This is a brilliantly thoughtful piece by La Lubu on a way forward for Feministe (related to this). There are some tough questions here, but also, some solid suggestions on what can be done to improve big feminist sites like Feministe for the people outside of mainstream power bases.
Can you ethically ignore power bestowed upon or generated by you when it would give you the opportunity as a feminist intellectual to change things on a significant scale for others? Also, what right do people have to expect this of individuals – Jill Filopovic is tired and apparently unwell, she is also beaten down with disgust at ‘mob mentality’ Internet behaviour? (But then La Lubu‘s questioning of what one defines as inappropriate Internet behaviour and what that says about you and your privilege has given me pause for thought. I am highly sympathetic to Filopovic with regards to her reaction to ‘mob mentality’, I find myself easily horrified by pile-ons and gotchas, too, but has this allowed us to ignore more important injustices – I don’t know?).
From La Lubu:
I want to speak to you on some of the overall dynamics I’m witnessing on these recent posts and comment threads. From my perspective, there is an almost corporate-style mode of abdication of responsibility. The fact that Feministe has multiple staff bloggers will necessarily result in this default in the absence of a formal structure of consensus among the bloggers and in the absence of a mission statement. It seems to me that Feministe vacillates between being a pop-culture entertainment blog; an informative source for international news relating to women and feminism; a galvanizing instrument for political action; and a “LiveJournal”-style space for venting. Although there is a comments policy, there isn’t a declared mission statement of….goals, dreams, boundaries of any sort on what Feministe is or wants to be; nor is there a transparent description or process of how conflict within the community will be resolved. For that matter, there isn’t a definition of the community—does it refer solely to the staff bloggers, or to the commentariat as well?
This is very alienating to me as a labor unionist, as I come from a tradition that has very clear statements on who and what we are, and clear boundaries on process, policy, and conflict resolution. The stock answer in the blogosphere at large is a mercantile one—”if you don’t like what we’re selling, take your business elsewhere.” I don’t necessarily perceive this to be the attitude of Feministe, but strongly feel that the absence of a mission statement and attendant processes contributes to the hostile dynamics in the comment section.
But back to the “corporate style” as I call it, which I see very frequently in the comment section and is clearly evident in the recent threads: an ahistoricity, a blurring of boundaries during controversy or conflict, an assertion of “objectivity”, “rationality” and dismissal of emotion (particularly anger)….these are all concepts essential to the construction of whiteness as a political identity (which is to say, a means of teaching the people who are taught they are white, how to be “white”. I say this because I’ve been getting a whole lot of folks dropping by this blog lately since I was linked on Maya’s post at Alas, and I want to be crystal-clear to people unfamiliar with the term “white” as referring to anything other than light skin. I’m talking about the “whitewashing” of people of European descent; the assimilation into a “whiteness” that exists solely in opposition to people of color and other colonized persons). Even if the overt hostility of the comment section were abated, the affirmation of the ways and means of middle-class white communication are very uninviting (to say the least).
Because, this below from La Lubu also, is pretty spot on…
“The feminist blogosphere is: young, but not too young (25-35); mostly white (and of northern european extraction); middle to upper-middle class; highly educated (always degreed, usually grad school or law degree); able-bodied and healthy; non-religious (but typically with a Protestant or Jewish background); childfree by choice (also not a caretaker of an elderly or disabled adult); body size from thin to very thin; cisgender; heterosexual; conventionally feminine/pretty; fashionable; not employed in a nontraditional (>25% female participation) workforce; native English speaking (family of origin usually native English speaking also); non-indigenous and several generations removed from immigrant ancestors; raised in a nuclear family (either intact or divorced—but not “unwed” or extended family); lives in a large metropolis; favors capitalism; unmarried/unpartnered (meaning: no formal or legal ties of responsibility to a partner); never incarcerated (no family incarcerated either); and has plenty of personal contact with people in positions of actual power (gets invited to policymaking meetings/summits).”
UPDATE: Just a quick note to acknowledge that tigtog is a non-editorial member of the Feministe team (as she says below) and some of our writers here are also past and current members of that writing team. I forgot all this, somehow, when I hit publish on this cross-post. Having remembered the connection – thanks to tig tog’s comment – I thought I better make it clear, dear readers, that it was a poor oversight on my part not to state HAT’s connections to the Feministe blog right up front and to not also make it clear that my post is not intended as a group-comment from HAT (who weren’t consulted in the drafting of my post). I am interested in La Lubu‘s post, not precisely because it is aimed at Feministe but because it is asking big questions about rights and responsibilities in terms of blogging.