Why do feminists in academia think they can define “feminist” for everybody? In one of my classes at Middlebury, I was responsible for editing the work of one of my classmates. She wrote her post on the fruitlessness of blogging as a platform for feminist activism. I kept my critique as respectful as possible and even now, I’m not here to bash the specifics of her post. There are some underlying ideas that I did gain from what I read that are very troubling and recreate the current societal structure.
1. The belief that some voices “deserve” to be heard over others.
Who gets to decide which voices are deserving and which aren’t? If you view feminism as a platform to exclude undesirable voices, are you any better than oppressive people who want to exclude the voices of the marginalized? They don’t believe marginalized voices deserve to be heard either. Stop thinking that it’s up to you to decide who is deserving of a voice.
2. The belief that “crazy” people shouldn’t have a platform to express themselves.
Who is considered “crazy” in our society is highly gendered and racialized. What this means (basically) is certain people are automatically considered crazy for their gender or their race. ($100 prize if you can guess who is considered the craziest.) If we silence the voices of the most radical because we have already dismissed them due to “craziness”, we again risk maintaining the very power structure we want to deconstruct.
3. The belief that feminist voices don’t need to be heard because they only communicate with other feminists.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The internet gives hundreds of thousands if not millions of people easy access to educating themselves about feminism. This includes people who may not originally have considered themselves feminists. Blogs and twitter feeds do NOT only include other feminists. These posts and conversations are public and give a voice to opinions that are marginalized by mainstream discourse.
So what good are feminist blogs? What good is internet activism?
Feminist blogs, hashtag feminism and all other forms of feminist activism that rely on the internet offer a more inclusive feminism. While many people in the world do not have access to the internet, many do. And these people have the opportunity to create grassroots movements, to learn, to explore, and to talk about the way oppression impacts their lives. It’s important that these platforms exist because now, you don’t need to be validated by the mainstream for your voice to be heard. Resistance is happening now on the internet. Significant conversations and activism happens on twitter every day.
I think the mainstream culture (especially in the U.S.) is afraid of internet activism. Finally the oppressed population has an easy way to connect with each other. We can organize. We can communicate. We can support each other and make surviving in this world a little easier for each other. That in itself is a threat to the powers that be. So the response is to say internet activism is “unimportant”. Well, historically the voices of the oppressed have always been considered unimportant. We didn’t shut up then, and we won’t be silent now.