Panelists: Jessica Valenti (feministing), Liza Sabater, (Culture Kitchen), Alice Marwick (Tiara), Lauren Spees, and Michelle Riblett (Hollaback), Gwendolyn Beetham (NCRW).
Intro by Janet R. Jakobsen from the Center for Research on Women.
I just came yesterday from a 70s feminism event, the Veteran Feminists of America, a book release for Feminists Who Changed America about second-wave feminism. But this, blogs, is carrying on feminism in new generation in a new medium. Gwendoyn and Jessica are co-moderating and co-editing the Scholar & Feminist Online. We’re videotaping for that journal issue. The current issue is on women & sport. Full issue on blogging will be out in the spring.
Intro for Gwendolyn: She’s involved with the U.N. [task force on…?] and the Real Hot 100. Founding member of Younger Women’s task force, contributing editor for 3rd Wave Feminism Encyclopedia. And training institute for … in the Dominican Republic. Graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science. And BA from Kenyon. “My gosh, you don’t look old enough to have done all that.” *laughter*
Jessica Valenti. Feministing, NARAL, MA from Rutgers, Legal Momentum, NOW, Planned Parenthood, Ms. Magazine. Co-founder of Real Hot 100. Contributing author to We don’t need another wave from Seal Press. (List of publications). Currently writing a book about younger women. Forthcoming from Seal Press.
Gwen: Thank you, thank you to Barnard and for being so supportive. Thanks for coming. Background: We propsed this idea to Barnard a year ago. At that time blogs were still edging their way into the mainstream. Today blogs are everywhere. all the major US news outlets have blogs. Also around the world. Where I’m doing my project on the UN the Sudanese govt used comments on a blog as an excuse to kick an envoy out…. Direct diplomacy. More liberal bloggers meant that blogs had jumped the shark. If even the UN is using blogs then we have a problem with using blogs for radical change,. Are blogs obsolete? Then what are we doing here? If you look at last week’s election results you can see blogs are alive and well. One thing that hasn’t changed a lot over the past year is the way that women are talked about in the blogosophere. The way that white males still get talked about most and dominate the political blogosophere. This is being examined in academia. Anyway, now over to Jessica, my co-moderator…
Jessica: We do everything together. It’s like we’re “heterosexual life partners”. Let’s hear brief intros from the other panelists.
Alice Marwick: Hi I’m Alice. I’m a phd at NYU, studying online communication… working in communications since 1995.
Liza Sabater – I publish Culture Kitchen and the Daily Gotham among other blogs. I’m an academic maroon, I ran away from phd program at NYU in neobaroque latin american literature.
Lauren Larken Spees, co-founder of Hollaback NYC. Also a found of Artistic Evolucion, non profit, social activism using art, technology, and bicycles. [Link?] Media arts. USC for undergrad in theater.
Michelle Riblett: I went to high school with Lauren.
Lauren: We were in boarding school together!
Michelle: BA from Barnard. Philosophy… worked in Rape Crisis center and anti-violence. Interested in feminist interpretations of disability, media studies, queer theory.
Jessica: A few words on why we wanted to do this panel and this issue. Why we think it’s important. Vibrant community of feminist blogs out there. While there’s an ongoing conversation online about feminist blogging, there hasn’t been much offline. We need to communicate that there’s a cohesive body of work. We wanted to make something available to academics and start a conversation between bloggers and academia and get the discourse doing. We have an amazing opoprtunity in front of us as feminists with blogs. How can we find those intersections where academia, feminsim, blogging come together?
Alice: Doing a broad survey of 2 things. academics and blogs; feminism and technology. I’m an academic who blogs, not a “blogger” . Why academics think blogs are interesting.
– they’re easy to analyze; they’re public.
– blogs tend to encourage values academics like interactivity: comments.
– egalitarian, anyone with internet access can blog
– resistance, ideology of resistance.
– academics do blog a lot. we love to hear ourselves talk.
– trend right now is to write huge paper then say “blogs are the answer”.
