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Feminist Data Manifest-NO

In the summer of 2019, DREC co-directors, Jas and TL, joined a seminar on ‘feminist data’, convened by Patricia Garcia and Marika Cifor at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Michigan. The generative magic of that workshop led to this collaboratively written Feminist Data Manifest-NO. Read the long version below and follow this link for a shorter version, complete citations, a bit more context, and a very good looking interface (nice work Patricia Garcia!).

Preferred citation: Cifor, M., Garcia, P., Cowan, T.L., Rault, J., Sutherland, T., Chan, A., Rode, J., Hoffman, A.L., Salehi, N., Nakamura, L. (2019). Feminist Data Manifest-No. Retrieved from:

1. We refuse to operate under the assumption that risk and harm associated with data practices can be bounded to mean the same thing for everyone, everywhere, at every time. We commit to acknowledging how historical and systemic patterns of violence and exploitation produce differential vulnerabilities for communities.

2. We refuse to be disciplined by data, devices, and practices that seek to shape and normalize racialized, gendered, and differently-abled bodies in ways that make us available to be tracked, monitored, and surveilled. We commit to taking back control over the ways we behave, live, and engage with data and its technologies.

3. We refuse the use of data about people in perpetuity. We commit to embracing agency and working with intentionality, preparing bodies or corpuses of data to be laid to rest when they are not being used in service to the people about whom they were created.

4. We refuse to understand data as disembodied and thereby dehumanized and departicularized. We commit to understanding data as always and variously attached to bodies; we vow to interrogate the biopolitical implications of data with a keen eye to gender, race, sexuality, class, disability, nationality, and other forms of embodied difference.

5. We refuse any code of phony “ethics” and false proclamations of transparency that are wielded as cover, as tools of power, as forms for escape that let the people who create systems off the hook from accountability or responsibility. We commit to a feminist data ethics that explicitly seeks equity and demands justice by helping us understand and shift how power works.

6. We refuse the expansion of forms of data science that normalizes a condition of data extractivism and is defined primarily by the drive to monetize and hyper-individualize the human experience. We commit to centering creative and collective forms of life, living, and worldmaking that exceed the neoliberal logics and resist the market-driven forces to commodify human experience.

7. We refuse to accept that data and the systems that generate, collect, process, and store it are too complex or too technical to be understood by the people whose lives are implicated in them. We commit to seek to make systems and data intelligible, tangible, and controllable.

8. We refuse work about minoritized people. We commit to mobilizing data so that we are working with and for minoritized people in ways that are consensual, reciprocal, and that understand data as always co-constituted.

9. We refuse a data regime of ultimatums, coercive permissions, pervasive cookie collecting, and blocked access. Not everyone can safely refuse or opt out without consequence or further harm. We commit to “no” being a real option in all online interactions with data-driven products and platforms and to enacting a new type of data regime that knits the “no” into its fabric.

10. We refuse to “close the door behind” ourselves. We commit to entering ethically compromised spaces like the academy and industry not to imbricate ourselves into the hierarchies of power but to subvert, undermine, open, make possible.

11. We refuse a data culture that reproduces the colonial ‘ruse of consent’ “which papers over the very conditions of force and violence that beget ‘consent’” in the first place 1 We commit to data practices developed by and for Indigenous peoples and in relations of reciprocity.

12. We refuse more dispossession, erasure, stealing, and profiting from Black, Indigenious, and people of colors’ lives and works. We commit to build the standpoint that the people most screwed over by data have the best understanding of data and to lifting up, mobilizing, and celebrating their knowledges in building a data methodology of the oppressed. 2 3 4 5

13. We refuse to reproduce research as a form of exploitation and to allow people in positions of privilege make the decisions on behalf of those without. We commit to research cultures that promote data autonomy and SELF-representation.

14. We refuse to cede rhetorics of revolution, disruption, and creative innovation to Silicon Valley marketing and venture discourse. Especially, when this discourse marginalizes and appropriates the voices and actions of social justice communities. We commit to a recognition and an amplification of the long histories of the labor, dedication, and power of feminist voices for social transformation.

