'Mainstream' lefty blogs and feminism

by Jess McCabe // 27 June 2008, 15:19

Earlier this week, me, zohra and Holly trundled down to the Guardian for Blog Nation, arranged by Sunny from Liberal Conspiracy.

You can see Sunny's photos here.

The second panel focused on women and feminist bloggers, and our interconnections to the rest of the blogosphere (featuring zohra, Cath Elliot, Sadie Smith,and Kate Belgrave).

There's all sorts that could be drawn from this experience, but I wanted to concentrate on one factor - lack of feminist-inflected posting on lefty/political blogs run by men. My assessment is that most (but not all) left-wingish blogs in the UK ignore gender and feminism, and thus feminist bloggers ignore them in return. Or, if not exactly ignore, the networking bloggers do of exchanging links, comments and emails doesn't happen, because if we do read those blogs, we're not inspired to link them up because they're not relevant. Well, that's my theory.

Anyway, I was pleased to get quite a few emails following on from the event - Alex at LabourHome posted about Caroline Spelman and lack of childcare provision at Westminster (also see the discussion in the thread, which was just as interesting). Charlie Beckett from Polis had some nice words about The F-Word too (although obviously we don't actually have a business plan), and more. The you have Lee Griffin's response, which I will quote from without comment:

It just so happens the most bulshy and disagreeable feminists are the ones that you tend to see more of and remember.

Also check out stoat from Feminist Philosophers' take here.

Comments From You

leon // Posted 28 June 2008 at 21:21

I'm wondering if some of the issue isn't about gender but focus. If you're focused on an issue like climate change on your blog and you happen to be a man you're not going to cover much F material...also bloggers follow links and referrals. Link to others agreeing, criticising or whatever and the chances are they'll link back with their views.

Perhaps being pro-active by emailing them or commenting ('I've added my views on my blog, take a look') will keep us blokes aware of what else is out there?

Given my focus on BME/race/cohesion issues I’m reticent about simply assuming that male bloggers leave out feminists ones because of some underlying patriarchal attitude. That’s too close to saying white bloggers don’t link to BME blogs because they’re racist for me…

Jess McCabe // Posted 28 June 2008 at 22:28

Perhaps, leon, but anyone blogging mostly about climate change, for example, would/should have plenty to post about gender issues... not to mention a whole host of other intersections.

And if the blog is generalist, then as far as I'm concerned there's little excuse to just completely ignore a gender/feminist angle. But I see you blog for Pickled Politics, which does manage to post on gender reasonably often :)

That’s too close to saying white bloggers don’t link to BME blogs because they’re racist for me…

Well, isn't that a sort of racism? Not in the BNP sense, obviously, but still. If a 'progressive' blogger just links white male bloggers, to me that certainly reflects something about that blogger's attitude, reading habits, and definition of 'progressive' (i.e. one where the only voices of interest are white men).

Anne Onne // Posted 29 June 2008 at 00:27

For me, I think it's part of my definition of 'leftist' that a blog should be interested in the wider issues. Sure, it's up to a blogger to blog about whatever takes their fancy, but on the other hand, but this isn't just about what somebody blogs about, but which voices are heard, which blogs linked to and what topics shed light on. I'd agree that a blogger shouldn't be forced (as if anyone's suggesting that!) to cover a part of progressive topics against their will, rather that since progressivness is about the willingness to learn about new things, and the importance of standing up for minorities, and making their voices heard, it should be expected for any progressive blog to have some interest in feminism, at least as far as the odd guest blogger and links out are concerned.

I do think many progressives 'leave out' certain sections of the progressive blogosphere because of a sense of unease. Not that they deliberately want to alienate groups, but that they feel that since it's not a personal issue for them, there are risks in getting involved, and they may be unwelcome. Which, if you're a privileged person (though a potential ally) there are. Yes, it's not always comfortable reading to read a radical blog. But it's like fibre: damn good for you. It's an essential part of being progressive: reminding yourself that not everybody is the same as you, and that their views also need to be heard.