We study effects of media consolidation on news practices. Emphasis on advertiser friendly stories, etc. Gail Tuchman “multiplicity of voices principle”- free speech is not enough. Must have diverse voices in media. Blogs posited as solution. Also as a solution to political participation. Horserace vs. analysis of the issues; blogs allow grassroots discussion of issues in depth. Even if pts of view are minority viewpoints.
What are academics saying? – analyzing blogs as journalism. Warblogging. Studies claim that blogs are changing journalistic practice; changing democracy. Academics write about blogs changing academia. A way to get out of the ivory tower. Start discourse with regular people outside the academy. 2 year delay on academic papers before they get into journals where no one reads them anyway. 3rd thing is blogs and gender. Indiana study – women. Are blogs “democratic”? Public discourse about blogs is gendered male, white, heterosexual. privileged over activities that are gendered female. Blogs seen as authoritative, if male. Women’s blogs are given labels of gossipy, private, trivial, etc. Top political blogs written by men. Why? Because women don’t write about politics? Or because women’s plitical blogs are crappy? Neither is true. They found that men all link to each other and pay attention to each other and what is “good” is waht men say when men say it. [Is this referring to Herring & Scheidt paper…?]
2nd – 12 percent of world population is online. What happens when we posit this as a solution when people don’t have access. When people are worrying about sanitation etc. Class based. Public libraries, filtering software. Social tech inequality in itself. The original idea was sort of that minds would commune on this pure level, disembodiment hypothesis. This viewpoint resulted in the white male subject being seen as the norm. if you identified as not white male etc. then you were seen as “playing the race card”. Online stuff reproduces dominant cultu
re’s stereotypes. Female characters in games… where “fag” is the most common word thrown around as an insults. Quote from an article about “breast physics” and buttocks in gaming. *laughter* Power imbalance within tech industry. 30% of the workers are women but they are in marketing, proj management, but are not in decision making positions about features in a product. Enrollment in comp sci programs for women is dropping. Young girls to have access to tech. blogging is a good way for that.
We need structural change. We can’t depend on blogging. But we need more women in tech and comp sci. Media loves political women bloggers bc they fit the maninstream definition… But we need diversity without ghettoization. Mainstream bloggers focus on each other. and think that the women and the queers will just deal with everything else, so they don’t need to do it.
Nevertheless i think feminist blogging is very important. Networks of activists, writers, tech, has allowed me to inferace with other women in the industry. Validation of our politics when femism is left out of media. Blogs are today what zines were for me when i was a teenager. Women who are not corporate sponsored like ivillage or like barbie or fashion or chick lit or other consumer narratives of what it means to be a woman today. Important online to foster these feminist communities. Other communities can be very hostlie homophobic etc. Foster political changes. Thanks.
I have a different opinion about niche publishing. BLOGWAR!!! *laughter* It’s a good conversation. I’ve been in the business of being online for 10 years. When I left academia… my then boyfriend was experimenting with these things that ended up being net art. Movement of painters and sculptors who happened to have day jobs as software developers. They expermented with web browsers… in ways that looked like art. *sees a familiar face in the audience* Oh! Hi Margo! She’s part of the net art community! *waves* [Liz’s note: I think Liza is talking about Rhizome]
At the time you had to be very skilled in coding. for me it was waiting to see what would come for someone who was a writer like me to get online. Years later blogs came and there’s this thing called the blog revolution. I go from panel to panel talking about blogging. I’m trying to make a living blogging. Everyone talks about the blog revolution but no one can describe what it is. What is it about blogs that makes them revolutionary? I’ve been thinking about this for years.
