Anonymous - the global, low-orbiting, hackalicious Internet phenomenon - has been DDoSing perceived enemies of Wikileaks and more recently taking on a supportive role in the Arabist uprising. Anonymous seems to be everywhere. But percolating below the surface is an inchoate group of women working under the Anonymous banner: They're called AnonyMiss.
Although anyone can join Anonymous there was a public perception that the group was a little too testosteronic. A call was made for women to get involved, and AnonyMiss came into being. The entry point is the AnonyMiss IRC channel. From there, newer participants can be exposed to various Anonymous ops, get technical advice, and make their choices about how to get involved. Some chose to hang around the AnonyMiss channel and develop their own flavor of change.
Emma_A is involved with Anonymous and is helping to develop AnonyMiss. She spoke with about the recently formed group, and our conversation follows below.
(A disclosure: the more I learned about AnonyMiss, the more I felt inspired to personally support their work; it would be fair to say that I am now more of a supporter than a neutral observer.)
Oxblood: AnonyMiss was announced by Anonymous here. The notice was interesting in itself but even more interesting, at least for me, were the comments. There doesn't appear to be any particular consensus. Some think it's a good idea; others think it's unnecessary; still others want to see boobs. What is your reaction to the feedback?
Emma_A: I don't take it very seriously. Some are for and some are against. One has to expect that in any new movement. I sense some hostility. Some people think that women should shut up and let the men do the talking. That ain't gonna happen, boys. We're determined to make our voices heard and we want you with us. That's my goal, to make this a joint effort with men and women working together for the freedom of women. AnonyMiss is a fledgling entity learning to fly, and we will.
Oxblood: When did you become involved with Anonymous and why?
Emma_A: I first heard about Anonymous via my friend Barrett Brown. He's a staunch supporter of freedom of speech and believes that Anonymous can be a force for good, to effect cultural change and also material change. Meaning that the ordinary person will realize he/she does not have to sit back and take it, that we have power in our own hands. People are bigger than our so called leaders. We need to organize and we can change laws via peaceful protest. If you've ever watched the news and thought, WTF, and felt helpless to do anything, then Anonymous is for you.
The mainstream media tries to portray the movement as having nefarious motives, of being dangerous and out of control, and of course we are dangerous. But we are not terrorists. We seek the truth and that's what is dangerous. We want transparency and integrity in government. Imagine people knowing what their government is really up to. My God, that is dangerous. Hence you get the authorities running scared and desperately looking for scapegoats with their favorite media in tow. They attack people like Bradley Manning and Julian Assange. It's absurd.
We do not want state controlled media. We don't want spin, manipulation or government propaganda. But the state media machine is geared to that. It's in their interest to denigrate any speech they don't agree with. Mavericks, people outside what society deems acceptable and safe. Those people are freethinkers and individuals. They are the people we want.
We are dangerous in a way that has never been seen before. We can reach enormous numbers of people via the Internet. We can coordinate and motivate. We can effect change via consensus and we don't need the rich and powerful to help us. That's what interests me.
Oxblood: There is a strain of misogyny in Anonymous although my guess is that it comes mostly from younger participants. Does this bother you or is it something where you just hold your nose and look the other way.
Emma_A: Its always tricky trying to become accepted within a traditionally male dominated group. But having said that I haven't experienced it personally although I'm aware of it. I believe that the more women become involved, the easier it will be to concentrate on what is important and what we want to highlight. I can honestly say I have had nothing but amazing help and support, not to mention kindness from every Anon I've been in contact with.
Oxblood: Would you describe yourself, for lack of a better term, as a feminist?
Emma_A: I'd describe myself as a woman. I want to see women as a class lifted up, empowered, educated, brought out of poverty, trained and enabled to work, given autonomy over their own bodies, given full access to reproductive rights, and given respect. I want women to be loved and recognized as half of the human race, as sentient beings, which is of course what we are.
Oxblood: What issues are most important to you as a woman? Emma_A: First and foremost, education. In many countries girls do not go to school, are married at a very young age, have many children, and that's it. This is not just detrimental to the child and its mother but also to the world. Our population growth is out of control. Stop girls being forced to have so many children; lift them out of that cycle of being just a womb. It sickens me that a 10 year old child can be married to a 50 year old man in some cultures. Blame religion, blame tradition, whatever it is. I want to see that challenged.
Second, invest in women and girls. Many studies have proven that when a community invests in education and training for its female members the whole community benefits. Look at UNwomen.org or read Half the Sky by Kristof and WuDunn.
Third, reproductive rights. Women everywhere need to be able to control their own fertility. We need access to contraception. We don't need some old guy in a Pope hat telling us we must have 15 children because its some other old guy in the sky's wish. Fuck that. Give women all over the world the freedom to decide when and how many children they want. Firstly educate women. Educated women have fewer children and have them later in life. Also lets re-frame abortion. Lets get away from the conservative lies that abortion is killing a baby. It's a cluster of cells. The fact is that those cells are within a living breathing being, a woman. For fuck's sake, give her the dignity to decide herself whether to proceed with a pregnancy or not. Hands off our wombs guys. They belong to us, not you.
Oxblood: How would you describe AnonyMiss?
Emma_A: I see it as the genesis of a women's movement which seeks to include both women and men; to work towards the freeing of the female underclass in all societies. For instance, here in the West there is a huge war on women by the Republican party in America. The latest absurdity is by Representative Bobby Franklin trying to criminalize miscarriage. If you miscarry then you could get the death penalty. I have no words to describe the absurdity of that. How did that bill even get written? But lets turn that around. Can you imagine a female politician writing an equivalent bill for men? How the press would categorize her? Yet we've hardly heard a word about this nutcase Bobby Franklin. And people say Anonymous is dangerous! Give me a fucking break. When you have men abusing positions of power like that, who exactly is more dangerous? It's that hypocrisy that sticks in my gut. We need to highlight these issues, and plenty of men could help us with that.
Oxblood: Do you see a time when AnonyMiss will spearhead its own ops or media campaigns? If so what kinds of actions would you like to see take place?
Emma_A: I'd love to see that happen. I'd support campaigns against backward thinkers like Representative Franklin, for instance. My God, there's ditch full of sewer rats like Franklin whose misogynist views should be challenged and held up to scrutiny.
Oxblood: Just as there are women in Anonymous, how do you feel about men being involved with AnonyMiss? Any pluses or negatives?
Emma_A: I think I've answered that previously. I'd love for men to support us. In fact for AnonyMiss to truly succeed we need to make this inclusive, to make men feel welcome too. We can support each other. Isn't that the best way?
Link: AnonyMiss press release, March 2011.