New Criticals

Overall, the labor of online social networking bears a striking resemblance to what has traditionally been constructed as "women's work"—the caring and relational labor involved in holding communities together and reproducing the conditions that support members' everyday survival, wellbeing, and capacity to contribute to society. As Kathi Weeks (2011) usefully summarizes in her recent study of the concept of work in capitalist culture, a major contribution of 1970s socialist feminist thought was to give recognition to the value generated by the skillful effort of caring for and sustaining families and their individual members, effort that has, historically, been disproportionately expended by women.  Inspired by feminist thinkers, I want to look at media refusal from a feminist standpoint that acknowledges and validates the caring labor performed by social media users. This will involve outlining two distinct kinds of value generated by social media labor, in addition to the value that is redounded back on the networks and their owners (described above). To resist what we might identify as an exploitative labor relation by walking off the job—by refusing social media participation—would mean giving up at least two sources of value that settle on the workers themselves. There are almost certainly more kinds of value than just the two I outline here, I merely offer these as the two that became most immediately clear to me in approaching the issue from a perspective grounded in feminist theory.