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All sound and fury? April 3, 2006

Posted by Winter in activism, feminist blogging.

Thank you to everyone who left kind comments and congratulations about the Guardian article. We were surprised and pleased to be mentioned, but I’m not blind to the irony of being name-checked in an article asking whether feminist blogging is an exercise in privilege in a newspaper bastion of educated, wealthy middle-class British liberalism.

Since Emma at Gendergeek and Echidne have discussed the privilege question, I want to move onto something else here.

Overall the article is positive and I think it’s certainly true that the explosion in feminist blogging proves many women are not as apathetic as media backlash rhetoric would have us all believe. However, I have a problem with the way this article replays the old grassroots activism v. writing (or theory) binary. An academic is quoted:

“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, feminist bloggers don’t generally claim to be representing anyone other than themselves. Moreover, are the links between activism and blogging really “nascent,” as the article goes on to suggest, or does feminist blogging take place in a long tradition of feminist writing as a form of activism, a form of activism which is inextricably linked to grassroots and non cyber forms of activism? And I’m really tired of this particular pseudo-opposition because if putting yourself out there in a public space, putting yourself on the line often in very personal ways, is not activism, then I don’t know what is.

It is also rather ironic to get an academic in to talk about the effect of blogging when the institutionalization of feminism within the academy has caused difficulties for the movement. How did a grassroots consciousness raising movement turn into something that most people now learn about at university? Don’t get me wrong, I love reading academic feminist theory, but the appropriation of feminist theory by the academy has not been entirely helpful insofar as it has made feminist theory available to a small group of people and has largely left the mainstream media to represent feminism to everyone else. We all know what the media generally says about feminism. bell hooks writes about this issue in her book Feminism is for Everybody – chapter 4 (sorry I don’t have time to type out long quotes right now!). Still, I hope feminist blogging is acting as a counter weight by making feminist thought available to everyone with access to the internet and by battling media distortions.

Blogging also informs other kinds of feminist and women’s activism on many levels. Never before has it been possible to share information and disseminate calls for action on such a large scale. The Duke University Lacrosse team rape case is a good example of online organizing, publicising and information sharing. In the UK, Groups such as Protest Now have been set up by bloggers and feminist bloggers have started setting up magazines. Of course, this blog was actually started to compilment our non-cyber activities.

This is not to say feminist blogging does not illustrate problems within the movement, because it does; but the article missed the factor I personally find most troubling. This is the subject for a longer post, but reading feminist blogs suggests to me that pretty much the same arguments are still being replayed as were raging in the 1970s. Worse still, the same kind of people dominate the movement and the same groups still feel oppressed, marginalised and/or tokenized. The same issues that were divisive in the 1970s are still divisive today. While I don’t want to dismiss the notion of a “Third Wave,” I am beginning to wonder just how far we’ve really come in this respect. Feminism has achieved and is achieving amazing things, but it clearly has not created solidarity among women activists in general. Whether such solidarity is actually possible is a question for another day.



1. the accidental historian - April 3, 2006

Here! Here! Like you , I was cautiously pleased to see MTG listed but was cross at a) the tone of the article, and b) the assumptions embbed in it. So, an excellent post, and shall look foward to the next longer one

2. la somnambule - April 3, 2006

I agree – after years of studying literature and feminism as theory, blogs have allowed the theory to come alive for me. They have enabled me to see feminism as something relevant to my own life and although I really enjoyed the article in G2 it definitely underplayed the impact that feminist blogs are having.

3. existsnomore - April 3, 2006

I agree, feminist blogs introduced me to feminism and continue to educate and inspire me to take action.

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