Monday, April 14, 2008

Revisiting the WHY of Blogging

I was in and out of airports all weekend. Nauseated, angry, sleepy, exhausted, dizzy, frustrated, sweaty - basically the most uncomfortable circumstances that a human can feel without the threat of violence - airports can bring out the worst in me.

Beyond the fatigue, I overheard two gentlemen about to board US Airways with me. Crumbled up in a sweatshirt, I tried to hide the fact that I was eavesdropping:

Suited Man 1: I mean, I can't even tell you what a blog even is.

Suited Man 2: Me neither, I don't read that crap.

1: Really, why would you? Why would I spend any amount of time reading someone else's stream of consciousness?

2: Seriously! I agree, that's why I don't know one thing that is going on in the blogosphere. I don't want to know.

1: Why, why spend any time reading some random person's thoughts?

2: I mean, even if they're an academic, I wouldn't read -

1: Especially if they're an academic!

2: I just don't see why people read that stuff.

So, here are my question as I revisit my own purposes for reading and writing in this globe of madness we call the blogosphere:
Is there a time to begin and end your presence in the blogosphere? What's the next step for bloggers after controversy and heat? (IS there even a next step, or is THIS - online dialogue - it?) Why are you here in the blogosphere? What would you say to these two men if you had the nerve to butt into their conversation because, clearly, I could not? Would you even WANT to convince anyone these days to read the feminist blogosphere? (Ok, I just broke my vow that I was going to stop blogging about this issue...)


  1. Sudy, here is my pretty long winded answers to your questions. Many of us are grappling with those questions, and I’m glad that you are asking them!

    I've heard comments such as those two men in the airport repeatedly from a couple of people in my life, the why bother with blogging, it’s a time sucker, most people we know don’t blog (folks in our community) and our work, etc.
    I would try to defend it but often times I would feel ganged up – other people of color very engaged in social activism and their in my opinion, distaste for blogging then instead of understanding it fully I would internalize by feeling as the strange isolated nerd caught up in online writing/dialoguing. I think that not having folks you know in real life that blog -- contributes to the repeated questioning and isolation. Questioning is good too, though. To some extent, like you said yesterday blogging takes you away from the immediate community one’s in. There is the classic example of folks in a coffee shop not speaking to each other, typing away yet they are probably in vibrant online communities. Not underestimating at all what we have on-line with SPEAK, the invaluable support, growth, intellectual challenging discourses – and it IS moving beyond online. Folks are zining, joining forces in conferences, contributing in projects of all sorts, and more.

    Keep coming back to this question of why blogging/why not blogging since the indefinite break back in November. For me, it became a pressure that didn’t fit into my reality. Also like feminism, I felt like I had to defend blogging in my real life communities from folks that were withdrawn and critical of blogging. While also eating better became priority, and getting healthy (mind/body/spirit) I couldn’t trade that considering my health, transition, and state. That and many other reasons made it easier to actively not blog.

    It is cathartic to on occasion (more than not) tune out of blogging. But yet I have a pulse on it, through our SPEAK collective, the blogs you all actively carry. And if folks decide to stop, it’s not like we stop engaging with each other. We collaborate in zines, now make/shift, gchat, phone calls, e-mails and letters.

    And if our blogs remain static – it’s not the end of our relationships. I think of Alexis who updates her blog when she has something to share. Yet, we can have a telephone conversation; contribute to an article, etc. I think of me, I don’t blog in fabulosamujer any more, yet here I am commenting.

    Yesterday I engaged in a conversation about blogging with a colleague of mine and she said something that I agreed with completely; it’s okay if something isn’t forever. And also, like kameelah stated when we choose (or in some ways are imposed b/c of pressures of time/lack of support/energy/resources) to remain silent online, our bodies continue to speak, we move, we write, we dialogue, we engage, and if we choose to remain silent we are speaking with ourselves, replenishing, collecting ourselves, building up…it’s all process – to speak in a way that suits us.

    I wouldn’t even bother with the two men. And also, I wouldn’t even try to convince anyone to actively read the feminist blogosphere. Then again it depends how I feel. Some blog entries are so great – I e-mail them to folks that I know hate blogging. They wont’ blog after that – but we’ll probably talk about the blog entry, they’ll like what the blog author had to say, and it becomes something else. With these folks I’ll probably see often, join a book club, invite over to cook something, or bike together. It coalesces somehow.

