Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Feminist Blogosphere is a Site of Resistance

I was so moved by Melissa McEwan's piece about the importance of women bloggers that I wrote my final paper about blogging. The course was called "Women, Gender, Activism and Social Change." Honestly, I am more of a theorist than an activist so this course was a bit of a challenge for me. The most important thing I learned was that theory and writing are, in fact, forms of activism. Anyway, as promised, here is some of the paper. I will post another chunk about violence against feminist bloggers later because I feel the need to address the comments my post about Grand Theft Auto IV received.


America’s history of domination is evident in the media that it produces. The images that media giants perpetuate are intentional; they are chosen in accordance with what will sell the most and support the messages that are favorable to their sponsors, as well as what will maintain their hegemonic position by reproducing only those images that do not challenge the hierarchical structure of power in America. According to early Marxist media critics, especially those who identify with the Franfort School of thought, mass media act as a hypodermic needle injecting the public with ideas that they will blindly accept as truth. Essentially, in order to maintain their position, those in power use socializing institutions to maintain a social order that is favorable to them. Mass media is one such institution.

Cultural theorist Stuart Hall lodges a challenge to the hypodermic needle theory of ideological hegemony. He argues that part of the pleasure of media can be attributed to its polysemic nature. Media texts are encoded with complex meanings that are often contradictory. Because of this consumers can choose texts that adhere to their belief systems or they can read texts subversively or against the grain or they can reject the implied meaning entirely. It is my view that blogging is a tool that can be used to resist dominant ideologies. Blogging literally gives media consumers the opportunity to talk back.

In the early 1990s feminist zines quickly grew in popularity. They gave young women with access to the necessary supplies (arguably, third wave feminists) opportunities to voice their opinions and share their art with a larger community of young women who in turn could create their own zines....

Blogger, Melissa McEwan, also writes about the importance of these informal venues in the creation of feminist consciousness and dissemination of feminist knowledge. With their lack of formal gatekeepers, both zines and blogs have allowed women space to share stories that are not part of dominant culture. These forms of activism are excellent representations of standpoint feminist epistemology or, as feminist theorist Patricia Hill Collins would say, oppositional consciousness. Though she writes more specifically about the standpoint of Black women, the theory applies well to women bloggers who experience multiple oppressions. Many feminist bloggers are careful to locate their own specific standpoints (class, race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic heritage, etc) precisely because they recognize the benefits and limitations of locating their experiences in their specific realities.

Feminist blogs fill in the gaps left in dominant culture’s version of history, in popular culture, in mainstream news and in a wide variety of other spaces. Every morning I roll out of bed, grab a cup of coffee, wake my computer and look at my RSS feeds. I do not regularly read any mainstream news publications nor do I watch televised news programs. Instead I subscribe to eleven feminist blogs (see blogroll) for my daily news. Each of these blogs offers something different to feminist dialogues and community.

Feministing has nine writers and regularly features guest contributors. The analysis offered by this blog is relatively minimal but the comments section provided after each post allows readers the opportunity to discuss the ideas presented with other readers and with the authors. Many posters are regulars who get to know each other and engage in critical dialogue together. Feministing also offers an extensive blogroll or list of links to other feminist blogs. Readers interested in feminist blogs can easily find a wealth of information and an instant community with other feminists and feminist bloggers across the country.

Another widely read feminist blog is the much more analytical and controversial radical lesbian separatist feminist blog I Blame the Patriarchy. This blog has only one writer who goes by Twisty Faster, it is unclear whether this is her real name or a pseudonym. Twisty is clearly a highly educated woman who intentionally uses language as a barrier to shut down dialogue with people she does not find to be intellectually equal. While I Blame the Patriarchy is sometimes difficult to read, always controversial and is certainly not for everyone, one of the many benefits of reading blogs is that if her style does not appeal to a particular reader s/he can always move on to a different blog. I find her radical perspective very useful when compared to the more liberal feminist style employed by the writers of Feministing.

Finally, I want to look at the objectives of the feminist blog Shakesville. It is a progressive blog with many contributors and topics. Blog founder, Melissa McEwan, uses Shakesville as a combination personal and political blog and community building space. Posts about the minutiae of her own life are littered in with news stories, critical media analysis, and political analysis. Shakesville is a great example of the community built in the blogosphere. The meshing of the personal and political on Shakesville is standpoint feminist epistemology in action.

Each of these blogs and the hundreds of other ones that they link to are pedagogical tools used to advance feminist ideas. As a young feminist I came across Feministing accidentally when I was reading a friend’s Livejournal. All I had to do from there was click on any of the hundreds of links to be connected to an entire online feminist community. The idea that feminist blogs are pedagogical tools stems from the belief that oppressed groups must be engaged in the struggle for their own liberation. The Internet has made this a much easier task for many women who might not have easy access to feminist peers in their communities.

Feminist blogging gives women agency and voice. The Internet is a wide-open space with plenty of room for a vast assortment of ideas and practices. Feminist bloggers educate their readership by raising feminist consciousness, creating a recorded history of women’s lives and experiences outside of the mainstream. By offering an alternative to mainstream media and news, they make the invisible visible. Or as feminist cultural critic bell hooks might say they bring the margins to the center.


Cheryl said...

I agree that feminist blogs do fill in the gaps of the dominant culture’s paradigm. It is not just the mass media that is selling non-challenging images. The institutions of art also stonewall alternative viewpoints. Our show, fem′∙i∙nä∙zi, has been stonewalled and ridiculed as meaningless. Yet Legally Blonde goes on…

Anonymous said...

afeministresponsetopopculture.blogspot.com; You saved my day again.