The issues that Courtney Martin expresses in her article, “‘You Are the NOW of Now!’ The Future of (Online) Feminism”, are closely related to Virginia Woolf’s own theories in her book, A Room of One’s Own. Martin gets straight to the point in her article as she states in her opening paragraphs, “The belief that online activism isn’t ‘real’ or deserving of financial support isn’t just an insult to entrepreneurial bloggers and organizers; it’s creating a crisis in the feminist movement.”
Though she was not necessarily talking about online activism through blogging or the feminist movement, Woolf would definitely agree with Martin.
In A Room of One’s Own, Woolf’s thesis is simply that in order for women to be able to produce literature, they need their own space and their own source of income. There is no question that women’s literature in Woolf’s time was not given the attention and respect it rightfully deserved. More importantly, they did not have any financial help to nourish their work and as a result, the production of women’s literature suffered greatly.
Today, Martin and other feminist bloggers are experiencing the same financial problem women writers faced in Woolf’s time. Just like female authors back then were not supported financially because they were not taken seriously, feminist bloggers today aren’t supported financially either because their online activist work isn’t recognized as an important contribution to the feminist movement.
Martin goes on in her article to quote Shelby Knox, who says, “We, as feminist organizers, have to give up the martyr complex and start building financially stable and even profitable activist enterprises on our terms, infused with our values.” What Knox means is that the notion that in order to make change one has to be a martyr has to be abolished. The idea that making a profit from your online activist work in some ways makes your work have less value or makes your intentions impure needs to be abolished.
The reality is that in order to be truly committed to your work as an online activist, whether it be for the feminist movement or for any other issue that is important to you, you need to be financially stable. Everyone needs a flowing income to sustain their daily lives. They need money so they can eat, clothe themselves, and have somewhere to live. There is no question about it: money is absolutely necessary for everyday life.
Martin puts this financial issue in context when she uses Racialicious’ editor, Latoya Peterson, as an example. She quotes Peterson saying, “Simply put, a good blog take a lot of time. It’s really easy to spend so much time on Racialicious and then realize you haven’t pulled in any paid work for that week, so rent is going to be rough next month.” These bloggers, just like many women authors, have to have jobs in order to support their writings (their blogs and other forms of literature) as well as to support their daily lives. Their jobs serve as a distraction that pushes their blogging and other works to the side, whereas, if they were supported financially, they would be able to focus all their time, passion, and energy into their writing.
Woolf’s argument is that without these distractions, women can have a room of their own where they will be able to produce these writings. Having their own space is just as important as having their own source of income because once they are free of all distractions, they will be able to focus solely on producing their literature.
Using the same notion, I can relate this to the women in the hip hop industry today. One female rapper especially stands out in my mind, Nicki Minaj. Before being signed to her label, Young Money Records, Nicki Minaj was an independent underground rapper whose raps had some substance and meaning. Then she went through a blatant transformation after being signed.
Besides the physical, (she got butt implants, not to mention many other plastic surgeries), Nicki Minaj’s raps are now more superficial and conform to society’s ideal of what female rappers should be: sexual objects submissive to their male rapper counterparts.
I say I can relate this to Woolf’s theories about personal space and income because Young Money Records is run by men and it is those men that govern and control everything Nicki Minaj does. It is those men that give her the financial support she needs to produce her music and because of that she has to abide with their vision of what she should be doing.
My belief is that if Nicki Minaj had a room of her own, she would not be rapping about what she is rapping about now. If she did not have these male and societal influences that serve as a distraction and she had her own space and her own income, she would at least have the choice to diverge from these limiting and degrading expectations of female rappers.