If there are two main ideas that I have (so far) gleaned from this course, it would these two: 1) technologies introduced into the classroom have the opportunity of being panoptic, and 2) the same oppressive ideologies that exist in the physical world also manifest themselves in the cyber world. The later point was definitely manifested in the three articles that we read—Romano, Sullivan, and Hawisher & Sullivan. The male gaze still exists online and discursive oppression in chat forums still exist despite the fact that the chat forum gives women more of an ability to speak and not be silenced.
I further shatter my hopes of technology being a liberating space in reading (and agreeing with) these three readings. Romano’s hope for reform of the female subjective self seems only partially possible in that women are able to speak in online forums, but they can only really control their own cyber personae and not the male oppression that speaks them. In this same way, Sullivan accounts the disturbing male gaze as perpetually objectifying women, and making them self-conscious in an online space that is able to transform hegemonic gazes (but traditionally refuses). When I got to Hawisher & Sullivan’s article, it then hit me: women are able to take control of their visual representation when they are able to alter the image on their own terms. Here is some hope to counteract male hegemonic gaze, and yet this ability to alter the image is exclusive in itself.
One characteristic that I noted about Hawisher & Sullivan’s 20-something women whom creating websites was that both of them were studying graphic design. Hawisher & Sullivan note that these women have more control over how they are visually portraited and they expose themselves to the male gaze on their own terms. However, they have the liberty to do this through their expertise: they are cyber geeks who know how to operate the internet and they are graphic design geeks who know how operate graphic design software in order to represent themselves in the ways they want to be represented. In contrast, the faculty example of Susan Hilligoss showed that Susan either did not have the time to make her own website, did not have the expertise to construct a site, or was restricted by the department from creating her own site; these days, the first two possibilities are more likely. Those women with the abilities to visually alter themselves, to mold their cyborg selves, can do so. But what about the women that don’t have the expertise to alter image? Are they still subject to the male gaze because they cannot shield themselves through technological abilities?