The words that computers so quickly and easily count, but balk at disambiguating, take on, for feminist theorists, multiple values and flavors of implication in open-ended arenas of power dynamics and shifting identities, where imbalances and injustices are reinforced in subtle, sometimes devious, but often unconscious ways. Although computer systems easily handle multitudes of relationships and categories, they struggle to adapt to the terminological and categorical fluidity and multidimensionality that feminist investigation highlights.
That said, in practice, there is reason to be sanguine about the potential of feminist text analysis. One key function of feminist criticism is to “out” biases embedded in textual output, the presence and absence of crucial perspectives, and to bring into question the power dynamics surrounding social and material conditions of said output. Text analysis has demonstrated its ability to quickly deconstruct and reorder text in service of intentional inquiry, which allows for analysis of large groups of text and gives feminist investigators more tools for “unsettling deep-seated ideologies” (Rhody, 2016).
By focusing on exploration, investigation, and a critical orientation towards methods, data and conclusions, I argue that not only is feminist text analysis valuable but that, considering the black box nature, and clear bias, of ubiquitous textual systems like Google Search (see Noble), the cost of not engaging in feminist text analysis might prove too high.