Going back to one essay I read in a feminist lit course in NYU years ago. Las Tretas de debil. cfrom collection from collection called Tretas del debil by Josefina Ludmer. “The tricks of the weak”. Essay is about Sor juana Inez de la Cruz – who is the reason I call my blog culture kitchen btw. [Liz’s note: if you want to get what Liza is talking about, and you should, see “filosofías de cocina“.] Defense againt inquisition. Told to stop writing about poetry, philosophy and science. Essay is fantastic, it talks about rebellion and revolution in terms of spaces. Not a metaphor. Not a gesture. About creating spaces where science and technology and knowledge are NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN. Inquisition, nunnery, vow of silence, still opportunity for her to think aobut philosophy, think about physics, science, and to really find powerful spaces, spaces of power. And so, Let me read this… feminist of the politics of the personal turned public. Power is not about a fixed dialectical opposition, strong vs. weak. Power is about making spaces for expressions. Letters, autobiographies, diaries. At least in Latin American literature. Blogs fit nicely into this space. Personal realities. Deleuze and Guattari – Kafka towards a minor literature. Through thinking about that, we can understand how power dynamics are subverted by blogs. What Deleuzeand Guattari say about “becoming minor”, in business speak on the web, it’s called niche blogging. A minor literature is political, collective, revolutionary, and even spatial. It takes away territory. It takes away ethniticy, reace, state, country. A minor literature goes further, there’s no subject, it’s not Liza the person who is writing Culture Kitchen. Liza is an archetype for people to relate to this person online. It takes the idea of me online being not just a subject but an archetype, It’s free to move around. There’s this freedom to move around and be outside my blog, my body, my country, my race, my ethnicity, and can travel through the net as ideas and conversations. This idea of minor lit escapes signification and representation. To me this is really important. People think of niche writing as this very specific small reflexive way of writing, I actually see it as something much more powerful, giving a voice to stories that have been suppressed. Blogging makes that possible, the structure of blogging makes that possible. Power realtionships are altered. Four things related to minor lit and Deleuze and Guattari: vernacular language, vehicular, referential, mythic language.
(Well, that was 10, 15 years ago, ha, I’m really old! )
With Web 2.0, the permalink came about. When you post… can we get a web page up? now b/c of permalinks there’s a map, this is not just a page. A web page nowadays is a whole map of relationships. It’s not just relating to itself, it’s relating outside itself. Media, big media, is about concentrating controlling the spreading of information, making it scares, impossible, for “the people” to take and participate in it. That’s what tv, broadcasting is about, radio. With blogging you can say i’m going to refer to this particular part of the page, put in an email and send it somewhere. Now there’s not just a space. There’s a vehicular media like email or rss. You can read a blog outside of itself, blasting it through “crackberries”, email, whatever. You can move a blog anywhere. Referential language – categories. It’s not just a category for you but it opens up the whole web to looking…, Multiplicity of identites. Not just a feminist blog, it’s a space where feminism expresses heatlh, sex, love, technology, politics, it expresses a whole myriad of different conversations with people who might not be interested in feminism at all. For an example one of my most hit posts, one of my writers wrote about forced pregnancy and celebrity porn. So people looking for celebrity porn came to feminism. The mythic language – memes. [Liza explains memes. I, the transcriber, rest my fingers.]
Lauren Spees: What Hollaback is. It’s a campaign that makes a space for women to take photos of street harrassment, encounters, and post those stories online. Boston Globe wrote and article and refused to publish the address of Hollaback Boston. As a matter of policy, Boston Globe does not publish links to sexually explicit content. *groans from audience*
Michele: i wrote back to them that unfortunately, sexual violent statements are not acceptable to the women who receive them on the street … [that’s what we’re fighting]. We asked for a copy of that policy. We love the exposure from the Globe but for them to refuse us an online link that was very critical. In online news if something isn’t cited as a link it virtually doesn’t exist. Defeated the purpose of exposing us to our potential audience. In contrast… a blog post on [??] generated thousands of hits for us.
Lauren: Big media is at a disadvantage compared to bloggers and their speed of response. [….?] when she took photo of subway masturbator… the
police didn’t answer but as soon as she put it on her blog, Daily News picked it up. [Which helped lead to Dan Hoyt’s arrest.] Blogs helping and becoming our major ally… cyber critical mass – media consolidation is a reality but we’re firing away at it. Hollaback offers a quick response.
