ActivismAfternoon Inquisition

AI: Anonymous Introduces Anonymiss

I am completely fascinated with the work/antics of the internet hactivists know as Anonymous. They have it seems, become at least in part, the Robin Hood of the intertubes.

You may not agree with their motives or their actions but the undercover group has become downright legendary. They fearlessly stand up against organizations that terrify many such as, Scientology. They defend freedom of information by guaranteeing space for Wikileaks. They help oppressed, war ravaged people comunicate and *(as of the writing of this post) they do interesting little things like shutting down the hate-filled Westboro Baptist Church’s website, “” for 7 days (and counting.) *or maybe not.

The mysteries that surround the group bring up more questions than answers.

Are they preventing free speech while trying to preserve it? A little.
Are they breaking the law? Yes, in some cases.
Is it for the greater good? The jury is still out.

And now the question is: Are they feminists?

Anonymous has started a campaign to encourage women to come on board as supporters called, Anonymiss.


Taken from the Anonymous news website:


tell your girlfriends, your wives, your sisters, your mothers, that we protect their freedom of speech all around the world. And tell them that it will be even more protected if they protect it themselves. And if they don’t do it for the fun, tell them to do it for the innumerable censored women all over the planet. Don’t be a wanker : share our ideal!

A quick search on the #anonymiss hash tag on twitter brings up topics ranging from teaching women how to seek online privacy by getting behind a proxy, to being an activist for the group, to joining their IRC network, to talking about getting more “hot” girls online. Hmmmm, not sure about that last one and I’m not sure what the outcome of this will be, but they have my attention.

So what do YOU make of this? Is Anonymiss pro-feminism or quite the opposite? What do you think the goal of this operation is? Could it be helpful to encourage freedom for women in oppressed places? Will it encourage more women in technology? Does anyone know where I can get a black tailored suit?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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  1. There can be no term that applies to all people who consider themselves “Anonymous”. It truly runs the gamut. But promoting people (including women) to have control of their own thoughts and actions fits in with Anonymous.
    There are many femanons. Just don’t expect others to use PC terms online..many use them a lot to either troll the easily offended for lulz OR to make the terms lose their power.

    Just troll back.

    Here is another site for those who are interested in various legal actions of Anonymous:

  2. I’ve been watching this #Anonymiss buzz by on my twitter stream. Though some really smart women I know are joining up, I feel Anonymous is a little bit (or maybe a lot) sexist. Are there no women hackers involved with Anonymous or is it just another good/bad ole boys club as it appears? It’s like they came up with #anonymiss so the wimmen would have something useful to do. Now make me a turkey pot pie, bitch!

    Anyway, I’m still not sure. Anonymiss feels like a pat on the head to women, not encouragement to join in their fights.

  3. Please, let’s stop using imageshack?

    This is how all imageshack images have started to look in my computer since last week:

    I think it is because people in some countries cannot anymore see hotlinked images without the owner of the site the images are being posted to registers to imageshack, quite a Draconian idea that disrupts all relevant uses of imageshack.

  4. As far as Chanology is concerned (the part of Anonymous that went after scientology) femanons were involved in all aspects of starting the hackivism. The Tom Cruise video that jump started Chanology which Gawker refused to take down when everyone else was scared by scientology? Delivered to a Gawker agent by a femanon who had a copy. Femanons also were part of the planning of the initial protests.
    But it is a particular internet community. If you come off as someone trollable , you will be trolled by everyone. Just the way it is.

  5. @ spellwight

    I get what you mean, but I don’t feel that it is just a pat on the head.

    I think it’s probably something that mght even be partially spurred by women who are already involved.

    There has been a lot of talk lately about why women don’t get involved in tech things as often as men… and it pretty much never comes down to “because they aren’t interested/competent”

    But usually to whether we feel welcome, even think of it as an option, or whether we feel competent enough (imposter syndrome).

    But keep in mind that Anonymous is international and might also be reaching out to women in countries who are use to being told that they can’t do things like this. And being invited to participate in an organisation dedicated to free speech in which protecting your identity is still paramount… that would be a powerful thing for many women in oppressive regimes to learn to involve themselves in.

