Feminism S&F Online Scholar and Feminist Online, published by the Barnard Center for Research on Women
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Volume 5, Number 2, Spring 2007 Gwendolyn Beetham and Jessica Valenti, Guest Editors
Blogging Feminism:
(Web)Sites of Resistance
About this Issue
About the Contributors

Issue 5.2 Homepage

·Surveying the Blogosphere
·The Woman Question: Feminists and the Blogosphere
·Where Can Feminist Bloggers Go from Here?

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The Personal is Political:
Feminist Blogging and Virtual Consciousness-Raising

Tracy L. M. Kennedy


Feminism has changed considerably over the last thirty years; the days when groups of women met in person to discuss their personal experiences of social inequities are now few and far between. Consciousness-raising groups were pivotal to the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s, despite the exclusionary tendencies many of them displayed—particularly toward women of color, lesbians, and disabled women.

In 1963, Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique named the condition of many women across North America, the dissatisfaction of (white middle-class, heterosexual) housewives and the expectation of their domesticity. Friedan's book raised awareness and connected the experiences of these women to wider systemic issues of marginalization and oppression. Without recapping the Second Wave feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s, it is important to note the political actions women took at that time, in particular, the groups of women who joined collectively to talk about their experiences of sexism and oppression under a system that traditionally undervalued women. The goal of these groups was what Kathie Sarachild called "radical consciousness-raising" or getting to the root of social problems.[1] A leaflet distributed by the Chicago Women's Liberation Union articulates the significance of consciousness-raising groups:

Consciousness-raising groups are the backbone of the Women's Liberation Movement. All over the country women are meeting regularly to share experiences each has always thought were "my own problems". A lot of women are upset by remarks men make to us on the street, for instance, but we think other women handle the situation much better than we do, or just aren't bothered as much. Through consciousness-raising we begin to understand ourselves and other women by looking at situations like this in our own lives. We see that "personal" problems shared by so many others—not being able to get out of the house often enough, becoming exhausted from taking care of the children all day, perhaps feeling trapped—are really "Political" problems. Understanding them is the first step toward dealing with them collectively.[2]

This excerpt is relevant to feminisms of the past, present, and future. First, many women think that the discontent they feel in their lives is a personal problem that is not worthy of a more public recognition or discussion, which in itself can lead women to feel isolated and alone. In the past, consciousness-raising groups helped women understand that experiences were often shared. Second, these feelings and experiences are not self-inflicted, but instead can be attributed to a social system laden with cultural and institutional ideologies that dominate and subjugate women. Third, consciousness-raising groups not only named the issues, but worked to build a community of women who could then collectively advocate for social change. With its roots in feminist consciousness-raising, the Internet, and in particular blogging, is working as a new vehicle for facilitating such intimate interaction and its potential for social transformation.

Much of what was printed in Sarachild's 1971 flyer is applicable today, despite the infrequency of face-to-face meetings. At a time in feminist history when feminism itself has been called fragmented, disjointed, or even dead, blogging is an important way for feminist thinkers to connect and build community and to advocate for social change. While we have to remember that technology is laden with ideological baggage, feminists of all tenets have the opportunity to carve out a virtual space for themselves, in what I call "feminist virtual consciousness-raising." The ubiquity of the Internet has located feminist[3] advocacy and consciousness-raising within the virtual world. Blogs are a useful tool to connect with not only academics and community activists, but also the "everyday" people whose experiences are often ignored or silenced.

Tools 5.2 Online Resources Recommended Reading S&F Online in the Classroom
S&F Online - Issue 5.2 - Blogging Feminism: (Web)Sites of Resistance - ©2007