Michelle: Blogging, photos captures the moment, anger, fear, reactions, in immediate way, not abstract and way later. It’s easier for me to identify with them, to recognize the daily infrigements on my body i may experience. Hollaback allows this experience to be interpreted as if they’d experienced it personally.
Lauren – It’s accessible, it’s free. Something that happened to me – i was at the speakout against sexual assault in Union Square. They introduced us as the most exciting feminsit activists around. At the time i didnt’ know i was a feminist OR an activist. Allows people to do the activity even if they don’t identify with the word.
Michelle: Women who don’t have anything in common other than having been harrassed can all post. They’re relating the experience as their own.
Michelle and Lauren read some posts from Hollaback:
Post about the “professional menu distribution associate for caribbean flavors restaurant”.
Then he pursued me down a few steps of the subway entrance getting really close to my face and leaning in,”Marry me!” I put down my bag and grabbed my cell phone, he protests, “No. Why are you taking my picture? Oh oh, I see you want my picture so that you can go home and wack off to it.”
Holla Herzegovina post. Video post. Vlog.
(firefox crashes.) Oops!
The “fuck your own ass” post of the guy on the train platform. Then, “i want to be your toilet paper“.
[I can’t remember which one said this, Lauren or Michelle, but, damn, it’s GOOD.]
What you might notice from the posts. When we read the posts, from our experiences, we cant help notice this seems so wrong. Hollaback doesn’t define for others what counts as street harrassment. The tone matters, the intention and translation matters. All the posts come together to show the slippery and icky stuff of gendered power relations. These interactions are not about sex. They are about using and wielding sex to express power.
Liza : You mentioned that the fastest way to get your story out there is to put it on a blog. The one complaint i have about that is it depends on how big your networks are. Who are the people i would trust with something i write online? it puts it into perspective you need other people.
Jessica – With feminist blogging we run into that a lot when you’re writing anything political, particularly feminists, you’re leaving yourself open, you’re going to get some really nasty comments. Anyone can come on. It’s a dangerous place to be and it’s a scary place to be for a lot of feminist bloggers. There’s been a lot of discussion about how to support each other. Trolls. Horrible stuff, like “fuck you you dyke bitch”, or whatever. And it helps for 20 other feminist bloggers to be like “oh yeah fuck you too go to hell” to them. Comment registration, etc. can also help, [but doesn’t stop it all].
2 Questions from a guy standing in the back:
– question [I missed the first question. I think something about editing/censoring.]
– Why blogs, why not just web sites or bulletin boards, whey are they so appealing, fashionable. Why not bulletin boards which are more interactive? Why blogs?
Michele – We state in our site we reserve the right to edit for clarity. We have statements about race and class on our site. Replacing sexism with racism or classism is not a proper way to hollaback. I am referring to historical stereotypes of men of lower socioectonomic status, men of color, as being stereotpyed as sexually violent. [It’s not useful and Hollaback doesn’t allow it and will edit it out of posts.]
Liza – Two tracks on my blog. Contributors and contributing editors – then other articles on sidebar. i sometimes move stuff to front page [for emphasis]. There’s different ways to read it.
Jessica – On feministing there’s no editing, there’s 6 contributors and they post what they want. it depends on the blog, though.
Alice – Web sites that were personal homepages required people to know some html. There was a technical barrier to entry that you had to teach yourself. i taught myself html when i was working as a secretary. Why journals, diaries, etc. online? Women journaling online since late 90s. But only once you got blogosophere gendered male that people pay attention to it. BUT also blogging tools became very easy to use, and that opened barriers.
Jessica – Comments section on blogs, interactive that way. Conversation. LIke a bulletin board. But what’s exciting about blogs is the immediacy. Blogs updated a lot. Blogs important for femininst activism, for example when the Bureau of Labor Statistics decided not to report on women [its Women Workers Data Series: more here] anymore and I blogged and months later i got an action report from NOW. If we had been working together we could have taken action quickly.
Woman in audience; I think alice said 12% of the world is online?
Alice: It’s a stat from a resesarcher, africa… [I missed the citation]
Woman in audience: Class analysis of blogging. Higher income white feminists? Are blogs contributing to that legacy? Are lower income people being involved in blogosphere
Lauren: Anyone who owns a cellphone has a remote ip address. Anyone who owns a cellphone can blog.
