Feminist blogging: taking on the stereotypes

News & Politics

Many people have been abuzz about the article on feminist blogging that came out this weekend at The Guardian. First, an interesting statistic:

...the proportion of women who are self-described feminists [is] at 10% (a British survey this month produced a figure of 29%)...

It shouldn't surprise me that these numbers are both low, but it does -- less than half of all women call themselves feminists? Sure, the backlash has been pretty bad over the last three decades, but I (obviously wishfully) thought there would have been at least 50%. And what are the statistics for men who call themselves feminists?

Now on to the questions of privilege, personal experiences and blogging:
But is it all just sound and fury? The blogs reflect second-wave ideas of consciousness raising and the personal as political (many women write about their experiences of rape and sexual assault), but there's a question mark over how this feeds into grass-roots activism.
Maybe it's safe to say that feminists are more likely to be public and forthcoming about experiences rape and sexual assaults, but painting it in this light seems to imply that that's the majority of what these blogs deal with. There certainly has been a recent (within the last six months, say) rash of discussions about some of the more brutal cases we've seen in the media, but it's not any of the mentioned blogs' main topic or focus.
Nina Wakeford, a sociologist at the University of Surrey, is cautious about blogging's influence. "I think the way blogs can provoke debate is useful," she concedes, "but it isn't clear how much they feed into activism. In the past, there was a clear role for women's organisations as regards representations to government, but I'm not sure whether women can affect public policy through blogging. Just who are they representing?"

Well, this is a question for the larger blogging community, and not just the feminists. There's certainly sphere of influence, but blogging should never be considered the end-all-be-all solution to any social issue. In fact, no medium on its own should ever be considered a magic bullet -- the beauty of citizen journalism lies in its ability to empower just about anyone to make media, and is only the beginning of the flood of tools and ideas coming down the road.

As far as demographics are concerned, it's been the experience of many that the third-wave feminists are more inclined and more active in seeking out diverse voices. Again, though, looking at the larger blogging community, Christopher Rabb said it best at a panel discussion a few weeks ago when he said that he hasn't seen a paradigm shift with blogging, but rather just a medium shift. It's completely up to us to take the tool and shift the paradigm.

During a presentation this weekend at the WAM Conference, I asked a room of about 20 women how many of them read blogs daily. Almost all of them raised their hands. Then I asked how many have blogs of their own -- only two of those women raised their hands. A handful more said they participated in commenting or other reader forums. So, bottom line: It's up to us to make and be the media we want to see, folks, and that adage has never been easier or cheaper than it is now.

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