The Real Versus the Digital Self? A Call for a Redefinition of the Body
Living in a heteronormative society, it is not difficult to find yourself checking your body’s validity in accordance with social mores. Is it abnormal to like people of the same gender as mine? Why don’t I like sex? These constant self-questioning and self-doubt stem partly from our environment of shame culture in Hong Kong. The internet, with its tempting offer of anonymity, gives some problematic individuals the courage to judge others without any consequences. I still remember the anger of seeing a trending post on LIHKG discussion forum discussing how the woman in a photo, taken by the poster without her consent, should not wear tight yoga pants because “she has no butt”. Nonetheless, the internet is not all bad. Writer Legacy Russell’s coining of the term “Glitch Feminism” in 2013 is in fact inspired by the fluidity and potential the internet has to offer. The term is later expanded to become the Glitch Feminist Manifesto.
After reading all the craze about porn star James Deen on the internet, Russell was inspired to write about the female experience of sex, the one where she sits in front of a computer screen exploring her own sexuality. Russell was then surprised to find the collapse of the concept of digital dualism—the idea that one’s virtual self operates in isolation from one’s real self. The glitch here is, as Russell describes, the digital orgasm, something that produces an effect on the body, which may alter how one interacts with one’s body, producing a continuous self.
In the book’s introduction, she recounts her adolescent self in struggling to be free under the constant and white heteronormative surveillance and conditioning, went to the virtual world to be whoever she wanted by putting on the digital skin of different identities. Russell believes the idea of the body in being constantly tied to the concept gender, confines us; it also attempts to give form to something that is inherently abstract. “Glitch feminism urges us to consider the in-between as a core component of survival…a spectrum across which we may be empowered to choose and define ourselves for ourselves” (18). While the concept Glitch Feminism can be difficult to grasp, one could perhaps start by questioning whether there is such thing as “the real body” and recognizing the weight and importance of one’s so-called virtual self.
Works cited: Legacy Russell. Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto. Verso, 2020. Ebook version on Apple Books.
Other sources: https://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2012/12/10/digital-dualism-and-the-glitch-feminism-manifesto/
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