Cam girls: Some points I would like to discuss (Silja)

Buiani, Roberta, 2003. Those Brave Girls:
What can you see through the webcam? Graduate Programme in Communication and Culture York University Toronto, Ontario

  • Internet : A cultural artifact or a new culture?

I have a feeling that the author is comparing a very specific phenomenon on Internet, or even a part of that phenomenon that she has chosen for her purposes, and a average norm of the rest of culture, and then finds differences. There have always been women in real life who see themselves and express their identities very differently from the norm, just like cam girls, and yet have also been influenced by that norm, by the gender stereotypes, just like cam girls, because how can anyone not be influenced, being born into the culture? It does not seem very valid comparison to me. Buiani says, “cultural and social paradigms undergo an internal transformation, once reassembled on line”. I think that’s it – internet is not a separate culture, but it is changing the culture, being part of it.

  • Women seen as sexual objects?

Women have bodies and sexuality that comes with it, and while it never quite conforms with the norm which is an arbitrary concept, it overlaps with it to a certain degree, so I don’t see the point of seeing every expression of that identity as forced on women by the norm. Maybe they are expressing their true identity that happens to overlap with the norm? I personally find the whole oppression/”othering” etc paradigm quite oppressing. Cam girls are creating/assembling a virtual body, exaggerating some traits, but that is exactly what women have done throughout history (and not only women, for example, it has been recently discovered that cave people, both men and women, used make up). What cam girls are doing is “creative assemblage of stereotypes”, as Buiani calls it – I think that is also what I am often doing in my work, with help of photography, lighting, props, masks, make up, etc., although not Internet. A cam girl Little Vera said: “Through set design, lighting, printing, etc. I can control my presentation in a way I don’t feel I have in normal social interactions. I can choose the photographs that show the Vera I want people to be able to see” Buiani expresses the same view in the quote: “Although embodying aspects and views produced and imposed by the off line world, cam girls’world proposes many novelties. They use a technique of assemblage of stereotypical and teratological elements originating from our imaginary: this results in the creation of hybrid and highly complex identity, which includes, yet subverts the very stereotypes proposed by our society and fosters the creation of new subjectivity.”

  • Web cam as a mirror

“From our side of the screen, the camera is a window. From Ringley’s [a cam girl, creator of Jennicam] position, her camera is a mirror” (Burgin, 2000). This statement explains the importance that the cam site may have for cam girls: by constructing and showing their body, they start knowing themselves.” Again, I don’t think this is exclusive to cam girls and Internet, I think art is often serving the same purpose. It can be called exhibitionism (or voyeurism from the other side) but it can also be an introspective process and re-inventing oneself.

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