What happens when a woman goes online? She becomes a girl.
The unwritten contract of the internet, that a user is what is used, extends from the well-examined issue of data privacy and consent to the very selves women are encouraged to create in order to appear. Invited to self-construct as “girls online,” vloggers, bloggers and influencers sign a devil’s bargain: a platform on the condition they commodify themselves, eternally youthful, cute and responsibility-free, hiding offline domestic, professional and emotional labour while paying for their online presence with “accounts” of personal “experience.”
Told via the arresting personal narrative of one woman negotiating the (cyber)space between her identities as girl, mother, writer, and commodified online persona, Girl Online is written in a plethora of the online styles, from programming language to the blog/diary, from tweets to lyric prose, taking in selfies, social media, celebrity and Cyberfeminism.
About the Author
Joanna Walsh is a multidisciplinary writer for print, digital and performance. The author of seven books, including Hotel, Vertigo, Worlds from the Word's End and Break*up she also works as a critic, editor, teacher and arts activist. She is a UK Arts Foundation fellow, and the recipient of the Markievicz Award in the Republic of Ireland. She founded and ran #readwomen (2014-18), described by the New York Times as "a rallying cry for equal treatment for women writers" and currently runs @noentry_arts.
“This is theory as user manual for every girl who has misplaced her body, for all who have ever attempted the looking glass life of writing a self onto screen. Walsh does not betray these early desires of screen life even as she elucidates the stark disappointments of its actualization.”
—Anne Boyer, author of The Undying
“Draws together preoccupations of her earlier writings into a fascinating and engrossing exploration of what it is to be a girl, writing, on the internet. Thought-provoking, playful, and witty, Girl Online is a delight, both in content and in form.”
—Katherine Angel, author of Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again
“A brilliant, timely act of feminist resistance. Joanna Walsh wields language as deliberately as a surgeon her knife. She doesn’t miss a trick, or an opportunity for (s)wordplay. Here as ever she is ‘good to think’ with, a formidable and original theorist for and beyond our online era.”
—Lauren Elkin, author of Flaneuse
“Skilfully captures the fragmentary nature of online existence, the slippery nature of our online selves and their endless interpretations, and both the connections and the alienation that come with it. This is a deep and yet beautifully light meditation on what the internet is doing to our brains.”
—Juliet Jacques, author of Trans
“The internet is all about girls—and is an impossible place to be one. Girl Online writes its way through that dilemma with critical insight and creative moxie. It’s a really good book for anyone who has ever tried to have a gender—especially on the internet.”
—McKenzie Wark, author of Capital is Dead
“Neither a mirror nor a lamp, the screen offers no specular high or illuminating epiphany. Yet, it provides a set of immaterialities for the switch up of identity and personhood, imaginary spaces from which to prompt far-reaching reflection and the timed fantasy of emancipation. Joanna Walsh delivers a new batch of historical screen memories in a constant remix of desire and memory, erasure and fear. The text rotates into literary and theoretical analyses, tech labs and artistic sites, propelled by touching autobiographemes that explode and mutate according to a digital logic that holds subjectivity to a new standard of captivity. Taking off from AI Alice Through the Looking Glass, Walsh calls up crucial works of Derrida, Chantal Ackermann, Luce Irigaray, Kathy Acker, and other innovators of shredded identity, jamming on the theoretical fine print of our internet contracts and reversible selfhood.”
—Avital Ronell, author of Stupidity
“In this profound and moving account of what it’s like to be a girl online, Joanna Walsh guides readers through unwritten terms and conditions women face when they’re on the internet, how they’re forced to commodify themselves, and effectively pay for the space they take up ‘with accounts of personal experience.’”
“In this book of essays in alternative forms, including programming language, tweets, and lyric prose, Joanna Walsh explores what it means to be a woman on this thing called the internet. Expect some philosophizing on tech, identity, selfies, and social media.”
“Joins a growing genre of writing, including fiction and nonfiction, that attempts to articulate the way it feels to be online.”
—Eliza Goodpasture, 3:AM Magazine
“Any woman who’s ever dealt with reply guys gone feral, dogpiling, doxxing, or dick pics in her DMs knows one thing: It’s hard to be a woman on the internet. In Girl Online, Joanna Walsh explores our relationship to the web—what we sacrifice to have an internet presence, how our identities change online, and what we receive in return.”
—K.W. Colyard, Bustle