Feministing 101

Blog editors discuss activism, writing to full auditorium on Tuesday

Feministing editors speak in Humphrey Hall on Tuesday to kick off their North American tour.
Feministing editors speak in Humphrey Hall on Tuesday to kick off their North American tour.

Feministing, ranked by blog search engine Technorati as the 31st most-popular blog in the United States, launched its North American campus tour at Queen’s on Tuesday.

Feministing editors Courtney Martin, Miriam Perez and Vanessa Valenti gave a panel discussion to a full auditorium in Humphrey Hall on gender issues.

“We talk about issues from reproductive rights and more traditional things to immigration and race,” Perez said. “We try to bring a feminist lens to a lot of issues.”

The event, organized by the Women’s Empowerment Committee, Ontario Public Interest Research Group Kingston, the Women’s Centre and the Student Affairs office has been in the works since the summer.

The Feministing staff talked about the experience of feminist blogging, generational conflict and the role of gender identity in contemporary feminism. “I think blogs are particularly important because they really change the dynamic,” Valenti said. “Readers create dialogue between themselves and the writer as well as between readers.”

The increased level of accessibility can introduce young people to feminism, she said.

“We’re always excited when we hear that some young woman in Iowa googles Jessica Simpson and finds out about feminism and that her dad is creepy and paternalistic,” Martin said.

Women’s Centre executive member Kym Nacita gave an introduction before the Feministing editors chaired the panel.

Nacita spoke about sustaining an activist bridge between Kingston and Queen’s and the relevance of feminism today.

“I’m so busy using humour as a coping mechanism,” she said. “But it’s still okay to be angry.”

Nacita said she thinks anger can be productive and is useful in areas such as combating homophobia and Islamophobia on campus.

Students in attendance asked questions about topics such as the use of the word “feminist,” the role of men in feminism, and making feminism inclusive to diverse gender identities. “I thought it was really interesting how diverse the group was and how many people showed up,” Christina Sutrov, ArtSci ’10, said. “Being in fourth year, it was unexpected to look around the crowd and not know anyone.”

Attendee Scout Bremner, ArtSci ’10, said she liked the opportunity to humanize the blog.

“It’s nice to see the faces behind the words,” she said.

The Feministing editors said they had a similar feeling when they first met each other.

“When we all met for the first time it was sort of amazing because we knew each other from online,” Valenti said. “We had been admiring each other from across the interwebs.”

Perez said the blog’s reception isn’t always positive, adding some websites ask their readers to leave anti-feminist comments on the blog, find the bloggers’ and editors’ phone numbers and leave them messages threatening rape.

“There’s been a lot of issues with that,” Perez said. “There’s been some stalking and stuff.”

Incidents like these highlight the importance of having a safe space for women online, the editors said.

“We started Feministing in response to the lack of young women’s voices online,” Vanessa Valenti said. “[Executive editor and Vanessa’s sister] Jessica Valenti likes to tell the story about doing a Google blog search for young feminists and it was some 10-year-old dot-org site.”

As both a blog and a community website where commenters can contribute their own posts, Feministing has developed a reputation as the face of young feminism online, Martin said, adding that feminism now has more diverse perspectives than before.

“Older feminists the media picked up, back in the 70s, were a representation of a certain kind of white femaleness and gender identity,” she said. “We want a multiplicity of leaders rather than just one face.”

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