Digital intersectionality

La semana pasada estuve en San Francisco en la conferencia RightsCon Silicon Valley e hice una presentación sobre interseccionalidad digital. Tuvo una recepción bacán, mucho más bacán de lo que imaginaba para un evento tan gringo así que decidí dejar acá la transcripción:

Hi everyone, in this session I’m going to talk very briefly about digital intersectionality.

Intersectionality is a concept that has been popularized in black feminism, a reference is definitely Patricia Hill Collins in her book Black Feminist Thought where she exposed how different is the subject of feminism for different women depending how many types of oppressions overlap in their identities.

It is not possible to analyze every woman under only one big lens of gender, factors as class, nationality and race should be taken into account. This was a huge advancement in the study of discriminations and as people who work in technology and human rights is a concept that we should address.

For example, with FTAs as TPP most stakeholders intend to talk about general rules about copyright without considering the huge privilege of a north that has profited for centuries of the rest of the world culture for free and now in the south we’re supposed to sit with them and talk horizontally about exceptions and liability. No. We want the abolition of copyright for our people, we want to overcome the privileges of the north.

Or when we talk about women and technology. Is very common to hear about first world priorities as the struggle of female corporate tech CEOs or female tech entrepreneurs, a subject clearly fundamental here in San Francisco but not relevant to us since in our Latin American patriarchal societies we have to worry about the women that every day are killed and harassed with the help of digital resources, in a context like that we are not available to talk about apps nor the Silicon Valley jargon, is a subject you’re not solving with apps.

Big issue isn’t it? But how we can solve this. Let me tell you about some examples from the Latin American activism that I consider successful.

In Chile abortion is penalized under any circumstance, even if your life is at risk because of the pregnancy, or if the fetus is dead inside you, even if you’ve been raped, 12 year old girls are forced to become mothers and women who interrupt their pregnancies go to jail and are publicly harassed and judged. This is one of the biggest issues for us Chilean feminists and as activists in technology is something that we can not ignore. After considering very seriously this extremely complicated context we worked together and we activists have been able to teach on the use of secure communications channels for feminist organizations who provide information on how to perform safe abortions, now more and more women are using encryption for the protection of their identities and avoid jail.

Or let me tell you about surveillance in Chile. We can not talk about it without incorporating the case of the Mapuche people in the south, our largest native group. They are constantly harassed by the police and surveilled by drones bought by military bodies, they are even subject to a special legislation where their rights are constantly ignored because our government considers them terrorists for trying to recover their lands from the hands of corporations. In a case like this we can’t just talk about security policy in some panels formed by privileged lawyers, this is an urgency and Chilean activists have provided information on digital self defence against surveillance and police, the acknowledgement of the using of drones, or methods on how can you avoid compromising your identity. Without this approach any effort as discussions about surveillance in conferences like this one is going to be not relevant.

Should we ban white people from these discussions? We wish but we know we shouldn’t. We want to involve everyone in the quest of a more egalitarian society but before doing anything every person should check their own privileges, is an exercise that all of us must do before trying to approach any social issue, for example, I hate when women from the first world with only superficial knowledge of our circumstances go to Latin America and tell me what we feminists should do, and because I hate them so much I know that I have to consider my own privilege in order to not be like this annoying people from the north. I’m not in the peak of the pyramid of privilege, I am a woman, from Latin America, coming from a low class sector of society but I have to put myself in the place of even less privileged women than me. What about trans women, what about disabled women. I want to finish this talk saying that I envision a digital environment where every community is seriously taken into account, is a matter of respect, is a matter of solidarity.

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