The answer isn't to avoid focusing on (or excusing a lack of focus on) certain groups, but to take the time to make yourself familiar with their movements, and make the effort to learn about them and be an ally. It's not easy, but it's the truly progressive thing to do.

After all, if you ignore feminist blogs, feel uneasy about blogs by POC, don't know how to fit in LGBTQ blogs etc, what's left? What makes you actually progressive? Writing about climate change? Vegetarianism?

(This isn't to Leon personally, whose blog I am completely unfamiliar with, but a general comment about progressive bloggers...)

alex hilton // Posted 29 June 2008 at 02:09

I think I'm a feminist - a soroptimist even - but there's precious little opportunity, or encouragement, for a man to explore this approach.

If I'm writing about climate change (which to be fair I don't think I do) then I do so from the position of a man who fundamentally believes that the world is a better place if women can play a full part - not from the position of a man who is looking for the gender issues related to climate change.

leon // Posted 29 June 2008 at 02:16

“And if the blog is generalist, then as far as I'm concerned there's little excuse to just completely ignore a gender/feminist angle.”

Well sure but that’s an evolution of the point I was grappling with. When someone says male bloggers don’t link to female ones enough I always wonder why. Why they don’t and why they haven’t received a barrage of comments and emails asking to cover stuff.

"Well, isn't that a sort of racism? Not in the BNP sense, obviously, but still."

That's the question though isn't it? Is the self selecting outcome representative of a prejudice against something else or just a prejudice towards something?

I don't like using terms like racist or even sexist unless there's good reason; I've been on receiving end of the latter with little justification a few times so it makes me think about using the former that bit more carefully.

I'm just asking questions really and mulling this whole thing...the responses and discussion that Blog Nation 2008 has generated about feminism (and the lack of integration of female voices within the political blogosphere) has given me much food for thought…

My feeling is as always, how can I make a difference? I considered writing something for PP about it but truth be told I wouldn’t know where to start tbh. What I might do though is have a good look at some of the F blogs out there and do some kind of round up of which our readers might want to take a look at.

Jess McCabe // Posted 29 June 2008 at 10:53

leon - speaking for myself, I just don't feel invested enough in any generalist lefty blog, other than those already somewhat on the ball, to spend my time lobbying them...

BenSix // Posted 29 June 2008 at 20:44

I'd just like to say that I read feminist blogs regularly, and can't quite believe that it was an instantaneous epiphany for the entire male contingent. If one doesn't see feminist blogs then one must go out one's way to avoid them.

Anne Onne // Posted 30 June 2008 at 14:47

Interesting points, Leon. I think the key here is that there is no perfection, no imperfect patriarchy- (and all other influences-) free approach, and that bloggers are of course fallible people who are coming to grips with their own prejudices and opinions, as much as their readers and commenters. We're merely trying to make the world a better place by making ourselves fairer (when we realise we are at fault), and trying to reach others in the process. By discussing with others we are allied to (i.e. not banging heads against a troll brick wall) our disagreements and opinions, we become better able to see our limitations and examine different ideas.

''When someone says male bloggers don’t link to female ones enough I always wonder why. Why they don’t and why they haven’t received a barrage of comments and emails asking to cover stuff.''

I'm only expressing a guess, here, but I'd say it's because feminist-interested comenters and bloggers are ignoring these blogs because of their lack of relevant content to them. I admit I don't read many general progressive blogs (though I go out of my way to read anti-racism, fatosphere, anti-ableism and LGBTQ blogs) because I feel they are alienating at best, and contrubite to racism, homophobia and misogyny at worst. There's a reason why many in the feminism/LGBTQ/POC blogosphere may term certain liberals 'fauxgressives'.

Basically, the point I am trying to make is that blogs/bloggers and commenters/community select each other, and that people are drawn to comunities that reflect their interests (trolls aside!), and that therefore, people interested in these fields will make the effort to get involved in blogs where these issues are boldly addressed. In turn, the sites that shy away from these issues attract the kind of progressives who don't like to focus on these issues, or don't care, or don't know how to approach them. I won't say everybody who reads general progressive sites are fuaxgressives who don't care about women's rights or other minorities, because that's not true. But that people uncomfortable with an intense focus on these issues (for any reason) will gravitate towards sites where they feel comfortable, ie where they are not challenged on these issues.

