New Criticals

Feminist blogs evolved not only from early Web technologies but from a long tradition of women’s media practices, which often blurred easy distinctions between personal and social life. These practices include autobiographical writing, journal- and diary-keeping practices, experimental documentary work, film, video, and photography. Such media practices emphasize the value and necessity of self-expression and social commentary as well as give voice and vision to untold, unseen, or forsaken experiences. Looking, for example, to the history of women’s experimental video practices we see a number of female artists, such as Vanalyne Green, Mindy Faber, Lynn Hershman, Joan Jonas, Martha Rosler, and Shigeko Kubota, turning the camera toward the self, the body, the home, family relations, and the domestic sphere in general in order to break the silence of trauma and to shatter myths of gender and sexuality, motherhood, and the private family. In this way, such autobiographic video has been described as a form of empowerment both for the videomaker and the audience of presumed female viewers. Such self-examination is also what Rosalind Krauss famously deemed “narcissistic,” linking experimental video production with the very nature of video and the evolving apparatus of video itself. Krauss’ argument not only resurrected the very critique that Hanisch meant to dismantle—that focusing on personal subjects is a misguided move and such topics must be dismissed as being less-than serious— it continues to surface today in discussions of “selfies” and women’s online media practices.  Nonetheless, Deirdre Boyle would label the eclectic mix of experimental video a “radical pluralism,” which grew like a network via other forms of media including alternative television programs, guerilla-style activist work, and community video.  The social and political goals of such a feminist “pluralism” in many ways mirrors the very “ethos” that is said to accompany the development of cyberfeminism and Web 2.0 technologies, namely a strong emphasis on sharing personal experience, connecting and building communities through such shared experiences, and encouraging access and participation in media, particularly and specifically as a way to express one’s “self.”