    We come to blogging because of the rich thoughtful dialogues occurring, and to contribute to discourse, to share our experience. It’s one of the mediums where there is that freedom. Simultaneously in my opinion it isn’t easy to have immediate communities where we have folks like bfp, you, alexis, ba, nadia, noemi, and we flourish politically, and we write about our experiences. I cam to blogging b/c I was a young new mom of color, and I am a political woman of color, hungry for intellectual discourse, followed by action, and where the fact that I’m a young mami of color – I’m not part of something. That’s why I gravitated to the blog world. Here is where I met mamitamala, and bfp, and other zinesters mamas like Vikki Law, China Martens, and Noemi Martinez. That in many ways gave me a fierce confidence I have now. I guess I came to blogging because I was extremely isolated as a new young political mom of color and expressed out of necessity, and I took in others experiences. And now – we’re at a different phase.

    I hope I am not sounded like I’m saying this is a better road – to stop blogging. Or that – everyone will eventually grow out of blogging, or if someone is actively blogging than that means they don’t’ have active loving vibrant intellectual engaging community with women of color and other allies in their real life. But I do think – to some degree not having these communities’ plays to the fact that there is over 18 million blogs online.

    Balance is key, I feel more balanced because if I tune the blog world for a week or two – I don’t feel pressured. I can go on vacation and be on vacation. Before I had to stay plugged to everything that went on. And I do think that some of my relationships in real life paid for that. I don’t think that’s a good price to pay. Now, I do open my rss feeds and open them to right away close it. Just to clean it up. To start from zero. And I’ll do that repeatedly until I want to read again.

  2. Oh and by vacation -- I mean peace of mind, enjoying my little one, being around blood and non-blood related family, reading a good book. Not actual get out of the country and even city vacation, I am a little broke (money wise) for that.

    Vacation from constant getting info and putting out info.

    Laughing with others vacation. I am reminded of my mother that died of cancer when I was 16, before she went into her 17 hour surgery, in her little county hospital bed, she had a smile. She touched us, and loved us. It was lovely, and it was hard for her and all of us knowing in our hearts that the odds were against her surviving that surgery, and we loved, shared funny stories, and cried and felt each other.

    And the joke my dad made out of the $200,000 mistaken medical bill that arrived to our house, after she died...through our grieving. That's what people do, we make with our pain, while we try to work for something better, enduring it, we don't forget to give to each other, touch one another, laugh and eat together.

    Speaking of not blogging, I'm commenting quite a bit. Is that a sign that I must blog again? ;-)

  3. Fab's comments really resonate with me. I think there are many reasons that people end up blogging. I started blogging about two years ago (wow doesn't feel like it has been that long) for two reasons.
    1. I was preparing for my qualifying exams for grad school and I needed a way to process a whole lot of reading and for accountabilities sake I was turned on about processing with a (mostly imaginary) online audience instead of just with the innards of my own laptop.
    2. I was participating in a transformative women of color led healing movement locally and it was really important to us that our work be accessible and accountable to people outside of our local community as well.

    3. And then...because of learning about the amazing blogs of my sistren Jasmine Cabot and Kriti I realized that we could put pdfs on blogs and BrokenBeautiful Press which had been much more like a mail order distro became an online space of sharing and production.

    So my relationship to blogging is slightly odd. It might not even be called blogging. It might be doing something else through the technological user friendly web sharing templates that the blogging movement has made available.

    I am much more likely to post my personal bidness...and my growing plots and plans and my statements of love and support in emails to comrades, sisters, friends...many of which I met through the blogosphere. So that's still a very web-based love that I find fulfilling. It has been particularly sustaining for me during a period in my local community when trust has been broken and stuff has been tentative and difficult.

    Anyway all that is to Fab pointed out... my blog is nothing like a journal. When I update a blog it is because I have something specific to share to a broad audience. I also maintain about 50 no one blog is my home (don't call it an empire!)

    I don't think anyone (at least among the radical women of color and allied media makers that I read) is blogging just to blog. I think we're doing it for reasons acknowledged or make space for an issue that everyone is ignoring, to process something that we really want think through, to bring together voices that we think belong together, to be part of a conversation about some particular possibility.