In fairness, I could argue that it would be helpful for me to get involved in these generally progressive blogs, and try to make a difference from the inside, but my time and concentration are finite resources, and they feel much better used in places that do address the issues I am concentrating on. Not forgetting that feminists are not short of people to write letters to, trolls to deal with, comments to moderate, discussions to have, etc, and somehow going out of your way on a not-particularly-feminist site doesn't seem worth it. In our experience, making feminist points on non-feminist sites is usually met with derision and threats, so feminists seem to generally stick to safe spaces. I'm not saying progressive sites are all like that, but given that even feminist spaces can get barrages of misogynistic comments, I'd be surprised if sites that ignored feminism went out of their way to be polite to feminists if they don't see feminism as relevant anyway.

''I don't like using terms like racist or even sexist unless there's good reason; I've been on receiving end of the latter with little justification a few times so it makes me think about using the former that bit more carefully.''

The problem is, sexism and racism aren't discrete events that can be clearly and neatly defined only if they reach a certain severity. In reality, they are a sliding scale, from small things programmed into us to think about certain people as being different, to outright violence against a person because they belong to a group. Behaviour doesn't have to be very

I'd like us to change the way we look at sexism and racism (and all otehr =isms) not as something that people have to actively want to try to do, for them to be recognised, but as things that we have all been programmed to do, which we must all work to overcome. Looking at them as something that is in some way like a mistake (inevitable, still our responsibility), that we can, and do, all commit to various extents, should hopefully shift the focus from the 'oh, no, not me! I'm not a racist!' defensive reaction people give. The problem is, everybody (OK, most people, progressives especially) basically considers themselves a nice person, who is not out to get anybody. Therefore if they are accused of something, it's all too easy to take offense that you've been accused of something you know to be bad, especially if you didn't intend to do it. Of course, intentions don't change whether something is in fact racist or sexist (or etc) but getting someone to realise they did something that is based on patriarchical or racist patterns of thought and behaviour is dependent on trying to avoid this instinctive denial.

As a progressive, the first issue is to ourselves try and take down our own barriers where we have privilege, and listen to critique, however unjustified we feel it is, from a minority.

You've made a good start by reading blogs like this one to begin with, and my points above are about general progressive blogs, and aren't meant to imply that you fall under the above. If you're recommending feminist blogs to beginners and people likely ot have misconceptions of feminism, I'd advise that you link feminism 101 (how I love it!)because it does try to collect posts busying common myths about feminism, and may be a more gentle approach than some feminist communities that assume a higher level of knowledge, and are less tolerant of newbie questions. I wish you the best of luck with that.

stroppybird // Posted 30 June 2008 at 23:14

I first got into blogs via leftie ones . I then found the feminist blogs. It seemed the two were seperate and so I set up, with Louise who now has Harpymarx, a socialist feminist blog.

Its now a group blog of feminist socialists (with the odd guest post by men) .

Interesting most of the readers are from the leftie world rather than feminists, though the aim is to bridge both worlds.

I wouldnt consider the blog one or the other but socialist feminist. I probably comment more on leftie blogs , raising issues from a feminist and LGBT perspective, than i do on feminist ones. Not sure why, just find it harder to make the links with them.

I think the blog issue reflects the 'real world' issue with the left and feminism and LGBT issues.

Sunny // Posted 01 July 2008 at 02:47

"because I feel they are alienating at best, and contrubite to racism, homophobia and misogyny at worst. There's a reason why many in the feminism/LGBTQ/POC blogosphere may term certain liberals 'fauxgressives'."

Mmm.... I think the point is that this is also very defined by area of interest, and not just wanting to ignore an issue (as Leon pointed out). I focus on race, identity, american politics and technology on Pickled Politics... and less for example on environmentalism and vegetarianism (though I'm a huge environmentalist and a strict vegetarian).

