When I started this blog last May, I was a blog virgin. I had never blogged let alone read many blogs.
A woman near and dear to me had suggested I start a blog on a whim, noting that as I love to write so much, and academic writing is such a slow, cumbersome, rule-bound process, I should give blogging a try. With visions of pornified MySpace pages in my head, I was wary of the virtual style of communication. I wondered if my convictions that writing can serve as an important form of feminist activism and that theorizing (a la hooks) is a libratory practice could translate to the online universe.
I didn’t realize until diving into the blog waters how rich, vibrant, and diverse the blogosphere is. Being a feminist, I gravitated towards the deep pool of feminist blogs. However, I soon hit some rocks as I swam through the sometimes murky sometimes far too facile waters. I was variously buoyed up and drowned, wondering when and if feminism might serve as a floating device rather than an anchor. Among exhilarating surfs through intellectually critical prose, I was dismayed to find some serious pollution in the waters. White privilege clogged the atmosphere. Cisgender perspectives, transphobia, and heteronormanativty seeped into the discourse. Attacks and vehemence flowed, sometimes in a trickle, sometimes in torrents (and not only from foul trolls, but from feminist bloggers themselves).
As I kept writing and kept reading, I found myself variously exhilarated and depressed. The new ideas, the critical work being done in virtual spaces, the sense of community – all these were akin to a thrilling white water ride. But, the in-fighting, the ‘waves’ attacking one another, the highlighting of some voices and the silencing of others, these were like drowning yet again in all the problems that have plagued feminism for so long.
From the start, I had intended to invite both bloggers and non-bloggers to write at Professor, What if. Motivated both at a practical level and a theoretical one, I hoped to be able to keep my blog chugging along during the heat of the semester and full-time teaching AND to open up my little space to a diversity of voices. However, thanks to my communication with other feminist bloggers, I have come to see that the guest blogging paradigm can be exploitive. Further, it can serve to keep the ‘big fish’ firmly at the top of the food chain as the little minnows struggle not to be swallowed up.
I still have hope that sharing our virtual spaces and voices can be productive and transformative, but I realize now that these waters require very careful navigation if the intention is to keep everyone afloat. This concern brings the infamous essay “Lifeboat Ethics” to mind with its chilling premise there is not enough room in the boat for everyone. As its subtitle, “The Case against Helping the Poor,” indicates, the thesis purports we must govern our actions by the ethics of the lifeboat and realize there is not resources for everyone in the world to thrive.
As feminist bloggers, we must work against such a paradigm and endeavor to keep everyone afloat. Both those that request guest posts and those who agree to be guest bloggers should aim to keep everyone in feminist blog waters alive and well. Unlike that final sinking scene in the Titanic where those in the water are frantically pushing others down into the water to save themselves, I hope we can find a way to swim, rather than sink, together.
The first guest post will speak to some of these concerns, addressing the worrisome ways the feminist blogosphere functions as an empire, or lifeboat, rather than a flotation device. Do we want to be the colonizers, the colonized, or do away with the imperial process altogether? Do we want to launch a select few to safe land while letting others drown? While most feminists would immediately voice disdain for imperialist practices that exploit and oppress, I think we need to think very carefully about how our own actions sometimes further entrench, rather than erode, systems of power and privilege.