What is a feminist internet?

The internet is indispensable as a tool for learning and communication, but is it a place which fosters equality? Following our visit to the APC conference, we’ve been looking into the idea of a Feminist Internet and how it works.


What is a feminist internet?

According to www.feministinternet.net the idea of a feminist internet is grounded in 5 key principles:


  • Access

  • Movements and Public Participation

  • Expression

  • Economy

  • Agency


“A feminist internet starts with enabling more women and queer persons to enjoy universal, acceptable, affordable, unconditional, open, meaningful and equal access to the internet.”


A perfect place to start is the issues surrounding access, the most recent data (June 2018) shows that 44.9% of the world still don’t have access to the internet, leaving almost half of our global society out of the conversation. Even in countries which do have access, there is often a societal bias, which suggests that technology and the internet is not a feminine thing, this bias leads to a larger proportion of men online than women.


The lack of access can also mean a lack of up to date information, particularly information on sexual and reproductive health and rights, pleasure, safe abortion, access to justice, and LGBTIQ issues. Without information, changing socialised inequality becomes even harder - it’s like fighting a battle without weapons. Without access to evidence and facts, your message can be dismissed more easily.


One barrier to internet access can be the local economy. In several countries there is still an issue surrounding the monopoly of internet providers, without competition from other services, capitalist logic can lead technology solely toward profit, ignoring the societal benefits which could come from the increased access.


“We work to create alternative forms of economic power that are grounded in principles of cooperation, solidarity, commons, environmental sustainability, and openness.”


Software cost can be a barrier to access so, a feminist internet uses only free/libre open source software (aka FLOSS), giving everyone an equal platform to create with.


“Promoting, disseminating, and sharing knowledge about the use of FLOSS is central to our praxis.”


The power of the internet can amplify women’s narratives and lived realities. A feminist internet would allow these discourses to be published without censorship and fear or persecution. This links to the principle of expression, and the right to sexual expression as a freedom of expression issue of no less important than political or religious expression.


The internet offers a unique space to negotiate social norms, however much of the conventional ideas of patriarchy and heteronormativity are still largely shaping the online world. Despite there still being dominant patriarchal structures online, the internet also offers activists a chance to build movements, and the ability to easily connect large groups of people with shared beliefs and goals. This can be a double-edged sword when it comes to the governance of the internet. In many countries, sites which focus on LGBTQI subjects are still banned by both internet service providers and in some cases the governments of the country. By creating a feminist internet, and having more voices online bringing these issues to light, we could reduce local interference with online communities.


“We strongly object to the efforts of state and non-state actors to control, surveil, regulate and restrict feminist and queer expression on the internet through technology, legislation or violence.”


As it stands at the moment, we’re not achieving the principles set out for a feminist internet, and in Europe some controversial new concepts being put into place, such as article 13 and 11. The question becomes, how do we foster an online community which recognises and accepts these principles when the control doesn’t always fall in our hands?


Read more about the principles here: https://feministinternet.org/en/principles