Did you know that between 2000 and 2011 Internet use increased by 480% around the world? Feminist bloggers are well aware of the fact that we are becoming more and more dependent on the Internet.
Just recently, I attended a conference at the Barnard Center for Research on Women to celebrate its 40th anniversary. While the whole conference was informative, the panel on Writing, New Media & Feminist Activism, was very relevant to today. The panel consisted of Mandy Van Deven, co-author of Hey Shorty!, Ileana Jiménez, blogger and youth feminism teacher, Veronica Pinto of Hollaback!, Susanna Horng of Girls Write Now, and was moderated by Courtney Martin, a former editor at feministing.com.
With a panel made up women dedicated to feminist blogging, it seems like feminism is trying to speak out on the Internet, but what good is that if blogs aren’t being used effectively?
Blogs such as Girls Write Now encourage young feminist bloggers to share their opinions. Susanna Horng’s goal is “empowering [girls] to become strong women.” Her blog gives young girls a voice by giving them the opportunity to share their stories. The girls often feel a lot of pressure in blogging. They have a fear of being judged, but really, the blog is a way to find relief and get support. Veronica Pinto says blogging gives people power by letting them talk and it gives young people action; a chance to start something HUGE. A significant amount of youth up until college are not being educated about feminism so if they are interested they are forced to learn on their own terms.
Veronica also says that with blogging, “we all have the mic.” Many of the other panelists would agree, but is this statement limited to the person writing the blog or also the people reading the blog? The blogger can write about whatever they wish, but the audience is what gives the blogger power to make a statement.
When the pro-life ad went up in SoHo up stating that “the most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb,” there were countless articles written about the controversy. I, myself, never saw the poster in person, but I saw someone post a picture of it on Facebook. A movement started because people were not quiet about it. There was protesting online in the form of blogging until the billboard was taken down. While New York won that fight, an audience member at the conference brought up the fact that the same poster is still up today in California.
Ileana Jiménez sums up the idea that “isolated circles need to overlap.” If the circles were overlapped during the movement in SoHo, there would have been rallies in every other location that the billboard was present. Working together is the most important thing; change speaks in numbers. For those who have seen Planet of the Apes, “Apes alone weak. Apes together strong.” The more people who believe in the cause, the more voice and power they will hold.
I am on the computer constantly, but I have never spent my time looking at feminist blogs. I appreciate sites like Feministing trying to reach out through Twitter and Facebook, but I would have never known about it if I weren’t taking a three-month feminism course. There should be information on upcoming feminism conferences and controversies available so that everyone is in on the conversation. Not just the feminists, but people who care about current events and equality.
One issue with the feminism movement taking place on the Internet, is the digital divide. Although America is becoming more and more dependent on the Internet, there are still people who choose not to use the Internet and/or like me, do not participate in feminist blogging. Focusing on the Internet only allows blogs to reach a very limited audience.
Therefore the goal is “not how do I bring feminism to the world, but bringing the world to feminism,” says Van Deven. You can’t force someone to want to learn something, but make them want to learn about it.
Using the Internet is an attempt to reach out to people, but oftentimes people have no prior knowledge of feminism and feminist blogs. The blogs are making some noise, but not enough to make any real change outside of the feminism world. There is an idea in some minds that only women are feminists and that the blogs will be about strictly female problems, but in actuality, it is a social justice blog, bringing to light the issues of today.
Get active in the feminism world. The way to begin a movement is by being a follower. For those of you who don’t follow any feminists blogs, try looking into some of the blogs recommended by the panelists: