Sunday, 29 December 2013

Wikileaks, Privacy and Gender

The right to privacy and the right to know are two flip sides of the same coin.  Who has access to information is a critical feature of our information age, and it is information which renders the nature of something “knowable”.   The dominance of the men in hacker culture, subtly reinforced by tropes of sexism encourage women to conceal their gender and, to be absorbed into the normative universal subject of man. It is the role of the subject to interrogate others and make them knowable.  The subject is then free to construct these others according to their interpretations of their revealed nature.

And it is in this vein that women’s privacy is continually broken.  In their construction as an object for the interrogation by men, men demand the rights to womens information – particularly within private relationships.  A recent case involving a woman who ended up in hospital after swallowing her mobile phone when her partner demanded to check her text messages is accompanied by a public narrative of “what was she hiding”?.  While many sites giving advice on domestic violence include information on how to delete your browser history and conceal the knowledge that you have obtained.  For knowledge is power, and power is deemed to properly flow only one way.  Women’s privacy is continually broken.
Its very common to hear men share all kinds of private information about their female partners.  It is not unknown for husbands/boyfriends to “let slip” that their partners are pregnant before they wanted it public knowledge or shared with that particular person, or shared other aspects of their personal information, especially medial information, without checking with them if it was ok to do so.  

Also in terms of state surveillance, women’s experience of it is generally higher. They have more contact with state institutions, like hospitals, schools, welfare agencies, benefit offices, housing offices etc  giving out personal information to each one, than men generally do.  Individual women are then constructed on the basis of knowledge gleaned about them by others, rather than from their own self-construction.  Consequently the revelations of NSA surveillance  is more shocking to men, because they see themselves as private entities, whereas women have become accustomed to having their boundaries breached in all kinds of ways.

The ultimate embodiment of male power and subjectivity is the US Government.  Through its intelligence services it establishes its knowledge of all kinds of entities, constructs them on the basis of that knowledge in its own interests and then takes action secure that its subjective position is dominant and unchallengable.  Through information agencies such as the CIA it penetrates the organisations of others, discoursively refashioning them and controlling the consequent narrative depiction of them to suit its own agenda, while protectively guarding its own information lest others do likewise.

Read On […]

Author / Source:  Mhairi McAlpine at 2nd Council House