In the Blog
Guest post: 4 Ways to Respond to Oppression on the Web
A blogger’s guide to making your statement by Kait Fowlie
On the web, it’s scarily easy to scan too many things at once and gloss over oppressive messages. If you use the internet as your main source of information, inspiration, or creative support, the energy you put into your web-input can be as much, if not more as the energy you put into your web-output. Then you can add your best two cents to the blog-o-sphere. When you see something that triggers a red flag to pop up in your mind, consider not just clicking elsewhere - counter it with a web-critical response on your own blog.
Here are 4 ways to write a compelling response to oppressive content, taking a page from some talented feminist bloggers.
- Prompt a mindful reading
Narrow in on one piece of content and re-contextualize it on your blog. Encouraging your readers to zero in on a specific issue that could be overlooked elsewhere lets you re-sensitize readers to something the web makes it easy to get desensitized to. Check out a post on You Should be a Feminst in which blogger Leigh Anne Renzulli places a screen grab of comments on a photo slideshow that shows 29 pictures of 22-year-old American basketball player Skylar Diggins playing basketball - but you wouldn’t be able to tell from the comments that focus solely on her body [“You could poach an egg with her thighs!”]. Shedding light on the often-overlooked content in comments sections, Facebook or Twitter feeds, prompts you and your readers to sharpen your focus to it. Being web critical takes time and thought. Make your blog a space where you, and your readers can read mindfully, not scan compulsively.
- Share your story
There’s a good reason for our reactions to what we read on the web. Turn your critical gaze onto the story behind your reaction. When you write about it, you distance yourself and become critical of it, rather than just accept it. The web content we consume is intimate - it’s on our desktops and in our pockets at all times - and it’s guided solely by our reactions. Don’t let those reactions go unexamined.
Check out The Belle Jar’s Anne Theriault’s response to two articles about “the woman-child” and the “girlification of women” for a great example of a well-thought-out reaction. She dissects the two articles, pointing out they ways in which they struck her as promoting patriarchal ideas. Is there a definition of how an adult woman should act and look? Does it mean getting married by a certain age, having babies, and looking a certain way? Anne shares the questions she asked herself while reading, and explains her conclusion that putting limits on what women can like, say, or do is the least feminist thing ever.
- Start a discussion
Starting a discussion lets you create a learning opportunity out of a contentious issue on the web if you feel a piece could benefit from another perspective. Rally other bloggers to lend their voices by asking the questions that are on your mind. In ezine collective Flip Flopping Joy, disagreements between bloggers are seen as a valuable learning tool. In their guidelines for commenting on articles, readers are urged to consider an idea and build on that work. They include an analogy of worksmanship: “don’t unravel a knitter’s work. Workers are stronger when they work together.” Consider the same guidelines in your response. Don’t try to tear it down; build up from it, and help other bloggers help you. [Ed. note: of course, when the content you’re responding to isn’t up for debate and is just racist, sexist, transphobic, etc. … tear away!]
- Offer your ideas for a solution
Addressing the creator of the content in an open letter style can be a way of musing on the question “what’s causing this content, and what can we do about it?” OnReaction Zine’s open letter to Games Media examines the “growing pains” that the relatively new online gaming sphere is currently experiencing; specifically, the amplification of sexism, racism, homophobia and classism in games media. This blogger’s post offers two different ways editors of gaming sites can communicate a more inclusive message on their sites: 1) publish a highly visible statement explaining their stance on sexism, racism, classim, ableism, homophobia and transphobia, and 2) hire more people to moderate their forums. The author makes it clear that just because these representations are appearing in “synthetic worlds” doesn’t make them any less oppressive. We’d all benefit from more inclusive voices in the media, online and off.
Kait studies creative writing at Simon Fraser University and volunteers at the women’s health collective in down town Vancouver. She has recently started reading and writing a lot. See more on sheknows.com