Feminist grassroots organizations as peer-to-peer network

Via JStor Daily: Why the Future of the Internet May Depend on the History of Abortion

This thought-provoking article by Alexandra Samuel discusses how to preserve or reestablish connectivity in case of a disaster that brings down communication networks.  The author argues that to guard against such catastrophes, we need to “radically expand the number of people who have the technical know-how, hardware, and emergency power to set up and sustain an peer-to-peer mesh network.”

The model for creating this kind of “grassroots self-reliance” comes from a surprising source: the movement for abortion rights, which spread knowledge about an early abortion technique known as “menstrual extraction” through the feminist self-help movement and alternative feminist press. (for more on the history of this technology, see  Johanna Schoen’s fabulous new book, Abortion After Roe).

As I observed in my book, The Morning After: A History of Emergency Contraception in the United States, knowledge about other women’s health technologies like emergency contraception were also spread through these type of self-help networks.  The Web has replaced the fanzines and other alternative publications, but maybe there should be print backups just in case this information gets suppressed, or, as Samuel warns, the Web goes down because of a catastrophe.

Samuel argues that “we need a grassroots movement for disseminating networking knowledge that is just as ardent as the radical feminist movement of the 1960s and 1980s.”

Great point:   As a start, perhaps someone could bring back an updated print version of “The Whole Earth Catalog“?



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