Today on Across the Tumblrverse, the near-defunct column that once brought you such giggles as this interview with Michael Stipe and this little wonder into whether Tumblr is over, which resulted in this blushing brush with Azealia Banks (you’re great, really), we will discuss why the internet is AWESOME.
Exhibit A. The Man-Child
Two days ago, The New Inquiry, publisher of the best writing on the net (I said it first but UTNE also just awarded them for such), released a piece from their latest issue, Vol. 18: Family Planning, titled Further Materials Toward a Theory of the Man-Child. Moira Weigel and Mal Ahern’s Theory of the Man-Child is an update and rebuttal to the French collective Tiqqun’s Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl, an aphoristic anti-Capitalist treatise that uses an imaginary femme as its object of derision or recuperation, depending on your reading.
Young-Girl was one of those slow burn theoretical text. Originally published in France in 1999, the text was translated by heartbreaker Ariana Reines and released as part of Semiotext(e)’s Intervention Series in June 2012. Since then, it has percolated through (at least) my culture echo chamber, such that “Young-Girl” has become an accepted shorthand just like “spectacle” or “Empire” or “LOL”.
Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl was my most formative text of 2012 (here it is w/r/t Spring 2013 Fashion Week, here it is w/r/t Spring Breakers, and here it is again w/r/t Bernadette Corporation). Despite my and my fellow chamber screamers’ embrace of the Young-Girl as a concept, there was something unsettling about Tiqqun’s text. That something has been pegged, splayed and stripped naked to his totally-average bits by Moira Weigel and Mal Ahern in their Theory of the Man-Child. To slackerly evade exegesis of Weigel and Ahern’s Man-Child, I’ll direct you to the text itself and to Katie J.M. Baker’s much-commented-on review of it on Jezebel. Because my point is not to rehash the Man-Child but to laud the echo chamber.
In the couple days since its publication, Theory of the Man-Child has dominated my feeds. It has travelled to persons I never knew would love such a thing and made me closer to them. It has even inspired a Tumblr: theman-child.tumblr.com. Weigel and Ahern’s formidable text is a microphenomonon. Its furious ascent has made apathetic-me believe that change (revolution?) is actually possible. And this is all thanks to THE INTERNET.
Exhibit B. Anti-Patriarchy Online
Last week, Harry Burke wrote a very cautious report on the new feminisms of Tumblr for Dazed Digital. Anti-Patriarchy Online heralds the rise of a “Riot Grrrl 2.0” (my term), claiming nodes of Tumblr as the new zine exchange. Where we once distributed by mail order and indie newsstand, we now “like” and “share” through the internet. The means have changed but the ends are the same: today’s feminist microblogs, with their D.I.Y. bricolage personal-is-political content, are a reboot of ‘90s xerox feminism.
Burke’s article is sound but he wastes half of it defending how a man like himself could possibly discuss such a phenomenon without acting like a patriarch. Listen, Harry, relax, read the Man-Child. What you’re doing is A+ok. Really, it’s so greatly important that men write about feminism, that they recognize it and recognize their role in it. Thank you.
While Burke’s foray into “Tumblr feminism” is a wonderful start, I would like to extend the conversation (THE INTERNET IS AWESOME) by introducing Bikini Kill’s Riot Grrrl Manifesto of 1991 BECAUSE, at 22 years old, its seventeen point proclamation zeros in on the power and potential of Tumblr for grrrls. A snippet:
BECAUSE us girls crave records and books and fanzines that speak to US that WE feel included in and can understand in our own ways.
BECAUSE we wanna make it easier for girls to see/hear each other’s work so that we can share strategies and criticize-applaud each other.
BECAUSE we must take over the means of production in order to create our own meanings.
That last point is particularly resonant when talking about Tumblr and other web communication. Mainstream media production is still largely dominated by patriarchs and heterosexists. Things are shifting—we have Girls. But would Girls have happened without Lena Dunham’s 2009 web series Delusional Downtown Divas? Low-cost direct-to-audience media production, like Tumblr blogs and YouTube videos, is one of the most accessible and critical tools for social change.
Before Burke published his piece, I had often thought of my internet echo chamber of brilliant mediated ladies as a contemporary consciousness raising circle. We make and share, criticize and applaud. Enabled by the internet, we recognize each other without the distractions of entitled Man-Children types and other lucky dudes. The internet is AWESOME for anti-patriarchy,
BECAUSE we recognize fantasies of Instant Macho Gun Revolution as impractical lies meant to keep us simply dreaming instead of becoming our dreams AND THUS seek to create revolution in our own lives every single day by envisioning and creating alternatives to the bullshit christian capitalist way of doing things.
BECAUSE I believe with my wholeheartmindbody that girls constitute a revolutionary soul force that can, and will change the world for real.