Liza – i’m suspicious of stats that say 12% of people are online. People have crackberry. They pay 300 bucks for blackberry, high but less than paying 1000 bucks for a computer, and a landline. They’re online, but not counted. There ‘s a core group of colored bloggers, the digital ethnorati, we have higher incomes but we also have, we happen to be in these social-class-blended families. There’s a lot more people of color with access to the internet through cell phones and pdas. Recently I was at a conference with ESPN Mobile. The fastest growing segment of population was Latinos followed by Asians and African Americans. Digital divide – we have to stop thnking that way. We have to stop thinking of computers. You can read a blog on this (holds up phone). You can post.
Alice – You can post from your pda, i do it all the time
Liza – i don’t have the patience.
Alice – Big differentials between [styles, patterns of] access , asia, europe, north america. Internet cafes. Different patterns of usage. One person in a community has a computer and they charge other people to come use it.
Guy in front row – Alice you mentioned that very few top political blogs are written by women b/c of the men linking only to each other. Michelle Malkin, Pandagon, firedoglake. I mean, 2 years ago Pandagon didn’t have Amanda Marcotte on it! What changed?
Jessica: I bitched about it. Bitch enough and they throw you a link.
Liza: Shelley Powers is someone who is a must read… burningbird [
archives] is a must read for anyone interested in the hisotory of the blogsophere. Speaking from the margins to power. She nails it over the head what happenes with tech bloggers is just what happens with political bloggers. There was this ad, feminist pie wars, women on reality shows, ad on daily kos. Some women on daily kos got really offended. why do we have this ad on daily kos? Markos said with typical charm, you smelly hippies, sanctimonious women’s studies, have no place on this blog. It created a whole shitstorm. [Good explanation here with links to major feminist blogs discussing it.] At the time in this country we were getting ready, Katrina hadn’t happened yet btw. Right before Katrina. We already heard that Justices were coming down, Alito, Robertson. I wrote this post about why diversity is even an issue. He front paged it. [Liz: Is it this post on “no black bloggers”?] Of course he doesn’t talk to me anymore… After Katrina, after Supreme court… they know they need us. They need feminist bloggers. We wrote a manifesto as feminist bloggers against Robertson. [link?]
Jessica: that’s not to say we get the credit we deserve, still.
Liza: No. *laughter*
Jessica: Who does the nytimes talk about when they mention a blogger? The same 3 guys over and over. We did it ourselves – we linked to each other and supported each other. […] blogs revoulutionized feminist politics. Top male bloggers, aasking them dont you think it’s a problem, all the top bloggers are men. They said “No.” The conversation for them ends there.
Liza: Organizations encourage that. Working Assets has media training… they found someone to get this grant. Only 5 bloggers were going to be trained to go in front of media. Markos, Atrios, same people who appear as face of the blogosphere. Now Mary Scott Oconnor [of My Left Wing, a woman from firedoglake. No people of color. And this was done by Working Assets, not a right wing organization. That’s problematic. I feel that for the future of feminist blogs and future of progressive politics in the US it’s up to us to look at ways of organizing. There is power in actually having a flock or an aggregate of bloggers sharing resources, sharing access, and power. If we’re going to wait for someone to give it to us it’s not going to happen. The tech allows for coalescing, creating different power structures.
Jessica: We don’t want to recreate the same sexist racist homophobic paradigms in our new structures. At a conference -that panel – on the “power of the blog” – all white men. Sausagefest! and as soon as the mic came around to a woman (it was …. ] and said you’re talking about power but you’re sitting up there all men. And they said what do you want us to do, back off and not be on the panel and say no [to being on it]?
Liza : I’m on the board of BlogHer, an organization to raise the profiles of blogging women. Estroswarms around tech and political conferences. Get a whole bunch of women and drop them there.