15. We refuse systems that simplify consent into a one-time action, a simple click of a yes to a terms of service agreement, to ownership of our data in perpetuity. We commit to enacting Planned Parenthood’s FRIES model of consent that ensures that it is always “Freely given, Reversible, Informed, Enthusiastic and Specific.”

16. We refuse surveillance as the only condition for participation and to feel powerless in the face of “inevitable” mass technological surveillance. We commit to find our communities, hold them close, and resist together.

17. We refuse Big Tech’s half-measures and moral compromises that constantly defer the needs of vulnerable users as something to be addressed in the next round (of funding, of testing, of patching). We commit to centering the needs of the most vulnerable among us in making way for a radical address to Big Tech’s data problems.

18. We refuse technologies that defer or delay accessible design because it is too expensive, inconvenient, or not legally required. We commit to learning from the work of disability activists. #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs

19. We refuse the naturalization of data as what is simply ‘off gassed’ by a thing, object, or interaction. We commit to treating data as a resource to be cared for and cultivated, beyond a colonial extraction logic (as something to be constantly mined, extracted, captured).

20. We refuse to consider data as raw and only an end product without context and values and to ignore that data has an origin story, and a creator or creators whose legacy must be understood in order to understand the data itself. We commit to working with data subjects rather than capturing data objects by centering the matrices of oppression6 that shaped data’s production and the infrastructure–the code, algorithms, applications, and operating systems–in which it is used, processed, and stored. Data always has social values including race, gender, class and ability inscribed into it.

21. We refuse to cede that convincing unjust institutions and disciplines to listen to us is the only way to make change. We commit to co-constructing our language and questions together with the communities we serve in order to build power with our own.

22. We refuse ‘damage centered’ research that gathers data to reproduce damage, and that traffics in or profits from pain. We commit to ‘desire centered’ research that mobilizes and centers data by and for Indigenous, Black, poor, uncitizened, transgender, disabled and other minoritized, over-researched and under-served people as resource and tool for their thriving, survivance, and joy.7

23. We refuse to tolerate economies of convenience (also known as the ‘gig economy’ or ‘sharing economy’) that build capital and data empires on the backs of precarious workers and hidden labor. We commit to working against the exploitation of labor and precarity in all of its forms.

24. We refuse tech solutionism as a moral cover for punitive data logics like always-on facial recognition systems, default capture of personal data, and racist predictive policing. We commit to feminist problem-solving that interrogates data logics as mirrors of power inequalities rather than simple solutions to legacies of racism, sexism, ableism, and oppression of vulnerable people.

25. We refuse data logics of prediction that presume omnipotence and conceit to know better than community-centered forms of decision making. We commit to countering the risks of defaulting to data-driven forms of prediction and decision-making by valuing the expertise of community-engaged practitioners.

26. We refuse to accept that data only matters when it is big, abstract, digital, aggregated, machine-readable, and instrumentalized for the market. We commit to valuing other forms and materialities of data that privilege accountability and legibility to users and community, and examine data at and across all of its scales.

27. We refuse the appropriation of feminist discourses of collective safety and the language of consent for the legitimization of surveillance. Safety does not demand subjection to, submission to, subordination to rational, high tech, colonial orders.8 9 We commit to feminist collective safety and consent as a means of building resilience, creating solidarity, reducing harm, and as a tool of self-defense and empowerment.

28. We refuse the argument that feminist data reform is too slow, too expensive, too much, too little, too late. We commit to radical disruption for social transformation.

29. We refuse data logics that hyper-value the quantitative, the “objective,” and the “generalizable.” We commit to developing, adopting, and advancing methodologies that draw insight from the subjective, embodied, contingent, political, and affective in ways that transcend traditional boundaries between qualitative and quantitative.10 11 12 13 14 15 16

30. We refuse coercive settler colonial logics of knowledge and information organization; we commit to tribal nation sovereignties and Indigenous information management that values Indigenous relationality,17 18 the right to know,19 and data sovereignty.20 21

31. We refuse settler colonial logics of data ownership; we commit to advancing the sovereignty of Indigenous peoples who harness data practices as “infrastructural commitments” to get back their land and divest foreign occupying powers.22

32. We refuse reductionist practices that view people as data points in order to embrace the whole person. We commit to the requirement of recognizing personhood as a feminist data value.

