Friday, November 11, 2011

On Unpaid Feminist Blogging

Via Courtney E. Martin, in The Nation:

"This leads us to the biggest misperception of all—this one even held by many bloggers and online organizers themselves: that online feminism is free. It’s not. Many feminists innovated remarkably early on in the Internet’s existence, founding blogs and online communities, but we’ve largely stalled in progress over the last few years because we are under-resourced and overwhelmed. Samhita Mukhopadhyay, the executive editor of, explains, 'Blogging has become the third shift. You do your activist work, then you have a job to make money and then you blog on top of that. It’s completely unsupported".....

It’s time to mature into the second stage—in which online feminism is funded, forward-thinking and just as fierce. It’s time for all of us—bloggers, organizers, philanthropists and business experts alike—to put our heads together and figure out how to create a robust, sustainable online space that can serve as the 'women’s center in the sky' (as Gloria Steinem recently put it to me) for the next generation."

When I started blogging, I never expected to get paid for it or for it to turn into a career. As I have continued to blog, mostly in my precious free time, it has come to feel somewhat like work. Work that I usually enjoy, yes, but work nonetheless, and work that I don't get paid for. Although, I also appreciate that a regular blogging schedule helps me refine my writing and argumentation skills. It's difficult to become good at either if a person doesn't do them regularly.

Anyway, as discussed in the above-cited article, feminist blogs have several models for garnering money. I haven't explored these models for this blog in any great depth, mostly due to lack of time, but I am generally opposed to ads. From time to time I am approached to "write articles about certain books or products" (which I recognize as a way of asking for free ad space and marketing), and I usually turn down those offers or ignore them. Although, if the book is feminist in nature, or relevant to this blog, I have accepted these offers (while noting in my posts when I've received free review copies of particular books I've reviewed here).

So, you know, I support the "maturation" of feminist blogging that generates revenue, I'm just not sure what that model looks like. I'm also not sure the lack of funding equates, as Martin argues, with feminist blogging being the domain of the femininst "elite" (because "who else can afford to blog unpaid?"). That argument seems to assume that the majority of feminist bloggers sit in front of their computers all day, perhaps being fanned with giant leaves and being fed peeled grapes, looking for stuff to get mad about on Internet*.

I suspect that the reality is more that those who can "afford to blog unpaid" are those who work full-time jobs and/or part-time jobs in order to pay the bills and yet who carve out time to also run a blog, or who are students, or who don't work but are living on some sort of fixed income. With free blogging platforms available, blogging doesn't have to be a costly endeavor. Perhaps a primary barrier would be whether or not one has Internet service at home, and I'm not sure possessing Internet service (or a smartphone) places a person into the category of "elite."

My point is that feminist activism on Internet is probably, in many cases, some people's only means of engaging with other feminists and learning about feminism. I am far more likely to blog and read about feminism on Internet than I am, say, to make time in my busy schedule to go to a NOW meeting (or something, does NOW even have meetings that people go to?)

Anyway, along those lines, what keeps me blogging are the occasional comments and emails from people who tell me that something I wrote has helped me them in some way- whether it's in recognizing sexism, countering anti-feminism, or just entertaining them. It's nice not to know I'm not just sending stuff out into a void.

I check my blog stats from time to time, so I know lots more people read this blog than comment on it, so I guess I'm curious, why do you continue to read this blog? Why do you read other feminist blogs? How do you think feminist blogging affects society?

*ps- 'Member when Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel tried to talk about "Internet" in 1994?

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