Lauren: There’s one thing with the net and with the grassroots. You have to be both. Tou have to do more than online. Some of the most success we found getting mentioned in media have been from attending or creating different performative events. We did the idiotarod. *laughter* A crazy shopping cart event in NYC. We got our first media attention there. New York Metro Daily. She [who?) wrote an article. Talk to people. I volunteer at Bluestockings, a political bookstore, and [meet interesting feminists all the time there.]
Woman in audience: What are these political blogs – list some. You all seem to know each other. How? Who?
Jessica: You’ll have a huge blogroll on the issue of the magazine. If you go to our blogs and look at our blogrolls.
Liza – three categories of feminist blogs
– ones like Lauren and jill at feministe – they talk about feminsm
– activist blogs like Hollaback
– then people like me, in the middle – I dont write about feminism, i write about everything from a feminist perspective. it’s a praxis more than anything esle. Even if there’s a blogger who’s a lawyer, there’s law profs, photographers, artists, technologists, mommybloggers, they identify as feminists, transgender bloggers as well. And men btw, men who call themselves feminists . Alas a Blog. publisher is a guy. Barry Deutsche.
Audience question: What is it that… (i missed the question)
Lauren: I found a community. I didn’t realize – I didn’t know what I was missing and then I realize that all the different parts of myself fit into this way of activism and feminism.
Margo, in audience, the artist: What do you think about discussions in blogs, in their discussions, so public, the kind of language that’s emerging, the way of empowering each other, perhaps some of that content, has cultural difference, can you comment on that.
Alice – people are putting themselves out there. a lot of cultural anxiety around information aggregation. In 15 years you’re going to regret it, i’m so glad there was no internet when i was 13. Or people getting fired for their Myspace. The social practices have not caught up with the technology yet. Privacy is a big one. People are willing to provide a ton of personal information. sites asking what your income, your gender, sell your data. That really is a big concern. it’s a little too early to say what the overall cultural impact is going to be. i can’t speak to the linguistics aspect.
Liza – speaking with (Mark?) last night. Extended consciousness. No such thing as a separation between virtual and real. An extension of who we are. This flesh we carry. It should be treated as material. What you put there may have more of a life than you. Even if you take down your blog, do archives.org scrubs, the wayback machine, somebody in some place in the world might have a scrapbook copy of your site because they like it. Or, porn people scoop my site, because of my google ranking. So what you put online is the closest thing to immortality.
Lauren- My mom’s found all sorts of things about me online.
Liza – My own children. I made a distinct decison to not give away their privacy when they had no choice in the matter. I talk about Thing1 and Thing2 once in a while, and I put that we went to Puerto Rico and how they were pretending to be Coppertone […..] but I never identify them by name. Because they don’t have any choice in the matter.
Woman in audience – Definition of a blog? Different properties, having links, being updated multiple times per day? i’m a little bit fuzzy.
[Liz/transcriber: Okay, here I just *have* to leap in and say I would answer this question from this person simply by saying: a blog is a web page you control, that is structured so you can update it very easily with frequent posts, and many have features that make it easy for people to leave comments on what you post. )
Liza – A blog is a group of software that resides in a server and it’s, there’s three elements. The script that produces the web pages – could be written in anything form perl to php. The two main languages in which blogs are written. You have a database, you need a database in where you write is going to reside. Databases are software, they’re soft machines. The third element that mkes them different froma livejournal diary, is that you can pretty up your blog. You can design it and do CSS and the html. And th
at’s why it’s web 2.0. Because web 1.0 was all hard coded… on a page it might turn into 15, 20 printed pages… whereas a blog, it dynamically puts those things together.
Jessica: Liza’s a real geek, I wish I understood that stuff… but that’s not how I define it. When i define blogs I say it’s the immediacy, it’s the updated frequently. Comments section. i don’t think it’s really a blog if it doesn’t have comments. And a sense of community. Having a blogroll, linking to other bloggers, having online relationships. Not so much for the tech.
Lauren: it’s so easy, we could have sat here right now and made an awesome blog about this panel.
Liza – i’m from the first wave and i have to install it myself.!!
Thanks – applause –