Cluster Activism

Blogs are the perfect vehicle for a movement as decentralized and pluralistic as third-wave (fourth-wave? sin/cos wave? great wave off kanagawa? which wave are we on again?) feminism.

Second-wave Feminism was a powerful, vital movement capable of generating a great deal of change (Title IX, Bitch Magazine), but also (almost intrinsic to its top-down structure) minimized many women’s voices as being the “wrong” women’s voices (see: The Lavender Menace). It was also a bad structure for dealing with kyriarchy, the overlapping of oppressions (think of modes of oppression (ableism, cisgenderism, sexism, heterosexism, racism, Christianism, etc), less as an FDA food pyramid structure of rankings and more as Venn Diagrams in the fourth dimension).

The third wave is a little more of a potluck, members can focus on the particular aspects of oppression/empowerment they find most meaningful/solvable/personal/interesting/annoying especially as they intersect with other aspects of activism or their lives. Interested in peace movements especially as they relate to the effects of war on the female civilians? See organic and locavore movements as a chance to reaffirm the value of traditional female work while also protecting the children? Fight against the specific issues of being a Woman of Colour, which combines the prejudices of racism with sexism and more stuff thrown in? Want to knit socks? Protect reproductive rights? Protest yet another sexist Judd Apatow man-child comedy? Fight against sexual violence on Native reservations? Breastfeed in public? Some of the above? All of the above? All of the above plus loads of things I haven’t mentioned because I don’t have all year but they’re totally important and worthwhile concerns anyhow?

Both third-wave and blogs allow for a personalization of the feminist movement and ideology that is deeply enriching and potentially problematic. At its best it allows a flexibility that opens the doors to the possibility of actually addressing more and more of the multifaceted concerns that the movement should have. It also very wisely realizes that while marches are important, controlling the media is even more so. If you control the media, you control the message, and blogs provide alternate avenues of media that allow for distribution and feedback of ideas and messages ignored, minimized, or twisted (Hi Fox News!) by the dominant media paradigms. We saw bloggers making news during the last presidential election, and Feministing and others have run stories that have had real world consequences, such as when Smart Bitches, Trashy Books identified a well-known romance novel author as a long-time plagiarist, leading to an investigation of the author by her publishing company.

There are potential issues as well. Blogging can be an easy substitute for other forms of activism, instead of a supplement to them. What good is reading or even contributing to Feministing or Racialicious if your feminism ends when you turn off the computer? We still need to be active in giving of time and money to causes, educating others, harassing politicians, and generally being more than keyboard activists. Blogs can also allow you to only hear what you want to hear, leading feminists to only engage with the causes and opinions of people exactly like them. We must make an effort to engage beyond the familiar and to seek out the voices of others, to step beyond our comfort zones and learn. These connections and alliances are the true strength of the blogging community and, I believe, is where the future of feminism lies.


1 Response to “Cluster Activism”

  1. 4 April 2009 at 9:58 am

    As someone who did read the Ramayana — albeit a children’s version — I did always feel horrible for Sita and never understood the fire trial. It still bothers me a lot. Same with Draupadi in the Mahabaratha, who gets all but raped because one of her five husbands keeps losing at dice.

    I’ll definitely check this out.

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