It's an old fogey-ish thing to admit in 2007, but a few years ago I
didn't know what a blog was. Others were reading them, writing them,
talking about them, but I was living in a blog-ignorant universe.
I did know what feminism was, and had since my childhood. I'd
grown up identifying myself as a feminist. Sure, I was sort of the only
one I knew. And yes, the frequent organizing and consciousness-raisings
that my mother described seemed a thing of the past. Women my age, even
the political ones, tended to begin every statement with the words "I'm
not a feminist, but . . . " Still, I'd attended a couple of big
pro-choice marches in Washington; I paid attention to who sat on the
Supreme Court; I'd read my Kate Chopin and committed Our Bodies,
Ourselves to memory.
Looking back, it feels as though all of that—all my youthful
feminism—happened in a vacuum.
Why? Because I finally found out what blogs were. And as soon as that
happened, my relationships with feminism and with other feminists took
on dimensions I hadn't imagined sitting on my bed with The
Awakening, wondering if I was the only person I would ever know who
cared about this stuff.
Online, I found women (and men) who thought about feminism as much as
I did, and who knew far more than I about its history, its legal
applications, and its cultural implications. They spoke of gender,
sexuality, race, age, women's health, reproductive rights, international
human rights abuses, disabilities, physical and cultural difference,
women in media, politics, and business. Their voices were, by turns,
earnest and funny and academic and casual. They came from parts of the
country I'd never visited, connected me to women I'd never have
What I learned here wasn't the stuff of textbooks. It wasn't the
history of my mother's generation, though, in certain respects, it bore
striking similarities to the exhilarating days of Second Wave feminism.
It was women and men coming together, over their keyboards, over the
Internet, to address the issues that mattered most to them. A
consciousness-raising session, of sorts, for the twenty-first
Blogs, however, proved to have a few things over those old-school
chapter meetings. Not only are they easier to access and contribute to,
but they allow a more diverse, more expansive conversation than could
ever be housed in one room. Day or night, from home or work, cafés or
libraries, you can log in and join the discussion.
Feminist bloggers also proved that their work wasn't simply a means
for spouting opinions at each other: they became news trackers and
organizers. Wondering about fundraising for a local women's shelter?
Organizing a protest march? Looking for venues to publish an essay on
gender and science? Check the blogs. Or maybe you want more information
about that latest piece of news—this Supreme Court nominee or that
decision at the FDA? Suddenly, there was an alternative to the
mainstream newspapers that typically refuse to cover women's issues with
the same vigor as, say, business mergers. Suddenly, there was room for a
decidedly more feminist perspective. Suddenly, our voices could be
As a reporter, I was writing more and more about women and power,
entertainment, and politics. It was energizing to be able to read
critiques of the kinds of stories I was doing by smart, engaging people
from different backgrounds and different cities around the country.
Once, when I published a difficult interview with an anti-feminist
pundit, a feminist blogger deconstructed the interview on her site,
practically line by line. While blogged media criticism is often too
cutting to be useful, Feministe's
work on the interview I had conducted
was thorough, smart, and provided an excellent counterpoint to the piece
I had published in Salon.
In fact, the thrilling power of the feminist blogosphere was so
infectious that at Salon, my colleagues and I decided to throw
our hats in the ring by creating a daily blog about women's issues
There was a thrilling immediacy to blogging that kept
all of us on our toes. If we wanted to respond to new Federal
regulations classifying all adult women as "pre-pregnant," or to an
offensive editorial in the Times, or if we wanted to aggregate news
about the proposed South Dakota abortion ban or a dying New Jersey woman
trying to secure pension benefits for her lesbian partner, we had a
place to do it.
The online world has of course broadened all of our experiences, the
experience of feminist movements included. Once again, feminism has the
possibility of an organizing center, a place to meet, to talk, to fight,
to plan. Feminism is utterly alive online, through daily conversation
and exchange of ideas, through mobilization and education. And for
someone like me, who wondered if her feminism would forever take place
in a library, it's a whole new world.