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Sabrina Faramarzi: How To Build For Diversity And Inclusion

An interview with Feminist Internet’s Sabrina Faramarzi on creating diverse and inclusive communities

We spoke with Sabrina Faramarzi, early member of Feminist Internet about their mission to make the Internet a more equal space for women and other marginalised groups. The Internet is an incredible tool to connect and collaborate, but unfortunately many of society’s inequalities are encoded in its structures, processes and communities.

Starting out as a two-week studio project exploring gender inequality, Feminist Internet today is a flourishing collective with their own podcast, manifesto and a series of projects to ensure an equal and just Internet for all.

C — Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became involved with Feminist Internet?

S — I'm a freelance futures researcher, trend analyst, features journalist and an activist with Feminist Internet. Feminist Internet started as a two-week studio project at the University of the Arts London. It was basically a studio project that brought together a group of people from across the university; undergraduates, postgraduates, PhD students, technicians, staff members, teachers. Back then I was finishing my master's and I applied to join. I think there were about 120-150 people who applied, and only 16 of us who made the cut.

From that two-week project we collaboratively created Feminist Internet in its entirety, including the manifesto. Since then it's kind of exploded. We've done talks all across the world. We've hosted workshops. We've got a podcast series. We are also launching our consultancy called Even to help the more commercial side of the world with integrating ethical technology in their practices and products. And also so the Feminist Internet can carry on doing its more free kind of educational workshops for people who can't access them.

The Feminist Internet grew out of a two-weeks studio project at the University of the Arts London.

C — What made you apply for the studio project in the first place?

S — I was making zines and taking photographs. While covering a conference I met Charlotte Webb, who told me that she was potentially running a studio project on gender inequality. It wasn't even called Feminist Internet then, but once the application opened there was a four-part series of talks which served not just to inform audiences but also to recruit people to join Feminist Internet. I applied once the application process opened and got in.

C — Can you share more details on how Feminist Internet is working?

SSo the manifesto defines our core, shared values. Because there are many people now in the collective, and we are all doing many things globally, it’s hard to work on everything. But because we spent a lot of time on the manifesto, there is an incredible level of trust, of shared values, perspectives and outlook. 

We do talks, workshops and conferences across the world. Our consultancy is now taking this to the next level, helping ethical tech become the core of commercial business practice rather than being on the fringes of it. We recently built a Feminist Alexa which was covered heavily in the press, including Wikitribune and Dazed

In the future, we want to build the kind of mainstream products that people use every day across the world, but built with feminist principles in mind, as well as have more capacity for taking on more members. We can’t extend memberships right now (even if we want to) because we believe in paying everyone for their time. 

In future, education and art are also something we want to manifest. We are artists and creatives by nature, and believe that approaches to ethical technology and activism need to become more creative.

C — How would you advise other companies to make their products and processes more diverse and inclusive?

S — 

1. Test your products properly. Test them across different ages, genders, ethnicities and abilities. Don't be another tech product in a long line of failures that could've catered to the real 'mainstream' instead of just middle-aged, middle class, white men.

2. Ethical tech starts with teams. It's no good sending out empowering messages if your company can't even empower its own colleagues.

3. Don't be defensive in the face of criticism. Let different voices speak, and accept what they are saying. Oppression is systemic, and hearing the truth is not a personal attack but you do have a personal responsibility not to continue the oppression.

C — Can you name a few essays and theories that Feminist Internet have used prominently in their work so far?

C — Since you’ve closed memberships to the collective right now, is there another way people can get involved with Feminist Internet?

S— Yes, for sure. At the moment it is about getting on board and learning about our work and manifesto. We are still in the early days and if anyone has something - an idea, product or workshop - that they would like to do which fits with our values (no TERFs or SWERFs), then we would love to hear it and see if we can make it work. 

The value of Feminist Internet is the collective and we are at capacity right now but also there are a myriad of people out there with skills we would like to collaborate with. Our only stickler is that we do not condone people working for free, but our ethos is very much about creative and holistic collaboration.

C — Thank you for the conversation.

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And make sure to visit Feminist Internet, listen to their podcast and buy their merch.