So is my avoiding those issues, which are central to the world and my own politics, a sign of bias against them? I think this is where I think there ARE many liberals and lefties who ignore feminist issues... but I think many also just ignore them because its not an area of interest to them.... like say Westminster... or the Welsh assembly... or the constitution (OurKingdon blog for example). I think the two accusations need to be separated out.

Anne Onne // Posted 01 July 2008 at 12:05

I see your point, Sunny. I agree, there is a difference where people are choosing not to focus on something because they are personally interested in other areas, and being liberal is an intersection of a lot of topics. I can understand that, and blogging should be something one does about topics one feels passionate about.

But there's a difference between blogging and linking to bloggers from other parts of the liberal sphere. Many feminist blogs concentrate on women and women's issues, and touch on other issues, but you will find they link to lots of specifically LGBTQ blogs and POC blogs and vegan blogs etc. It's this attention that's important, too, because it's about acknowledging other areas of liberalism, and their contribution.

Also, it depends very much on how feminism is treated when women and women's issues do come up on a general liberal blog. You may not specifically focus on an issue, but where it's mentioned, if you treat it respectfully, it's good. But some liberal blogs seem pretty disparaging with regards to feminism, and if they say things like there was no misogyny towards Hillary Clinton or something, then it's not just the fact they're ignoring feminism that's the issue. The real problem is that ignoring a subject usually means not believing the cause is worthy, or actually being bigoted. Most bloggers out there who ignore feminism do so because they're misogynist.

I think it's also about magnitude, too. For example, a blog might not handle race issues normally, but if something big comes up in the race field, they might touch on it, because it's a big issue in the liberal blogossphere in general.

Clearly, there are bloggers who just don't have the time or the juice to address issues, even ones they really believe in, and this is not addressed to them. I do believe there are latently pro-feminist general liberal bloggers out there. It's just that, to paraphrase Sturgeon's revelation, since misogyny is the default, most bloggers not making an effort to not be misognyist, will be.

Stroppybird, I wouldn't say that feminism is seperate to being liberal, but a subsection thereof. I think most feminist blogs (unless specifically non-liberal leaning) would qualify as liberal by virtue of what they cover.

leon // Posted 01 July 2008 at 22:08

"I'd just like to say that I read feminist blogs regularly, and can't quite believe that it was an instantaneous epiphany for the entire male contingent. If one doesn't see feminist blogs then one must go out one's way to avoid them."

Mate, you're one of my favourite bloggers (I’ve just added your non Bojo blog to Bloglines), but with all due respect that really is reductionist shite.

I have nearly 2000 blogs currently updated in real time in my RSS reader; a huge number are political so how on earth am I meant to know everything about everything with?!? My reading habits ebb and flow with topics, generally I love reading political and tech sites (big PalmAddicts reader right now!), some weeks it’s all about the US elections, others I’m absorbing everything coming out of Barbados, sometimes it’s nothing but news about Nintendo

Anyway, like I was getting at above I'm inclined to think some of this is about focus (at least for me), not purposeful ignorance. There is no revelation that there are female and/or feminist bloggers out there (I was reading the F word for e.g. long before this Blog Nation thing) but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth reflecting on the general state of play blogosphere from time to time. To be clear I’m no novice too all this, I’m mulling over it and some of that requires trying to understand from the point of view of the un-initiated. ;)

leon // Posted 01 July 2008 at 22:14

“The problem is, sexism and racism aren't discrete events that can be clearly and neatly defined only if they reach a certain severity. In reality, they are a sliding scale, from small things programmed into us to think about certain people as being different, to outright violence against a person because they belong to a group.”

I get that (if you knew my line of work you’d get that I erm get that) but my experience is action should be based on evidence for it to have substantial and sustainable impact. A good example is the Fawcett Society’s Femocracy project (that is such a great name!).

With out going way in to it I’ve seen plenty examples of using the race card to advance an agenda or position with little basis in reality. I’ve also seen very cleverly constructed ‘dog whistle’ racism too. But as I say before I point the finger personally I want to be damn sure I know what I’m basing my accusations on.

