I have been mulling over this old story about feminist blogs, which appeared in the Guardian on March 31. The tagline reads in part: "[A]re they globalising emancipation - or just playthings for the rich and well educated?" This snippet goes to the heart of the issue:
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?"
I certainly have never had a thought about "globalising emancipation" or "feed[ing] into activism." So I guess my blog falls into the category of "plaything for the rich and well educated," although I hardly think having an internet connection qualifies a person as "rich."
When I started this blog, I knew that I have a lot of crap in my head that I rarely express to anyone in my real life, and that it would be fun to have an outlet to do so. It just so happens that a lot of that crap in my head is feminist crap. But I had (and have) no grand feminist hopes or ambitions for my blog. I didn't even expect to necessarily have any regular readers. I figured I would express my opinions and my thoughts in as honest a fashion as possible and see what might happen. At most, I thought maybe people would occasionally stumble upon particular posts when researching particular issues and consider my point of view. (It's a little scary how likely that has turned out to be, however. If you google "women in combat & feminist," I am the first hit you get. And who the hell am I? Just an average Jane with an internet connection.)
Once I started though, I found blogging to be one of the most pleasurable hobbies I have ever indulged. It's been an absolute joy from the outset. I think I like it because I am a rather "political" person in real life. I wouldn't say that I am inauthentic, but I am conscious of people's perceptions of me and I manage those perceptions. I spend a lot of energy making sure that employers and clients and potential clients have confidence in me-- which means that I don't spill my guts about nostalgia and longing and unhappy childhoods and What Feminism Means to Me. It's wonderful to have an honest forum where I can Let it All Hang Out and Express the Real Me. It is the ultimate in narcissism and it feels great. And the fact that people seem to like reading regularly enhances the experience for me considerably. I suppose it feeds into a basic human desire to be seen and recognized.
At the same time, though, while my motives are utterly selfish, I intuit that I am participating in a movement that is perhaps more important than my pleasure. Certainly, I think there are ways in which blogging can "feed into activism" or draw attention to important news events that might otherwise go unnoticed. But to me, even more importantly, it is the possibility of affecting individual outlooks that seems exciting. Maybe some girl in an unfeminist or patriarchal corner of the U.S. or the world will stumble upon Ink and Incapability or The Sugared Harpy or Feministe and think, "I'm not the only person in the world who thinks like this!" or "I never thought about things in this light before!" And isn't that the ultimate goal of all communication? To make that individual connection with someone?
I don't think that feminist blogging has to be organized or directed towards specific goals in order to be effective in this way. Quite the contrary. I like the fact that the "femosphere" is a collection of wildly diverse and often divergent voices and styles. Whether we are academic, raunchy, sardonic, witty, gracious, reflective, angry, youthful, wise, analytical, poetic, a combination thereof, or something else altogether, we reflect the fact that feminists are individuals.
I also like the fact that feminist bloggers vent about things like how annoying it is when strange men on the street tell us to "Smile!" We are constantly told (usually by people who are somewhat hostile to feminism) that whatever subject we are discussing "trivializes" feminism. But the fact is that blogging is supposed to be trivial sometimes. Everyone's blog isn't always going to be about Big Issues like the latest Supreme Court decision on abortion or genital mutilation in North Africa. Blogs are personal by their very nature, and the personal is often mundane. And I think that is the beauty of blogging. Even if being told to "Smile!" isn't the most earth-shattering event, I might be drawn into someone's blog by the fact that I have had that experience too and found it irritating, and by the fact that I hadn't really thought through the gender connotations of those pesky intrusions. These are the kinds of things that get people thinking in a way that a dry treatise on the wage gap might not. And getting people to at least start to see things from a feminist perspective can only be a good thing (as is the happiness of individual feminist bloggers).