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Volume 5, Number 2, Spring 2007 Gwendolyn Beetham and Jessica Valenti, Guest Editors
Blogging Feminism:
(Web)Sites of Resistance
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The Little FemBlog That Wasn't

Shira Tarrant

The blog sputtered. Then it fizzled. This was not what I had planned.

I was teaching a course titled "What Is Third Wave?" The class was an independent study consisting of three students at Goucher, an East Coast liberal arts college. It is the kind of campus where innovation and close collaboration with students are encouraged and celebrated.

The class was an exploration into whether—or to what degree—the theoretical and activist foundations of Third Wave feminism differ from those of the so-called Second Wave. My students and I were interested in reading some of the more challenging Second and Third Wave literature to structure this study. Questions about the similarities and differences between feminist eras first came up in a class on contemporary feminist theory these students had taken with me the previous semester. The independent study participants were soon-to-be graduating seniors interested in continuing their investigation into these sets of issues.

Because "What Is Third Wave?" was an independent study, and because my students and I were working closely together on our venture, it made sense to stay flexible with the pedagogy. When the "Sex Workers Art Show" came to town, we went. When we got hungry during a marathon theory-fest, we ordered pizza. When we realized we wanted a forum to continue exploring theoretical dialogue outside of our once-a-week scheduled meetings, we started a blog.

Vicki Tobias writes that "blogs have in common an unregulated and libertarian essence. Blogs are a manifestation of our First Amendment rights, providing both voice and audience for anyone with an opinion, including self-identified feminists and those engaged in women's issues."[1] "Yes!" we thought. Unfettered access to free expression was exactly what we were aiming for. My students and I were about to enter the democratic world of the Internet and unleash our unbridled enthusiasm for feminist ideas. Or at least this is what we intended.

The first post to our blog was a somewhat messy if astute critique of Astrid Henry's book Not My Mother's Sister. My student Emma took serious issue with framing a Second Wave-Third Wave divide in terms of familial relations. As Emma pointed out on our blog, patriarchal systems seem most comfortable equating women with home life. When we construct our understandings of feminism in similar ways, she asserted, we perpetuate a patriarchal paradigm. Emma posted these thoughts at 1:28 a.m. As I see it, this is a true advantage of blogging with students: The hours after midnight are often ripe for deep thoughts but awful for calling professors or classmates to talk them over. How else but by blogging can students continue a classroom debate about compelling issues when the ideas feel so fresh and urgent and yet it is so late at night?

The second post highlighted issues of everyday feminism. The matter in question was Mother's Day, and the challenge was selecting an appropriate greeting card. "As this [academic] year comes to a close I finally find myself seeing the everyday feminism in my life," my student (again, Emma) wrote.

I went to shop for a mother's day card this week and I ran into an experience that I am sure I have had for at least the past 10 years . . . I walked into a Hallmark store, thinking I was going to get my mother something unique . . . I found myself staring at a plethora of cards, most of them in tones of pink and pastel . . . The writing on the inside was all about thanking a mother for her sacrifice, for her willingness to give up her life for her kids . . . None of these cards seemed to fit my mother, or any of my friend's mothers. And more than that they seemed to imply something that horrifies me more than the re-election of Bush; that mothers are self-sacrificial.

While Emma recognized that parenting—or any form of care for others—involves an element of giving from the self, the notion that the corporate mainstream insists on reinforcing an ideology of maternal sacrifice contradicted Emma's lived experience, her observations of the world around her, and certainly the possibilities she perceives for the professional and familial choices of her future. "Hallmark" Emma tells us, "might just need to be reminded about what motherhood means."

Tools 5.2 Online Resources Recommended Reading S&F Online in the Classroom
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