Saturday, April 01, 2006

On Feminist Blogs

I will never get my blogroll up to date. According to an article in the U.K. Guardian, there are at least 240,000 feminist blogs. No way can I add all of them to my blogroll.

The article giving us this interesting fact is all about feminist blogs. It starts by interviewing one of the founders of

Young women are apathetic. They're not feminists. They don't call themselves feminists. They don't know what feminism is all about.

"That," says Jessica Valenti, "was all we ever seemed to hear - from colleagues, from the media. And we just thought, who are they talking about? I know young women all over the place who do feminist work. We wanted to show that young feminists aren't crazy or mean, but cool. A lot of feminism has this academic basis that can be very off-putting. And so we thought, let's put something out there that's not dry and academic, but lively and fun."

So Valenti became one of the founders of, a highly popular blog website that attracts 100,000 visitors a month. Each day it features between five and 10 women's stories, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. An article on incoming Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, for example, is followed by a wisecrack on a dubious skin-tightening product called Virgin Cream.

And it's not alone. In the two years since feministing started, there has been an explosion of feminist blogs, including many that have a highly professional edge, and a large, loyal readership. The feminist movement has always produced plenty of meaty writing and lively debate: witness Sylvia Pankhurst's newspaper, the Woman's Dreadnought, in the 1910s, through the pamphleteering of the 1970s second-wave, and the vibrant 'zine culture of the 1990s' "riot grrrl" movement. Prior to the blogosphere though, distribution remained local for all but a few major publications, such as Spare Rib, Ms, or, latterly, Bust and Bitch magazines.

The article then goes on to name several feminist blogs but for some odd inexplicable reason fails to mention this one. The author most likely got all flustered when faced by such divinity as mine and scribbled the name down wrong. I shall forgive her.

But I'm not equally forgiving about the way the storyline is made into something negative. The question the article asks is whether feminist blogs might be just playthings for the rich and the educated. Then it goes on trying to strike some sparks between the second wave feminists (those whose work was supposed to have been done in the seventies) and the third wave feminists (those whose work is supposed to be done right now but might be all about sex-positivity and girliness).

My lack of forgiveness isn't because of the assertion that blogs are playthings for the wealthy and educated (and for those who blog in their parents' basements). They are, at least in the global arena. So is most anything else not having to do with what is required for basic survival, and feminist blogs are no different in this sense from any other types of blogs or from the general access to computers. But blogs, including feminist ones, do have a democratizing effect on the public discourse. Starting a blog can cost nothing, and the computer skills needed are also fairly minimal. All we need to change is the availability of the internet in poor areas. That, my friends, is not a specifically feminist problem.

Social change movements are often criticized for what they have not achieved and this can be useful and energizing. But blogging is still a young communication tool. It is too early to tell what it will mean in terms of activism and too early to decide if it is going to ignite another feminist wave or not. It is also too early to tell how the blogosphere will ultimately look. Will we find more and more large group blogs (of the Huffington Post type)? Will corporate ownership of blogs increase? Does a large number of feminist blogs mean that all of them have readers? How will blogs communicate with each other? Will blogs arrange themselves into larger groups and if so, will these structures turn out to be hierarchical, even for feminist blogs?

I don't know the answers to these questions. But I do know that the current status of feminist blogging is a healthy one, both in activism and in community building. There is still plenty of space for new feminist voices in the blogosphere, and I welcome them. Well, with the exception of goddess-voices. I have cornered that market.