Sunday, September 26, 2010

The art of blogging - Part 1

The year after I graduated college, my friends and I decided to start a blog called Feminists Without Borders. The blog was a way for us to stay in touch since many of us had moved across the country or to different countries, as well as a way for us to continue to discuss and learn about issues as feminists. Our posts lasted for a about a year and half, and then life took over – so while a few of the members have continued to post, it has been some time for me.

The other day, I was telling one of my friends (who wrote on the blog as well) about how our class blogged and how it reminded me of what we had tried to do a few years ago. This conversation led to a conversation about feminist blogs in general, and I thought that it warranted a post. So this post and the following post will seek to explore the usefulness of a blog, the beneficial aspects of such blogs to feminism, and also how commercializing such blogs may dilute the theory behind feminism. Of course, this is entirely my opinion, but as there is a proliferation of such blogs it is interesting to take a step back and see what works and what could work better – just as we seek to do with feminism itself.

The post today will talk about two potential problems that my friend and I discussed. These aren’t problems in the larger sense, but rather issues that may arise in the context of a blog. Next week’s post will discuss how feminist blogs are incredibly beneficial – especially in relation to marginalized groups.

First, there are many definitions of feminism. Laying down in words to reflect a specific viewpoint on feminism may misconstrue things to the public as a whole. Words are permanent, and words on the internet not only have such permanency but also can influence many people. This is incredibly powerful, and can expose women from every walk of life to other women who are seeking equality in their own circumstances. However, at the same time the commercial aspect of some of these blogs can also link to certain posts like this, which dilutes any theoretical and public interest aspects of feminism. Trying to move feminist theory into the mainstream also forces many blogs to become much more commercial, and in doing so the views on feminism may shift to whatever sponsor they are seeking to get. Additionally, many posts are written in order to garner “the most comments” in order to maintain advertising, thus making them much more sensationalist.

This filters into my second point, that the anonymity the internet breeds can lend itself to “hate” speech against women who are expressing their position and perceptions of feminism. Comments are a way of allowing for discussion, which I believe is an important tool of the internet and what feminism seeks to do – engage in conversation. At the same time, the amount of derision that occurs can seem daunting. In fact, writing our little blog elicited so many hateful comments it was unbelievable. I wish I had some direct examples for you, but they have all been deleted. What I can say is that they ranged from personal put downs (one specific example coming from a post I wrote about college rape) to general derision of feminists. Of course, this is reality and truthfully this may be a helpful reality – a way to understand your opposition and find new ways to fight it. However, it is also frustrating mostly because it shows how much further we have to go as feminists.

I could go on and on, but I would be curious to hear your thoughts on this. Obviously, I have only linked to a few examples, which are very contextual and do not examine the entire gamut of feminist blogs. What my friend and I found was that these were two problems that may arise as we feminists seek to expand our horizons and educate people on the equality we want and justly deserve – even in the environment of the internet.


Chez Marta said...

Thank you N.P.,for validating my seemingly insane need to participate in this class and begin my feminist blogging. My other blog is about going to law school and trying to cook, to lose weight, to have fun while cooking for my family, including my two picky-eater daughters. So it is refreshing for me to write about more serious things, like my preference for Ms. (instead of Mrs.)

One way I deal with violent opposition to feminism (because let's face it, deriding comments are verbally abusive, and thus violent) is to phrase feminism as "the belief that women are people." Thus, one can equate feminism with humanism, and the anti-feminists with anti-humanists. I feel better already.

Discourse, however hateful, is helpful, because there is only one alternative. There were states without open discourse, without hate speech, or with state-directed hate-speech, and they were totalitarian dictatorships. Feminists (humanists) have to attain thick skin and bear the brunt of such speech, if we are to discuss the ideas of feminism in an open society.

Chez Marta said...

Let me also add that I do not share Leslie Bender's fear for adopting the term "humanism" for "feminism" as such. I do not view feminism as distinct from humanism, rather, as a subclass of humanism, along with viewing humans of all races and classes equal and equally worthy of concern.

Betty said...

What a fantastic idea to start a blog with a group of friends who all share the same ultimate vision and/or sense of empowerment, as we all should, of being feminists.

I'm a serial blogger, as some would call me. I constantly start new online blog accounts, each one an improvement or variation of the one before, sometimes with a different them, other times out of pure boredom. My need to blog is completely and very obviously self-indulgent and to satiate both my passion for writing and the sometimes arbitrary need for validation over the Internet. So, while I've never really stopped to consider the usefulness of a group blog so much as I have before taking this class and reading your entry, I can at least definitely vouch for all the positive factors that a blog has to offer.

I think the issues that come with blogging as a feminist or starting up something similar in that vein are sometimes the same issues that arise with any other blog, really - the potential hateful comments, spam, anonymous libel, etc. The only extra layer that comes with a feminist blog, however, is the fact that feminism (like many other isms) is such a sensitive and personal topic in general that there runs a risk of being more personally affected than one would from just running a quotes blog or a cooking blog. At the same time, while these issues exist, I say here's to more SELF-validation, empowerment, and educating and empowering others through the Internet. :)

Yazzyjazzy said...

N.P. you bring up some great points. The idea of equality and a group of people that band together and call themselves "feminists" can be very daunting to people that want nothing to do with equality.

Although you haven't listed all the benefits in this post, I really feel that the benefits of blogging about feminism outweigh the negative aspects. I love knowing there is a place I can go (on the internet) where there are others like me, who want to share their experiences and appreciate my contributions in promoting our common goal of equality. We need a forum to be able to speak freely about the issues that affect women and consult about solutions.

Its unfortunate and very annoying that some people do not want to let us have this forum in peace. Using the internet to make cruel statements anonymously, for example, is so cowardly. And if that is what we are going against, a bunch of cowards that have to speak behind their computers, I actually feel we might have a better chance of attaining our goals. We have strength, and unity, and logic, and all they have is anger, hate, and words without much basis. That won't stop our movement!

I can't wait to see Part 2 of your blog!