March 8, 2007

Internet Women's Day!

It's a sad irony that International Women's Day has been observed pretty widely around the globe for decades, save in the US, even though the holiday was inspired by a March 8, 1908 mass walkout by women garment workers in NYC.

IWD enjoyed a US revival in the 1970s when both the women's movement born in the late '60s and various left groups, especially in the New Communist Movement, took it up fairly seriously (and fairly separately). Unfortunate developments, let's call them, in both movements meant it faded again before it could really take root.

There is a funny and heartening spontaneous IWD revival going on now, thanks to the magic of the Internet. I saw a half-dozen significant stories today on various aspects of women's oppression and on significant women's struggles.

More important, though, is the simple fact that today has been declared Blog Against Sexism Day (a/k/a Blog For Gender Liberation Day), and this highlights how much discussion of gender, of oppression and of resistance there is in the blogosphere. I'm going to climb right out on a limb here and say that the expanding net of feminist blogs (some of which might reject that particular term) resembles more than anything else I can recall the upsurge of women's consciouness-raising groups in the late '60s-early '70s.

The similarities are most striking in the close linkage of the personal and the political, in the detailed analysis of how easily-overlooked cultural phenomena reinforce the system of male supremacy and heteronormativity, in the lively debates over sexual practices and styles of dressing, in the extension of solidarity in the form of advice and compassion, in the excitement of young folks discovering a whole new way to understand the world, and in the discussion of what it will take to build a better one.

Mind you, I don't want to be 100% smiley face here. Some similarities with the consciousness-raising period of the women's movement are less happy--the occasional tendency of new converts to slam the door on newbies or those less certain about everything, the privileging of the more self-assured and articulate (too often a product of class privilege) and, no one will be surprised to hear, the too-frequent appearance of that old devil, white chauvinism.

There are, of course, several huge differences between this blogospheric development and what went on thirty years ago. Those writing today start from a whole different place and set of assumptions, ground won by their foremothers and elders. And they do it in a period which is grimmer, less optimistic and less full of society-wide ferment and excitement.

The most important difference, though, is that the blogosphere is not a women-only or particularly "safe" space. Anyone can read blogs and on many of them, anyone can post comments. A lot of guys feel perfectly entitled to do so. Some are what are known in blogspeak as "trolls"-- assholes who show up to pick a fight, often with a misleading nom du blog. Others are more interested in celebrating, in some detail, just how non-sexist they are.

Combined with the general anonymity of the Internet, this means that it tends to be much harder to build sustaining relationships based on trust than it is when you are in regular face to face contact with a group of people. Even a close-up and personal process is no insurance that participants won't end up feeling screwed over, but to face the rigors of feminist blogging over any period of time would seem to require some real ego strength.

I've blathered on long enough. If you haven't spent any time in the feminist blogosphere, your Blogging Against Sexism Day assignment is to go get your toes wet. Here are a few sites, varied in prominence, in philosophy and in range of concerns, to start at. And I emphasize start at, because many blogs have a list of recommended links that will take you to the People's Republic of Serendip in a couple of clicks. Oh, yeah, read the damn comments, too. that's half the experience.

The Primary Contradiction


Trash Talks Back

Pam's House Blend

Den of the Biting Beaver

If you go exploring, why not come back and comment on what you find.

[I had it all planned out to blog this today, got way behind and figured "anh, can't do everything," and was shamed back into action by the short and sweet IWD post at It's No Accident. Check it out.]

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