    I could be wrong and I tend to be one of those people who give everyone a bit too much credit sometimes… but I think that this is more similar to the idea of calling yourself a “skepchick” etc. It’s an explicit invitation… I’m not saying that no one in Anonymous is sexist (in fact I’m sure many of them are but then again, choose some category and someone involved in Anonymous will fit it… after all they are people too). But this action doesn’t, to me stink of being sexist.

    I did think that rather than addressing the final portion as “gentleman” it would have been better to say “Gentlemen and Ladies” or similar so as to acknowledge the presence of the women already involved in the movement. But I didn’t get the sense of “pat on head” from this particular instance.

    (But, as I said, I could be wrong)

  6. I liken this to PETA putting out an ad campaign specifically designed to draw in men. Before you all start throwing things let me explain.
    I say Anonymous is like PETA in that it is a much different animal in reality than how it started, how the public sees it, and even how most of its members believe it to be.

    PETA is, on the surface, about reducing the harm done to animals and the eventual “liberation” of all animals from human influence. I would guess that most of its members don’t know that they advocate not only getting rid of all animal consumption but also all pets, zoos, and lab animals too, not to mention their very close (read financial) ties to eco-terrorist organizations such as ALF and ELF.

    On the surface who could be against protecting circus animals from abuse? But underneath there lies a much more sinister agenda that verges on, and possibly crosses, the line into terrorism.

    I have no doubt that the assorted rouges and miscreants on Fourchan that thought up Anonymous were acting with the best of intentions, and they picked as their first target a group that was using fear tactics, coercion, and intimidation to hide the truth about what they really were all about. (Money, Surprise!)
    But somewhere along the way they seem to have taken a darker turn; backing Wikileaks is fine, but their support is indiscriminate and, since Julian Assange seems to have zero interest in policing what he is releasing for secrets that truly might do some real harm, there needs to be SOME kind of checks. If Anon does not wish to do this policing, fine but they should stop giving tacit support. Unintended consequences and all that rot.
    Then there is this whole Westboro brouhaha; I am as sickened by WBC as anyone here and I would love to see them taken down a peg, but this is not the way to do it as any organization that claims to be about free speech should know. Let the SCOTUS rule against them, as I hope they will and if you need to say something wait for that time, but WBC is a beast that feeds off of publicity, the only way to starve that beast is to ignore it. Period.

    On the surface, who could be against exposing the dirty little secrets of an organization that refuses to air any of their own dirty laundry while rifling through the linens of their members? But underneath Anonymous has become a monster that puts end before means and has forgotten what they said they stood for.

    Whether there are men joining PETA or women joining Anonymous is beside the point. These groups, and many more like them, have become the very thing the ostensibly fought against, and in that way are no longer worth joining.


  7. “since Julian Assange seems to have zero interest in policing what he is releasing for secrets that truly might do some real harm, there needs to be SOME kind of checks. If Anon does not wish to do this policing, fine but they should stop giving tacit support.”

    You do realise that wikileaks does check through all these documents its leaking. this is why the leak of cables and Afghanistan documents takes a long time, its not just a dump online process its check and release.

    They even ask the US gov to help them check for sensitive information, but the US govs response is always a no compromise “Don’t release any of it” .

    Also as mentioned they weren’t behind the WBC act. So given these your argument has no foundation, but I will concede that anonymous is both powerful and dangerous, and like any sort of people movement, wholly uncontrollable

  8. @murdats

    “That endeavor has been successful in putting over a million restricted documents into the historical record that weren’t there before. That’s more pages of information than is in Wikipedia.” – Julian Assange

    “All media is going on to the internet. All old media and new media.” – Julian Assange

    “And that is why we have endeavored to put it into a format that is easy for people to go through and comprehend.” – Julian Assange

    Now, I am not saying that what JA is doing is wrong, in fact I applaud it, but he has repeatedly called himself a journalist. I do not think that means what he thinks it means. He is a publisher, he receives info from others who say they have checked it, gives it a cursory glance and puts it out there for all to see.
    The info being put out by Wikileaks is not as checked as they would like you to think, it is also not the information dump that some others (the government among others) would like you think. I have seen interviews in which Mr. Assange has come across as somewhat cavalier when asked about this, but this may be my impression.
    Most, or perhaps even all, of what is being put out by Wikileaks is important information that needs to been seen and contains no highly sensitive material, there may never be a problem caused by any of it (apart from those targeted), but it is short sighted to think that there could be no major harm to anybody but the intended targets.
    There is plenty of blame to go around for this; JA for the above stated reasons, The US Government for giving him a blanket “don’t publish” message instead of working with him, and the groups, like Anon, that support his efforts without any pressure to reform it. I think Wikileaks is one of the organizations that is very much different in reality then it believed it would be.

