online world. Olimpia explained the process of creating the package of reforms currently being legislated in Mexico, and Caro told us about her research on the legislation involving online violence. Angie described her experience in pushing for a law that penalizes digital violence in a Mexican state as conservative as Aguascalientes.

Irene spoke about the importance of politicizing the code, of breaking down stereotypes surrounding our bodies and the construction of collective knowledge. Yunué discussed digital attacks against women journalists and the implications this has on women's freedom of expression in Mexico.

Karla shared her local network with us during the meeting. Thanks so much to Fer for always sharing with us her feelings and thoughts about how she inhabits the technologies and how they affect her body. Marianne gave us the chance to listen/see how to construct using livecoding, using audiovisual material from the performance “a rapist in your path”.

All of us at the meeting agreed that it is necessary to build new forms, that we must resist an internet that wants to keep us censored, calm and abiding by established rules.

However, as Irene Soria said, we ourselves probably won't see this change. If the future goal is to put an end to capitalism, we won't have to do it, but we must pave the way…

And if we have to burn it all down, for the future, then we´ll burn it.

Click here to see the video (in spanish) of the broadcast of the event.

*Many thanks to the Grupo de Pesquisa em Gênero, Tecnologias Digitais e Cultura (Research in Gender, Digital Technologies and Culture Group) at the Federal University of Bahia and to the Colectiva Insubordinadas for the management and organization of the event.