    I think the "Why blogging?" question is really important and it is important for us to be loud with our multiple answers to it because our blogging is directly connected to radical theoretical production and community transformation. I think it is the opposite of elitist. I think it is us doing what oppressed folks have always had to do...use tools designed for someone else to make space for ourselves and our loved ones to breathe, celebrate, scream, strategize...

    And for those same reasons I don't think it has to be a once a blogger forever a blogger thing. Maybe you'll grow past that particular issue or conversation or project that made you start that particular blog. Maybe the way for us to be accountable has to do with working in a community garden, or doing west african dance, or cooking a lot more at a certain point.
    There have been phases in my healing and growing when I haven't wanted to use words at all.
    So yeah...let's be intentional about what we do and support each other on and offline. Our individual and collective purposes are bigger than the blogosphere and the atmosphere.

  4. I guess I got into blogging for completely different reasons than why I do it now. As a writer, trying to get known, trying to get gigs, I was told that I HAD to have a website. I know nothing about setting up a website and I'm poor so I can't pay someone to do it for me. I was reading a few blogs, and talking with some other Islamic writers who said they blogged. It's free, it's easy, it can serve as a website. So that's what I did: I set up a blog to be a "professional" site for me as a writer. Almost as soon as I did so though I started being inundated with comments and emails asking for advice on writing. Me, the nobody in the writing world. But I was game so I started writing posts based on my reading and experiences as I had them. As I got into that, I decided to start a more personal blog, to put my more general thoughts out there. No particular reason except that I could. Eventually, I was reading more blogs than any other media and very inspired by what other people, esp women and women of color were doing with their blogs.

    BFP and my friend Umm Zaid were huge influences on my blogging. I wanted my blog to be as inspiring and meaningful from an Islamic standpoint as I find Umm Zaid's. And I wanted to talk about the other not-specific-to-Muslims issues that I care alot about too. I saw how BFP's blog was sorta a call to action. All those resources, things brought together in one place and people talking about these things that I lived in my day to day life like it mattered.

    My blogs have gone through a lot of changes because of this. I still keep other blogs too. I keep one for the work on my novel. It's private, only a few people have access to give me feedback. I keep another shared one with a friend for a book we would like to work on together. And another that is very personal spiritual stuff that is private and only for a few eyes. I also have one that I've taken private while I revamp it, but it is Islamic short fiction. I created it because there wasn't anything like that out there and I wanted to help Muslim writers get their stories out there and hope that publishers and magazine editors would notice them and we could bring some attention to the need for this kind of writing, and that we are a significant market. I guess that was sorta my first blog activism.

    Now I blog more with activism in mind. I try not to just write and throw stuff up there for the heck of writing, but to be actually saying something. To be connecting to what else is out there, and to provide resources. But yeah, also to share my own writing in hopes that it will attract someone. I hope that my writing helps someone out there, gives them hope that things can change, that they can tell their story, that there are other people out here who care and who know how life can be...

    I don't think that blogging is the end of the road. This latest series of situations has really crystalized that for me. Blogging is a tool. There are many tools. I think it is a relevent tool right now, but it's true it doesn't reach everyone. That's why we have to use more than one tool to bring attention to things. BFP stopped blogging, but I don't think that means she stopped thinking, stopped writing, stopped caring, stopped being active. If I stopped blogging, it would, I think, be because I had found a better means of getting my truth out there, and a better way of helping others speak their truth. I would like to explore how anything can be media if we use it that way and blogging isn't all there is to things.

    I also agree that blogging and living on-line can become a form of inactive activism. If you are sitting on-line all the time, what are you really DOING? There is a place for it, spreading information, building coalitions, providing support. And many of us needed this in order to find any sense of community. As others have already said, I too am one who found my real community on-line because I don't feel like a part of any community in real life. But at some point we have to step away from the computer and go out into the world to do more than just talk. There is a place for the talk of blogs and it is important, but it shouldn't be mistaken as action or the sum total of our work.

  5. I don't blog all that much. When I do, it's generally because there's something nagging in my mind and I think better while writing - it clears my mind up and helps me get some order into it.

    The time to begin your presence is whenever you feel like it, as is the time to end it, and the time to reappear, and break off again...

    The next step after controversy and madness, I think, is the same as the first step into the "blogosphere". It's to post the things you feel you need to say, in the way you need to say them. The second step is to think before you respond. That's the hardest one.


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