    As to the WBC issue, I did not say that Anon was behind the current attacks, at least not directly, I was pointing out how targeting WBC in the first place was wrong-headed.

  9. If it’s truly Anonymous, why do we need a separate, specifically gendered group and identity?

  10. @BrieCS: Perception, which is everything. The perception of hackers is of fat white dudes in nasty t-shirts, living in their basement while consuming nothing but pizza and Mountain Dew. This perception is not necessarily accurate, but it’s somewhat easy to dismiss a movement that is perceived as being uniform.

    When things start going a lot more mainstream… when you’ve got chicks and dudes, white, black and brown… it’s much harder to dismiss a movement as irrelevant. In many ways, Anonymous has a similar problem to atheism and skepticism. Since there is a perception that they’re monolithic, you can dismiss it if you’re not part of the monolith.

    Which ties in nicely to the “living without religion” commercial Rebecca posted.

  11. @BrieCS: Good call. I read that message as a call for men in areas where women were opressed to stand up for the women in their lives and help them get involved in accessing and protecting their right to free speech.

    I think it is clear that while Anonymous and feminism may have some things to collaborate on, feminism is a peripheral concern to their commitment to free speech.

    If they want to encourage uncensoring women then woo hoo. They don’t have to make a point of being feminist to support free speech. Here they are identifying a group that does not have free speech and trying to help it. It happens to be a group of women.

    The important thing is that they are being denied rights, not that they are women.

  12. @mrmisconception:
    Assange did not release the latest bunch of info with ‘only a cursory glance’. He handed the raw data to a number of newspapers including Britain’s Guardian – each of which then devoted a team of journalists to checking through the cables, redacting information that might cause harm, and organising and presenting the results.

    That seems to me a responsible way to do things.

  13. @MadLogician

    I absolutely agree that is the right way to handle it, I was basing my opinion on a few interviews that were half listened to. I was obviously wrong about the overall thoroughness used in the process.
    Mr. Assange comes across as a bit of a dick and between that and some dismissive things that were said about the way things were checked, I assumed things.
    Don’t assume, it does bad things to your ass… or something.

    Ahem, anyway. I stand corrected on the point.

    And @murdats I guess that weakens my erlier argument also. I still think it’s valid, just less strongly.

  14. @mrmisconception Anonymous didn’t target WBC. The initial letter was a hoax by WBC, as has been repeatedly stated.

    The one single attack on WBC, the page, I believe, was the only attack by Anonymous, and that was in the middle of an interview with one of their spokespeople and Shirlee Phelps to prove a point.

  15. @GeekGirlsRule

    I was not talking about the attacks on WBC’s website, I was refering to the open letter on anonnews to WBC to cease and desist.
    Are you saying that was actually posted by WBC? Because if so this is the first I heard of it.
    Otherwise I never actually stated that Anon was behind the DoS attacks, when I said they “went after” WBC I was speaking of the open letter, I used a poor choice of words. Sorry.

    I actually agree with most of what Anon has done, I just find it rich that a group that advocates free speech is telling a publicity hungry organization to effectively “shut up”. That’s like all kinds of ironic.

  16. …what?
    First of all, please google “Rule 30” immediately.

    Secondly, have you ever actually frequented 4chan? If you had, & spent time there participating in threads & interacting with them, you would know that REAL users would never, ever support “Anonymiss.”

    Anonymous isn’t supposed to be ANYTHING – not feminist, misogynist, racist, any -ist… certainly not activist. Their views & passions change as quickly as their threads disappear.

    I guarantee you this was set in motion by female 4chan users. It will never get off the ground.

    Don’t put your spin on Anonymous, especially when you obviously don’t understand the first thing about it.

  17. Sure, just like I’m entitled to have an opinion on what it was like being a Chinese railroad worker during the 1800’s.

    That opinion would be misinformed, seeing as I’d never experienced such a thing, but I’m entitled to it all the same.

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