Machín 2 machín: A critical feminist and psychosocial perspective on new digital networks (1)

Let's start this reflection by explaining the title (this article was written in Mexico and has been translated from Spanish). When we find ourselves in spaces where the technical and regulatory aspects of telecommunications are discussed, spaces that are mostly male and boring (perhaps for this very reason), inside jokes tend to arise. In Spanish, when we talk about communications between machines – which is an important issue in discussions about next generation networks (for example, in 5G and the “internet of things”) – we almost always say it in English: machine to machine (M2M). But when a Spanish speaker says it, it sounds like "machín to machín" (a variation of the word “macho”, pronounced mah-CHEEN) – that is, man to man, or "let’s see who’s more macho", in Mexican slang.

The joke invites us to delve deeper into a critique, from a feminist and psychosocial perspective, of these new networks that are emerging with the abovementioned rushed transition to 5G. This article is an attempt to break down some issues where we believe that these perspectives could contribute to the discussion around these new networks. We do this with the intention of sharing our observations, in the hope that they will add to the debate on network technologies and their relationship with different populations in situations of vulnerability and, in this specific case, women.

Different schools of feminism refer to the concept of microsexism or micromachismo to refer to subtle behaviours that are mechanisms of normalisation of oppressive gender dynamics within a community or society. The expression "machín to machín" as a joke is one of these mechanisms that should be understood in relation to its context, as proposed by the psychosocial approach, in order to reveal the “soft”, subtle violence that underlies the expression and that aims to perpetuate the status quo of power relations in the capitalist and hetero-patriarchal system. The expression as a joke has a symbolic meaning involving what Mexican philosopher Sayak Valencia describes as "colonial psycho-politics”, referring to the psycho-affective colonisation of our relationship with technology, which is cross-cut by our gender identity. On the other hand, this expression also reflects the symbolic meaning intrinsic to the design of capitalist digital technologies as proposed by activist and academic Sasha Costanza-Chock.

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