I’m an online feminist (and I don’t get paid for it)

Recently in the US there was a forum (or a conference… I’m not sure, and maybe it’s still going) looking at the online women’s movement. I only heard about it because I go through phases of being highly addicted to Twitter (I still call myself a Twit by mistake, rather than a Tweeter… whatevs, my mum thinks I’m cool). Anyway, it was hosted by the Barnard Centre for Research on Women and looked at the sustainability and impact of the online women’s movement. Those of us unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place followed online via #femfuture.

Questions and comments raised on the twittersphere included:

  • ‘How we can truly make online feminism a sustainable movement?’ (@VanessaValenti)
  • ‘I want to help bridge feminist blogging & online feminist organizing. Blogging is activism but not necessarily organizing.’ (@ShelbyKnox)
  • ‘how to step aside, support even younger feminists’ (@ShelbyKnox)
  • ‘Despite the huge women’s funding movement, there is no support for online feminism’ (@feministteacher)
  • ‘I know a lot of people who unfortunately discount twitter’s usefulness where a lot of online #fem2 conversations happen like #femfuture’ (@Dropek)
  • ‘my own burnout result of my offline feminist paid+unpaid work while also trying to juggle online.’ (@PattiProvance)
  • ‘Blogging’s the “women’s work” of the feminist movement. It’s needed to win, but not valued or paid. #femfuture is talking abt changing this’ (@jostruitt)

And that’s just a taste! I can’t wait to see what comes out of the #femfuture conversation and how feminists around the world can participate. It also made me think about two things in particular, firstly, that as a feminist I have never considered the monetary value of my activism – I have never questioned doing it for nothing. It has always been the ‘right thing to do’ and has never needed a dollar sign placed on it for me to find it fulfilling. It has also led me to meet new people, establish connections and weave a web of fabulous feminist people to surround myself with. It has also given me experience in a variety of situations, furthered my own intellectual capacity and kept me in touch and informed with the world around me. It’s provided opportunities for me to travel and do all of those things in a different country. And fuck, it’s lead me to learning how to run a website. So, confronted with the question of why I don’t get paid for it… it’s a tough one for me to answer.

I suppose, in a way, I am happy keeping it ‘money free’ at the moment – I don’t have any kids, I am comfortable letting my involvement ebb and flow to match my energy and it doesn’t have an adverse impact on my current paid job. If I did get paid to do it though… through the success of the website or in any other capacity, would it support me to achieve more for a #femfuture or would it change how I view my activism?? And maybe for the worse? I’m not sure how to answer that. More pondering is required.

Secondly, in thinking about online feminism and platforms like blogging and twitter, I think about the ageism it uncovers in the women’s movement. It always seems to me that the online sphere of feminism is dominated by young women, whereas the town hall style events and actions are mostly (apart from perhaps Slutwalk) headed by more established feminists. That the two worlds don’t collide seems very strange. And it also seems to keep the different pockets of feminist activists segregated from one-another. Is it ageism, a distrust or lack of appreciation of youth activists, that is hindering growth of the movement overall? Or, is it because we are underpaid and overworked activists who don’t have enough time, energy or resources to cross into each other’s worlds and create ways to bridge the gaps?

I think it’s also because older and younger feminists often find it hard to bring a united voice to feminist issues. Not because one is necessarily better or worse than the other, but because the way young feminists experience the manifestations of patriarchy are different to those experienced by older feminists. And often, older feminists bring a certain feminist lens to contemporary events that don’t always capture the full picture. On the other hand, younger feminists do the same.

So, in my opinion, there is a real need for these two worlds to meet, but perhaps the mistrust of youth (or mistrust of online) is a symptom of a larger issue. I suppose it’s easy to divide and conquer a tired, under-resourced group that operate in different spheres. Damn you patriarchy. But don’t worry, a #femfuture is on the horizon…

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