Existing online as a Black woman isn’t easy. Just ask Legacy Russell, author of the wildly popular manifesto, “Glitch Feminism.”
She coined the phrase “glitch feminism’ in the early 2010s, and describes it as a “creative and political exploration of how the internet as material can be explained—or the ‘glitch’—the construct of the binary body”. Plainly put, we can use the digital space to realize who we really are outside of the constraints of our hetero-normative, patriarchal world.
Beginning as an online essay for The Society Pages in 2012, Russell fleshed out the idea for the book during while she completed graduate school. “When I graduated, it was during the creative time that I wrote the early essays for ‘Glitch Feminism,'” she said to GU. Calling upon her earliest experiences with chat rooms and the idea of crafting her own personhood while enjoying her life as a young Black girl, she built the concept largely around expression of self in online spaces. She began doing installations, lectures, and forums expanding on the concept of ‘the glitch’ in our society, which she says, “offers an opportunity for us to perform and transform ourselves in an infinite variety of identities.”
She referred to the book as a “slow cook,” noting how vastly different it was from drafting essays. It gave her time to flesh out her main ideas in a way that relates to the day to day, and truly produce a manifesto that could not only speak to her experiences, but inform folks of differing personages of the depth of their own. Russell shared that manifestos are ambitious in nature, especially in their “demands for what a different world could look like and make recommendations toward that end.” She then added that Glitch Feminism finds a way “for the reader to navigate those things with the text and to innovate beyond it.”
Russell also uses her work to amplify artists who are participating in similar work, but are less known in their field. She refers to E. Jane, a queer Black artist who explores futurity though their digital art creations, and is also featured in Russell’s digital presentation of glitch feminism. Russell says that the internet is “young but dense,” adding that so we have to “make sure not to repeat the same mistakes that have been canonized by white male academics in the academy.” The only way to do this is by crediting young, Black visionaries.
Russell then mentioned that she’s aware of the interpersonal violence that comes with being a Black, trans or queer woman on the internet. Although there are online platforms and communities made for women to feel safe, those spaces are not as protected as mainstream artistic spaces we hold for less marginalized groups. She says in her book that although this is an ongoing struggle, we still have to think about ways to build protected communities around Black women online and away from the keyboard.
Although the digital world is a place for positive engagement and connection at times, Russell reminds us that it should not be looked at as a personal utopia due to the influences of our flawed society. Despite this, she thinks that was should not turn away from the potential to mobilize using the internet, and think about glitch feminism as a new way to fight against the restrictive norms we face daily.
Order “Glitch Feminism” here.