Our refusals and commitments together demand that data be acknowledged as at once an interpretation and in need of interpretation.23 Data can be a check-in, a story, an experience or set of experiences, and a resource to begin and continue dialogue. It can – and should always – resist reduction. Data is a thing, a process, and a relationship we make and put to use. We can make it and use it differently.


  1. Simpson, Audra. (2017). “The ruse of consent and the anatomy of ‘refusal’: Cases from indigenous North America and Australia.” Postcolonial Studies 20, no. 1: 18-33,
  2. Anzaldúa, Gloria. (1987). Borderlands: La Frontera, San Francisco: Aunt Lute
  3. Sandoval, Chela. (2013). Methodology of the Oppressed, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
  4. Hill Collins, Patricia. (1990). Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment, New York and London: Routledge
  5. Haraway, Donna. (1988). “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective,” Feminist Studies 14, no. 3: 575-599.
  6. Hill Collins, Patricia. (1990). Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment, New York and London: Routledge.
  7. Tuck, Eve. (2009). “Suspending Damage: A Letter to Communities,” Harvard Educational Review 79, no. 3: 409-428. []
  8. Abu-Lughod, Lila. (2002). “Do Muslim women really need saving? Anthropological reflections on cultural relativism and its others.” American anthropologist 104, no. 3: 783-790
  9. Abu-Lughod, Lila. (2013). Do Muslim women Need Saving?, Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  10. Hill Collins, Patricia. (1990). Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment, New York and London: Routledge.
  11. Harding, Sandra G. (1986). “The Instability of the Analytical Categories of Feminist Theory,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 11, no. 4: 645-664
  12. Harding, Sandra G. ed. (2004). The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader: Intellectual and Political Controversies, New York: Psychology Press.
  13. Haraway, Donna. (1988). “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective,” Feminist Studies 14, no. 3: 575-599.
  14. Hartsock, Nancy CM. (1997). “Comment on Hekman’s” Truth and Method: Feminist Standpoint Theory Revisited”: Truth or Justice?,” Signs: Journal of women in culture and society 22, no. 2: 367-374.
  15. Smith, Dorothy E. (1997). “Comment on Hekman’s” Truth and Method: Feminist Standpoint Theory Revisited,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 22, no. 2: 392-398.
  16. Smith, Dorothy E. (1997). “Comment on Hekman’s” Truth and Method: Feminist Standpoint Theory Revisited,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 22, no. 2: 392-398.
  17. Littletree, S., & Metoyer, C. A. (2015). “Knowledge organization from an indigenous perspective: The Mashantucket Pequot thesaurus of American Indian terminology project.” Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 53(5-6), 640-657.
  18. Bruchac, Margaret M. (2018). Savage Kin: Indigenous Informants and American Anthropologists. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
  19. O’Neal, Jennifer R. (2015) “‘The Right to Know'”: Decolonizing Native American Archives,” Journal of Western Archives: Vol. 6: Iss. 1, Article 2.
  20. Nakata, M. (2002). Indigenous knowledge and the cultural interface: Underlying issues at the intersection of knowledge and information systems. IFLA journal, 28(5-6), 281-291.
  21. Doyle, A. M. (2013). Naming, claiming, and (re) creating: Indigenous knowledge organization at the cultural interface. (Doctoral dissertation, University of British Columbia).
  22. Tuck, Eve. (2009). “Suspending Damage: A Letter to Communities,” Harvard Educational Review. 79, no. 3: 409-428. []
  23. Scott, Joan W. (1991). “The Evidence of Experience,” Critical Inquiry 17, no. 4: 773-797.