“I'd like us to change the way we look at sexism and racism (and all otehr =isms) not as something that people have to actively want to try to do, for them to be recognised, but as things that we have all been programmed to do, which we must all work to overcome.”

That’s already happening (although it tends to be in political enclaves in my experience) but as I say for that to have a really transformative effect it needs to be evidence based. For example, black people have known for years that the police are racist, we’ve been at the wrong end of the truncheon plenty of times, and far too many of us have died in police custody. That’s a strong body of evidence but to make long term changes you need things like the Stephen Lawrence inquiry and the subsequent changes.

Anecdotes, no matter how real or strongly believed, are not enough by themselves to convince outside your own grouping (save for a few bright and open minded people). I’m going to stop there I think because I can feel a full blown rant about the ghetto mentality of liberal/left politics when it comes to issues like inequality (gender, race, faith, physical or mental ability) coming on.

leon // Posted 01 July 2008 at 22:21

Holy fucking shit I've just checked my bloglines and the number of feeds is actually 18,495!! Heh the politics alone is 2500, crazy...

Jess McCabe // Posted 01 July 2008 at 22:27

Wow leon. I have 554 and that is entirely uncontrollable.

BenSix // Posted 01 July 2008 at 23:43

Leon,

"Mate, you're one of my favourite bloggers (I’ve just added your non Bojo blog to Bloglines)"

Cheers, man :o)

(What are bloglines?)

"but with all due respect that really is reductionist shite."

Ah..

"I have nearly 2000 blogs currently updated in real time in my RSS reader; a huge number are political so how on earth am I meant to know everything about everything with?!?"

I am a bit of a new to this - how to put it? - 'scene', but what I meant was that the F Word was one of the first blogs I stumbled across, while through Liberal Conspiracy, Pickled Politics et al I ran into numerous other websites exploring feminist themes/issues. Many at the LibCon event seemed never to noticed them, which suggests that - while they knew that they were there - they were not particularly interested. Obviously, this isn't true of everybody - I hate ALL sweeping statements - but it must be true of some.

Also, how on earth do you manage to plow yourself through 2000 blogs? I lose track of debates on my own site.

Respectfully,

Ben

Anne Onne // Posted 02 July 2008 at 11:59

I swear I wrote a reply, but I seem to have mislaid it and forgotten what I was writing. Oh, well.

Leon, I agree we need evidence, and that everything is a long-term process, and how far we've still to go. Though I do believe there's a certain propensity for people to ignore evidence unless there's such an overwhelming array that they can't. Especially when the evidence tells them something they don't want to believe. I'm sure some people to throw around charges, but I'm normally given to believe that an accusation may be in ernest unless it looks otherwise. Which is not to say assume it must be true, but try to counter the inbuilt assumption that it must be false. Granted, I'd be careful before flinging around harsh words, myself, but if I see an accusation, I'd like to look at it first from the minority point of view, and see if it's plausible, because society takes the majority (accused's) view. It's a complex thing all round, and hard to talk in general terms. I'm sure we'd love that rant, though... ;)

More reason to keep going, I guess. I know it's already happening in blogging circles (It's where I learned to think like that), and I meant I'd like to see that happen more in the general media and society. Wishful thinking, I know...I seem to be on an idealistic streak recently...

Sorry, I wasn't meaning to imply you were unaware of the fact.

And I have only respect with how you manage to deal with all that popularity... :D

Katie // Posted 07 July 2008 at 13:11

There are some really interesting feminist blogs out there but I do wish that some of them would be more clear about whether or not they welcome/tolerate transgendered people commenting on their blogs.

When I made a comment (as an openly transgendered person) in agreement with a certain feminist blogger on her blog I was told to "piss off". Of course, it was only later that I found out that she didn't like transpeople.

It wasn't a case of being a 'female-at-birth-woman-only' blog too because she included and published plenty of comments from male contributers on her blog and was also quick enough to condemn other feminists as 'man haters'.

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